2005 Cayenne New Car Test Drive
Nearly three years after its introduction, the Porsche Cayenne no longer seems like such an incongruous idea. Porsche's sport-utility vehicle has quickly become part of the automotive landscape. The car-buying public has demonstrated its appreciation of the Porsche brand beyond the company's familiar sports cars, and Porsche dealerships are pleased by all the SUVs moving off their lots.
Longtime Porsche enthusiasts may have had the most difficult adjustment. For five decades before the Cayenne, their favorite car company carved its niche among automotive giants with quick, agile sports cars built on values diametrically opposed to those represented by big, strapping SUVs. It speaks to our changing automotive tastes, if not the changing car business, that Porsche was compelled to invest in an SUV and a new factory to build it.
With time and exposure, most fans of Porsche sports cars have come to appreciate the Cayenne as a true Porsche. The company's SUV is technically slick and remarkably fast, as Porsches are supposed to be, with on-road handling that belies (though does not defy) its mass. The Cayenne also delivers what most SUV buyers demand, starting with more cargo space than the typical sedan, more than enough capability for light off-highway use and impressive towing capacity. For style, pure performance and a balance of sport-utility virtues, the Porsche Cayenne is tough to beat.
Porsche hasn't been sitting still since Cayenne's launch in 2003. In 2004, Porsche introduced a V6 model that opened Cayenne to a much larger group of buyers. For 2005, it has added useful standard equipment and introduced new option packages. Most significantly, it offers Cayenne for the first time with something loyalists insist every Porsche needs: a 6-speed manual transmission.
But like many Porsches, the Porsche of SUVs can still be very expensive. The price spread across the Cayenne line is more than $50,000. A loaded Cayenne Turbo can crack the $100,000 barrier, and that alone will knock it off most shopping lists. Yet even the well heeled can be value conscious. Many buyers who can afford a Cayenne will find much of the performance and all the satisfaction of use or ownership for half that $100,000 price. The Cayenne will be truly appreciated by a relative handful of SUV buyers with exacting demands or unshakable brand loyalty. We might call them connoisseurs. In that respect, too, the Cayenne is a lot like most Porsches before it.
The Cayenne model line now spans four variants. Base prices span $48,200 from the least expensive to the most expensive, and with options the spread approaches $60,000.
In 2004, Porsche introduced a V6 model known simply as Cayenne. For 2005, the Cayenne ($41,100) comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission for the first time, lowering its price $1800 compared to 2004. The V6 model prices Cayenne in the thick of its luxury sport-utility competitors.
Cayenne is powered by a narrow-angle, single-cylinder-head V6 producing 247 horsepower, and comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive with a high- and low-range. The price includes leather seating with 12-way power adjustment, charcoal and micro-particle cabin filtration, heated retractable exterior mirrors, multi-function trip computer, a 72-watt 12-speaker stereo with CD, and insulated laminated privacy glass. New standard features for 2005 include a built-in Homelink transmitter to open garage doors or turn on lights and an electronically latching tailgate that sucks itself shut once it's lowered to the latch.
Cayenne Tiptronic ($44,100) is identical to the base Cayenne, except that it's equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission with Porsche's Tiptronic manual shift mode. Cayenne and Cayenne Tiptronic both come standard with sophisticated traction management and skid-control electronics.
In addition to slick electronics and the latest-generation antilock brakes, all Cayennes get luxury-grade passive safety features, starting with six airbags: dual-stage front and side-impact airbags for front passengers, and curtain-style head protection airbags on both sides of the cabin. All five seating positions have three-point belts with pretensioners to instantly tighten them and limit stretching on impact. The front belts also have automatic force limiters, reducing potential for belt-related injuries.
The other two models are built around Porsche's 4.5-liter dohc V8 engine. The Cayenne S ($56,300) comes standard with the Tiptronic automatic, and retails anywhere from $14,000 to $2,000 more than these luxury-class SUVs: Acura MDX, BMW X5 3.0, Cadillac Escalade, Hummer H2, Infiniti FX45, Lexus GX470, Mercedes ML500 or Volvo XC90 T6, not to mention that standard Cayenne. The normally aspirated Cayenne S delivers 340 horsepower (more than most of the SUVs noted above) and adds several items to the standard Cayenne equipment list, including automatic climate control with dual front-passenger settings and a 350-watt, 14-speaker Bose stereo.
Porsche raises the ante considerably for the Cayenne Turbo ($89,300). The Turbo costs more than just about any SUV on the planet, but with a twin-turbocharged version of the V8 and a whopping 450 horsepower, the Cayenne Turbo also delivers more power than any other SUV. The Turbo also adds adjustable air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), a variable dampening system that uses five accelerometers and electronically controlled adjustable shocks to manage body weight transfer both on and off road. The Turbo includes upgrades such as heated front and rear seats, electric steering wheel adjustment and park-assist radar warning front and rear. It's equipped with Porsche Communications Management (PCM), a GPS navigation system with integrated telephone and audio controls. Finally, the Cayenne Turbo has bi-xenon headlights that turn, Tucker-style, with the steering wheel.
Most everything on the Turbo (except the turbocharger) is offered as an option on Cayenne and Cayenne S. We've tested all models, but the most recent was the Cayenne Tiptronic with these extras: Porsche Communications Management system ($3,070); driver memory package ($360); heated front seats and steering wheel ($520); power glass sunroof ($1,100); high-gloss light wood package ($990); Olive wood steering wheel ($290); 19-inch Cayenne Design wheels ($2,390); six-CD changer ($650); and Prosecco metallic pai.