This week has been pretty tumultuous on a number of levels; aside from my Nan’s funeral there has been the onslaught of 4am starts at work because of increasingly big deliveries every morning. Waking up at 3am everyday I was treated to a lie-in on Wednesday when I slept in to 5.30am, but on my one day off I attended a graduate scheme assessment centre in Slough for a large telecoms company. The 2.5 hour foggy commute (each way) was a little painful too but if my efforts have paid off like I hope they have then it is a sacrifice I am more than willing to make for what is in many ways a dream job. After having my nerves and sleeping patterns pretty much shattered you might think it unlikely that I would find the time/effort to do what I have been harping on about for months, and actually test drive something with intent to buy it.
But that’s precisely what I did after work on Thursday when I ventured into leafy Hertfordshire to try out a Porsche Cayenne that I had been looking at for a while. A 2004 Cayenne S in dark blue and grey leather, I’d already been to have a look at this particular example a little over a week before after being fobbed off two weeks previous. Although the car was over 9 years old it was still in pretty good condition and had a reasonably low mileage (79k); there were a few stone chips on the exterior and a fair few black marks/scuffs on the interior but after this first viewing I had a reasonably good feeling about it, even more so considering that it was pretty reasonably priced and so close.
So this week I went back with a view to getting some sort of impression of what it would be like living with such a beast…but I returned home pretty demotivated and with mixed feelings about my motoring future. Whilst fixable, there were a few things about the car which raised my eyebrows-not least the condensation filled front headlamp and scuff on the front wing of the car. Inside things were pretty much the same, but I still didn’t really like all the marks on the leather or the dirty boot – with it’s extremely low opening hatch! Now admittedly these are things I may find on any used car, but as I will explain later it was annoying how he brushed them off yet tore into my Astra later on.
Now to the Cayenne itself, well initially from the driver’s seat it seems like a huge car! I guess that’s because coming from a 4.1m hatchback it is, but once on the road it felt as maneuverable and sporty as near enough any regular car I’ve driven – a good thing in my books and something that I reckon is not replicated in many rivals. What I was less keen on was the automatic gearbox as although 99% of these type of vehicle have them (and believe me I want one after Wednesday’s traffic!) the one in the Cayenne seemed very hesitant to change gear either up or down, and I could practically hear the money put into the tank burning away. I did try the gearbox in sport mode which probably didn’t help, and the tiptronic steering wheel gear changers were nice, but I did not come away in awe of the car’s performance despite it’s 340bhp V8 under the bonnet.
Actually that’s not totally true, because once up to speed the Cayenne was a 2-tonne silent missile as it barraged it’s way through A10 traffic at 80mph…a speed which felt about half that amount because of it’s effortless cruising abilities and hushed cabin. The only problem was that the salesman seemed determined that we would not travel further than a few miles, and those would be on a straight stretch of dual carriageway up and down between 2 junctions! When I told my mum she was horrified that I wanted to do more than that, but I feel that customers should be encouraged to do the kind of journey they want to do, and whilst dual carriageway encompasses part of my driving there are far more traffic lights than I would like to admit.
Part of the reason for the limited test drive was probably down to the fact that there was only £10 worth of petrol in the Cayenne, and I can imagine that severely restricts range, although it is seemingly impossible to discover the fuel consumption even in the trip computer. I know I claimed not to be especially worried by fuel consumption (within reason) but to honest the fact I had to floor the Cayenne at times in order to move it’s 2 tonne weight scared me a little in terms of my wallet. I cannot imagine getting much better than 17mpg in mixed driving and I would not be surprised to see single digit figures on drives like my one on Wednesday.
It might have been easier to find out fuel consumption if Porsche had made the controls a little easier to use. I know from reading forums that it is significantly harder to bring up the ‘mpg screen’ on a Cayenne as opposed to an X5 or ML, both of whom can display fuel figures on a smaller screen in the instrument panel. Otherwise controls were OK I guess, but seemed a bit fiddly and this car lacked a fair bit of equipment which I had been explicitly after; Bluetooth, Xenon lights and automatic wipers/headlamps are not really classed as necessities, but on a car which cost £60k+ new it was surprising that they were missing (although Bluetooth was not even available on Cayenne’s for many years!). But the real deal breaker for me was the fact that it lacked steering wheel controls – a feature I used constantly in my vehicle and one that would really have helped me adapt to the car’s controls/instrument display, as it seemed more information was available but without any buttons to press?! Considering this car had been specced with air suspension (£4k+ when new) it seems unusual that they didn’t fork out a few hundred more for a feature most people can’t do without.
So maybe neither this example or the Cayenne itself is the car for me, but I reckon I could have been quite easily persuaded with a relaxed and friendly salesman rather than the mildly insulting and generally rude ‘Ginger’ who I dealt with yesterday. I know there is a certain stereotype of a used car salesman, and although the slimy suited man I dealt with when merely viewing the car did not exactly make me feel at ease, the second guy actually dissuaded me from the car more than any of it’s quirks. I’m not sure whether it was the smutty remarks about future stiletto marks on the grey roof lining, the general lack of sincerity/politeness or being ignored at various points that put me off more, but I especially disliked the disparaging way that he spoke about my Astra and the sort of money I could expect to make from it. Bear in mind that this was a side-of-the-road dealership and this slightly scrufft Cayenne had been sitting there for 3 weeks already; I considered the sticker price of £8500 reasonable, but wanted to pay £7000 (in cash not finance) and get the rest off via part exchange/budging on the price of the Cayenne, plus pay £400 for one of the warranty’s they were desperate to flog. I know that a 10 year old Astra is not the last word in desirability (especially not when covered in light scratches and scuffs), but with 67k miles, near perfect interior and LPG system even WeBuyAnyCar offered over £500 for it. This guy tutted a lot and moaned about the state of a few things (whereas a water filled headlamp seemed to be no problem on the vastly more expensive Cayenne) and generally derided a car which has served my family for nigh on 10 years, and after much erring said that he would give me £700 if I bought today, but that he could not possibly budge on the price of the Porsche.
I never had any intention to buy on Wednesday and after all that I was pretty fine to go home, which is precisely what I did. My friend who came with me said that the £7000 was likely attainable, but when all things are considered I shouldn’t pick a car if it does not make me feel that spark as soon as I sit in it. The allure of owning a Porsche and a juicy V8 was a pretty strong draw for the Cayenne, and whilst it is by no means a bad car I have been left very doubtful as to whether it is the one for me.
So what now? Well with all my emotions running high I ended up a bit upset about the idea of getting rid of my beloved Astra and for a while thought about keeping it till it fell apart. To be honest I may end up keeping it a while yet but that might be more down to the fact it could take a while to find the perfect replacement. My mind also drifted to the idea of buying a smaller car new/nearly new from a franchised dealer (who should be more polite), or maybe a newer example of compact SUV’s like the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V or even the BMW X3, but decent examples of those cars are still not cheap and only the X3 can be had with an automatic for a reasonable price. My search is therefore likely to focus on 2 stalwarts of my affections; the BMW X5 and Mercedes ML. The X5 is the cheaper car to buy and is likely better to drive and easier to find, but the older design means it misses out on a few features and it has accumulated a slightly distasteful image…plus it’s annoyingly expensive to insure. The ML I am more familiar with and in the right trim/engine combo it is probably my best realistic chance at motoring happiness, but such a car would be significantly more expensive than an X5 and is £470 to tax (as opposed to £290), and the more powerful/common ML320 is even more to insure than the X5!
It seems there could still be a long road ahead in my car search, but I am glad that I have at least been able to cross an option off my list, plus I can now say I’ve driven Porsche!