Although I have had a serious hankering for most luxury SUV’s on the used market there has been one that I have not really considered as an option, and obviously it could well be the one I end up buying! The car in question is the Porsche Cayenne, and although I have covered it briefly when I first started this blog I have yet to talk about it in any sort of detail.
Based on the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Touareg, the first Cayenne was launched way back in 2002 and immediately got the motor industry abuzz with it’s distinctive styling and sporting pretensions. However not all this discussion was positive, and in fact many Porsche purists derided the car as an abomination – especially in this earlier guise, but the Cayenne has gone on to become the brand’s biggest seller by far and has an enviable reputation for defying the rules of physics with it’s sharp handling.
I’ll be completely honest now and admit that the Cayenne’s looks are not what has drawn me to the car. Whilst I don’t consider it to be as offensive as many people do, I can appreciate that it’s gaping air vents and bulbous body-lines do not compare well to the brutish X5, classy XC90 or even it’s plain VW sister model. But in darker shades it has aged pretty well and is immediately recognisable as both a Porsche and an off roader, plus it’s relative rarity means that has managed to avoid becoming as common as it’s former rivals. Rarer still is the Turbo version of the Cayenne, which came with a different front air intake and even larger 21″ alloys compared to the standard 18/19″ items on the regular cars, plus massive brake calipers and quad exhausts. The facelifted version of the Cayenne was released in 2007 and featured a more cohesive front end with aggressive headlamps and daytime running lights. Whilst I prefer the looks of these later cars they are comparatively expensive and so I’d rather save the money on petrol!
Inside the cabin and both pre and post facelift Cayennes get the same cabin; a mixture of mid-century Porsche design and Touareg cabin mean that it is a solid effort that is relatively smart and filled with technology. That said I am not a massive fan of all the silver plastic that adorns various surfaces in the cabin – the climate controls being one example where an often used part is not as tactile as on some rivals…in fact the overall ambience does not match it’s VW sibling in my eyes thanks to that car’s use of real metal accents and less stylised controls. Most Cayenne’s are pretty loaded with options which ballooned their substantial original prices and as such it will be relatively easy to choose a car which gets things like electric heated seats and navigation, although memory seats don’t appear to be on all models and Bluetooth/an aux jack are absent from even the most recent cars! Although an aux-in is something I really want, on a car which can cost half of some of my other choices it doesn’t matter so much to me…the same goes for Bluetooth and memory. Cars without the navigation system are very rare, and although it comes with features such as mpg calculator and traffic updates it does not appear to be the best of it’s kind. As with most cars of this age it is neither touchscreen nor does it have a central controller a la iDrive, and I am not too keen on the apparently confusing layout or indeed the positioning of the screen…the whole dashboard is very upright and flat – owing much to earlier more truck-like SUV’s. Practicality wise the Cayenne is a lot more successful and benefits from the well sized platform; rear seats are relatively commodious compared to the majority of rivals and the boot is equally impressive, especially with separately opening rear glass for added convenience. I have read some comments online that the Cayenne did not quite meet their expectations in terms of interior space, but to be honest it is pretty much the same inside as a similarly sized estate car, and I won’t be carrying pushchairs and baby clobber anytime soon!
On the road lies the reason that most people choose the Cayenne over rival vehicles – well excluding it’s badge anyway! It is (apparently) the best handling vehicle of it’s class, topping even the venerable BMW X5 in terms of driver feedback and acceleration. This is even more surprising when you look at the uninspiring skills of the VW Touareg plus the fact that the platform is incredibly heavy because of all those off-roading mechanicals being lugged around, but to be perfectly honest handling-prowess is not the reason that I am looking at this kind of vehicle…sure it is an added bonus that it won’t be all over the road but I will need to adjust my driving style anyway. The trade off for sharp handling in large vehicles tends to be a harsh ride, and with large alloy wheels a feature of many Cayennes you might suspect that this would surely be the case, but it appears that they appear to have escaped this curse thanks to Porsche’s technical wizardry. In some vehicles this is even more true because of the optional air suspension, an expensive option new (although standard on the Turbo) it does not incur any extra on used examples, plus any cars with air suspension will be substantially better off-road because it can be raised a good few inches when needed, or indeed lowered, but I am tempted to avoid it because of the potentially massive costs if anything goes wrong with the system.
Under the bonnet is the Cayenne’s biggest point of contention when it comes to choosing it; a range of thirsty petrol engines which nearly all offer stunning performance but abysmal running costs. There was a diesel offered toward the end of the first generation car, but all of these facelifted models command prices well north of £20k and lie far out of even my maximum budget. Whilst the diesel should return around 30mpg, the next most economical version (and often much lower in price) is the VW-sourced petrol 3.2 V6, offering reasonable power figures and a 0-60 time of nearly 10 seconds – not an unreasonable figure but not in the same league as the car’s other engines. At the other end of the scale is the Turbo S which had well over 500bhp from it’s 4.5 V8 and halved the 0-60 time in 5 seconds dead…the standard Turbo had slightly less power and took half a second more but is available at a much more attainable price. However my choice will probably end up being the popular ‘S’ model which used a non turbo-charged version of the V8 and got 340bhp and a 0-60 time of 7 seconds…not only is it usually the same price as the V6 but it returns a similarly depressing 20mpg at the pumps, although this is true of the more powerful cars too.
Whatever way I look at it, the fuelling costs of a Cayenne are going to be hard for me to stomach; I’ve already talked myself out of choosing a petrol car but my brain works in mysterious ways, and I’m thinking that a Cayenne driven gently should return around 20mpg, which when compared to an ML280 getting 26mpg does not seem too awful when petrol is 7p cheaper on average. I mean I will still have to pay out a good £500 a year more than a decent diesel and probably around £1000 more than with my current car *shudder*, but such is the price for driving such a vehicle I guess! A petrol car will also likely have fewer reliability issues than a diesel, and with that horrific mpg it means that most Cayenne’s have relatively few miles…plus I have heard that it is relatively reliable apart from the all-important coolant pipes. Insurance is of course expensive but nowhere near the levels you might think for a car in top group insurance; a Cayenne S would cost around £1000 to insure this year, compared to £950 for a V6 version or a BMW X5 3.0d SE (which is 1 second slower to 60). Perversely the Cayenne Turbo is actually a tiny bit cheaper for me to insure despite it’s insane performance, and out of all the cars I’ve been looking at the ML320 is the most expensive at £1200 annually! But all these costs are relative when you look at the purchase price of the Porsche, which is up to half the price of some of the cars I’ve been looking at. Early cars start at £7000 but these are around 10 years old, an extra couple of grand sees 2005 models start to appear and £10,000 would nab a tidy 2006 version although the jump to the facelifted 2007 models is £6,000 alone! If I were to choose a pre March 2006 car I can save £200 on road tax too, and the fact that there are very few buyers for large petrol-engined cars means I should be able to haggle a grand or two off of the asking price of a Cayenne.
The main appeal of a Cayenne is that I can get a powerful SUV with a Porsche badge on for not much more than half the price of some of the X5’s and Range Rover Sports I have been looking at. The fuel consumption is admittedly poor but it makes little sense to spend alot more to save a few hundred a year in fuel costs (and ultimately risk expensive repair bills). Given recent events in my family life it seems unlikely that I will be doing many long journeys to Brighton and my annual mileage will probably drop a fair bit below the 6,000 it currently stands at. For a little more I could buy an original BMW X5 3.0d which would give better mpg but potentially high repair costs, or a little less would see me in a V8 version of that car which should have comparable running costs to the Cayenne S…but the fact is I can just run the car for a year or so and hopefully within that time frame my career might actually have taken off, plus the Cayenne is a Porsche! A Porsche at 23, wouldn’t that be something….