Guilty pleasure admission time. We love the Porsche Cayenne.Yes, yes, it's an affront to the brand, a visual catastrophe and has as much to do with a sports car as does a cantaloupe. We get all that. Now, may we explain why we love the Cayenne? Because we've taken one (or three) off road. Whoa. Here's a car that can run an autocross neck-and-neck with a Subaru WRX, yet then wander off and embarrass Jeeps with the twist of a knob. It's perplexingly fantastic. How could we not love it?

That said, there have long been rumors that the next-generation Cayenne (which could debut at next month's Geneva Motor Show) will lose its off-road mastery. The thinking was, no one takes the dang things off the pavement anyway, so why not just ditch the heavy, expensive off-road bits and turn the Cayenne into a proper crossover? Makes sense, no matter which way you slice it. But back to the perplexing part part of the Cayenne equation – Porsche's SUV has never been about making sense.

Case in point, Autocar is reporting that the next Cayenne is going to be much more hardcore when the black top ends. In fact, the lucky Autocar dogs got to tag along with the Cayenne development team in the United Arab Emirates. Specifically, going up and down a 300-foot tall sand dune called 'Big Red.' In fact, so capable is the new Cayenne, the Turbo version was able to climb said Big Red at 30 mph four times in a row before the rear-diff overheated and refused to lock. Said the head of Cayenne development Rolf Frech, "These are extreme conditions and eventually something had to give."

What's going to be different about the new Cayenne? It's wheelbase is longer by about two inches, solely to provide more leg room in the back seat. The new Cayenne's also lighter – way lighter – close to 450 pounds lighter as a matter of fact. Figure on 4,500 pounds or so total, depending on the engine. How'd Porsche do that? Lots and lots of aluminum replacing heavy steel, specifically in the hood, doors, axles and front bumper. Porsche is also dropping the Cayenne's transfer-case, instead relying on fancy electronics to get the Cayenne into and out of the worst of it. If Autocar is to be believed, losing the low gears isn't costing the Cayenne a thing.

Structurally, there's a whole lot of Panamera super-sedan making its way into the new Cayenne, but we're not sure whatyet. We do know that the fancy-pants seven-speed PDK (dual-clutch) transmission from the Panamera can't cope with the low-speed rock crawling essential to the Cayenne, so it's been dumped in favor of an eight-speed automatic. As far as engines go, expect more of the same. There will be a 300-ish horsepower V6, a 400-ish hp V8, a 500 hp Turbo V8 (0-60 mph should take around 4.5 seconds) and a not-coming-to-America diesel. There will also be a hybrid variant that should get 30 mpg, make around 400 hp and compete nicely with the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid in the bizarro world of gas/electric luxury SUVs.

Color us extremely interested.

[Source: Autocar]