On the Road: The new Porsche Cayenne
On the Road: The new Porsche Cayenne

Ian Lamming takes the latest Porsche Cayenne through its paces on and off the road

STARING down a rutted forest track in a convoy of £100K SUVs, each sporting a seminal badge, there’s a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

It somehow feels wrong to be at the wheel of such a shiny-as-a-pin vehicle and then drive it off road, scrub and branches clawing at its lustrous paintwork.

It’s not where you would expect to see a Porsche, a brand associated more with grand touring and the racetrack.

But a comforting thought floats across the cerebrum – a 25-year-old engineer from Germany, Ferdinand Porsche, designed and produced one of the first four wheel drive cars in 1900 for the World Expo in Paris, so 124 years later his descendants should know what they are doing.

About to take the plunge is the brand new Porsche Cayenne, in full SUV and coupe body styles and with a big V8 and an e-Hybrid V6 under their bonnets.

The surface is gravelly and the rain has washed it into deep ruts, as well as leaving other areas quagmire soggy. It’s not the most challenging of courses – there are no death defying inclines or jagged rocks – but it is enough to challenge most vehicles that belong on the Tarmac.

It doesn’t challenge the Cayenne one bit, not because it is too easy but more because this is a very capable off-roader. The air suspension is particularly impressive as it soaks up the lumps and bumps with such ease that I have to keepchecking visually that we are on a rough track at all. The gravel and the mud, not to mention the slippery undergrowth we are traversing, does little to hinder progress and I don’t feel the Cayenne lose traction once.

It's an impressive display of what a Porsche can do away from its traditional haunts of fast roads and racetracks and it should definitely be at the top of any list of luxury off-roaders.

Back on the asphalt, very quickly, another thought crosses the little grey cells. If you are in the market for this type of vehicle – and I think you know what I mean here – then whywould you buy anything other than a Cayenne?

Generally, if you are purchasing in this luxury sector you know your cars and you love to drive. Well Cayenne has pretty much everything you require. It has heritage, the badge, great new looks, I especially like the Coupe, with both models looking very tidy and well proportioned.

Looks are now sharper with a more angular appearance at the front. The front airvents are large enough to be mistaken for a blackhole in space and the new rear end is a pleasing exercise in design. The number plate is lower and each letter of the Porsche name now stands out in relief rather than being hidden flatly behind plastic.

Inside is brand new too with an amazing new virtual dashboard that is duplicated on the passenger side and lots of touchscreen technology that comes with haptics of course.

Even the steering wheel is multi-functional with a modest looking knob with which you can change the car’s various performance settings.

The 4.0 litre V8, comes complete with twin turbos, while the V6 e-Hybrid gains the extra instantaneous muscle and creamy torque of an electric motor, turning out virtually the same power and actually feels a tad peppier on the road. Both motors sound amazing whether they are burbling at tickover or roaring away at full chat.

The e-Hybrid is a plug-in and capable of travelling more than 45 miles on battery alone while emitting very little in the way of CO2 and returning 60+mpg.

If the Cayenne is impressive off-road, it is staggeringly good on it. It’s a fair old lump yet it has the poise and agility of a sports car. There is no appreciable cabin roll even at speed and the level of grip is stupendous. The steering is pin sharp, the balance near perfect and the brakes are immense. It is the perfect driving companion and uber-practical too with generous amounts of interior space and a huge boot.

I was talking to an old school chum the other day who had built his company successfully over the years and recently sold it in order to retire. Like many who are blessed to receive a large cheque he decided to treat himself – and why not, he deserved it – to a flashy sports car, which proved great for a couple of weeks. Very quickly the novelty disappeared as it was hard, low, cramped and he couldn’t fit his golf clubs in the boot.

He should have bought a Cayenne really as it is blessed with all the appealing attributes of a sports car but has the practical nature of a van and the off-road abilities of a mountain goat.

Whether you are staring down a rutted track into the abyss or along a billiard table smooth section of asphalt the new Cayenne remains completely in its element, as does any lucky driver.

Fact File

Cayenne S / E-Hybrid

Engine: 4.0 V8/ 3.0 V6 with electric motor

Power: 474hp/470hp

0-62mph: 5 secs/4.9 secs

Top speed: 170mph/158mph

Combined MPG: 22.6/166.2

Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic

CO2 g/km: 283/37

Price: £84,400.00/£79,800.00