The mid-week long read: riding lessons

Who says drivers have all the fun? We took a passenger ride in the new Cayenne at a secret location and we must admit to being a little bit in love

3y ago

Some days, being a Porsche tribe scribe is pretty cool. OK, most days it is, but today has definitely been one of the better ones. You know the new Cayenne that we were at the unveiling of a few weeks back? Well, today, we’ve actually managed to hitch a ride in one on a secret test track. And, because the gods, and our bosses at Porsche, were smiling on us, it was in a 550bhp Cayenne Turbo.

With one of the handier drivers at Porsche, drivetrain development engineer Jochen Moeckl, at the wheel.

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All morning Jochen and his colleagues have patiently explained the new features of the third-generation Cayenne to us – stay tuned for some of the juicier details; there’s a huge amount of new stuff. Now it’s time to feel it for ourselves, albeit from the passenger seat as they don’t completely trust us with their baby just yet.

The test track is well-surfaced but as we roll gently away from the parking area, our Cayenne Turbo’s V8 burbling away, it’s clear that the ride is very smooth, almost limo-like. This is a development vehicle with taped-over badges and disguised LED matrix headlamps and Jochen has promised to show me what his latest love can do around this demanding little facility near Düsseldorf, with its curves, crests and sprinkler-wetted corners.

The second lap is in Sport mode and the third in Sport Plus – with the traction control turned off. With each press of the button, the 550bhp Cayenne gets racier, culminating in us dropping downhill at speed towards a very long, partly soaked left-hander. ‘It can be a sports car too,’ says Jochen, before we hit the sprinkler section.

The wet grip is impressive, then we’re back on the dry, still cornering, and he hits the throttle hard. The Cayenne rotates quickly, Jochen catches the slide with the steering and keeps the power on for a long, perfect drift, engine and tyres roaring. The Cayenne jinks neatly back into line, I laugh, and we head onto the wetted circle. Jochen guns the V8 again and the four-wheel Cayenne drifts for 50yards while I look through the side window to see where we’re going.

Two things are impressive here: Jochen’s driving skills and the Cayenne’s poise. It felt very comfortable in its regular mode, incredibly sporty in Sport Plus, and all the time it was calm and smooth, helped by an uncanny, roll-free agility – that’ll be the clever new electro-mechanical active anti-roll bars.

The Cayenne has always had a keen edge and that edge is now sharper – but it can also drive like a luxury saloon. But that’s not all. We’re also treated to an off-road demonstration in a V6 car – a twin-turbo Cayenne S. It doesn’t have the Turbo’s air suspension but it’s riding on the same 21-inch Pirelli P Zero summer tyres.

There’s a new range of selectable off-road modes – Gravel, Mud, Sand and Rocks – and for each the car’s all-wheel drive and slip control are configured differently for optimum performance. It will climb a 100 per cent gradient – that’s a 1-in-1 or a 45 degree slope – and handily enough, there’s one here.

Even knowing it will do it, it’s pretty amazing; it feels like you’re lying on your back and all you can see through the windscreen is sky as the wheels scrabble gently for grip and pull the Cayenne to the summit.

On the way down, hill descent control takes care of the anti-lock braking of individual wheels to creep down at the driver’s chosen speed. There’s also another hold-your-breath moment when the Cayenne rides a wall tilted at 45 degrees.

The powers that be have promised that they’ll let us drive the car ourselves soon and if the skill that the new Cayenne shows from the passenger seat is anything to go by that’ll be one of the very good days too. Watch this space …

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