2003 Porsche Cayenne

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2005 Porsche Cayenne

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Lower-cost, more user-friendly V6 version expands Cayenne appeal.
Pros:
  • Carlike
  • Roomy
  • Very fast with V8s
Cons:
  • Nonlinear acceleration
  • Touchy brake pedal
  • Low fuel economy

The Cayenne sport-utility vehicle takes about half of Porsche sales in America, although this illustrious German automaker was selling only sports cars here since 1950 until the Cayenne arrived as a 2003 model.

Blame truck-crazy America for such a seemingly peculiar Porsche car-truck sales mix, although Porsche sports car sales may pick up now that Porsche has introduced its revamped 911 and Boxster models for 2005.

The Cayenne sport ute is the first 4-door Porsche model of any type. To hold down costs, small Porsche developed the Cayenne with giant Volkswagen, which sells a more subdued version called the Touareg.

Engine Sharing
To offer a lower-priced, more user-friendly Cayenne, Porsche put a Volkswagen-sourced V6 engine in it since its introduction as a fierce V8-only vehicle. The V6 is essentially the same engine used in the Touareg.

There's nothing really new here, because the 1970-76 Porsche 914 sports car was developed with Volkswagen and had a 4-cylinder Volkswagen engine. It was marketed in Europe as a "Volkswagen-Porsche," although sold only as a Porsche in America.

Sport Utility Needed
Porsche felt it had no choice but to bring out the Cayenne because it saw many affluent sports car buyers purchase a sport utility from rival automakers simply because Porsche had none to offer. Moreover, it allowed people to get a Porsche without buying a sports car.

Porsche needed profits from a sport utility to protect its status as the world's only small, profitable independent automaker of note and to develop more competitive race cars. Porsche even withdrew from top-level sports car racing to transfer resources to develop the Cayenne.

The all-wheel-drive Cayenne is a midsize sport utility that's a few inches wider and longer than a BMW X5 sport ute. Most owners keep it on roads, but it has good off-road abilities.

World's Fastest
The Cayenne is beautifully engineered, but has rather bland styling. It comes as a base $41,100 version with the 3.2-liter 247-horsepower V6 and a new-for-2005 6-speed manual gearbox. It's also offered as a $56,300 S version with a 340-horsepower V8. And there's an $89,300 Turbo version with a twin-turbocharged 450-horsepower V8, which makes the Cayenne the world's fastest sport ute.

Both V8 versions come only with Porsche's 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, which has a manual-shift feature and raises the price of the V6 version to $44,100.

Most User-Friendly
I've found after testing all versions of the Cayenne that the V6 version is the most user-friendly for congested areas and is plenty fast for typical U.S. driving. Porsche tuned the V6 to hold its peak torque all the way from 2500 rpm to 5500 rpm. The engine thus is responsive in the city and on open roads, where it provides lively 65-75 mph passing times.

Both Cayenne V8 versions are considerably faster, but often have a ragged, nonlinear power delivery—especially the one with the twin-turbocharged V8.

The V6 is only a little temperamental when cold and provides a linear power delivery when warm—despite a somewhat rough automatic transmission developed for maximum efficiency rather than Lexus-like smoothness.

The Cayenne V6 does 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds from a standing start with the manual and in 9.1 seconds with the automatic, and is an easy 85 mph cruiser with either transmission. (The S hits 60 in 6.8 seconds, while the Cayenne Turbo takes 5.2 seconds.)

The new 6-speed manual gearbox for the V6 would be fine for a Porsche sports car, but seems out of place in the fairly big, luxurious Cayenne. The Cayenne is about 67 inches high, 188 inches long and weighs 4,762 to 5,840 pounds.

Car-like Handling
Despite its weight, the Cayenne drives much like a big sporty sedan. The steering is quick and precise, handling is remarkably sharp for a tall sport ute and the ride is supple. However, the brake pedal is touchy, despite Porsche's traditional, tremendous stopping power.

The scale-bending weights don't allow any Cayenne to be easy with fuel. The V6 provides an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 19-20 on the highway. The S provides 14 and 18 and the Turbo delivers 13 and 18. At least all trim levels have a 26.4-gallon fuel tank.

New Features
Also new for the 2005 Cayenne are a handy, optional rearview camera and a standard electronically latching tailgate.

There also are new body colored front-rear aprons and side door sills, Homelink garage door opener and such options as satellite radio and SportDesign and Light Comfort option packages.

All Cayennes are so well equipped with comfort, convenience and safety items that they need few, if any, options. That's good because extras can cause the Cayenne base prices to rapidly escalate.

Roomy Upscale Interior
A moderate step-in height and large outside door handles allow fairly easy entry to the quiet, roomy, upscale interior, which has a sports car feel. Four to five tall occupants easily fit and sit high for a good view of surroundings. Still, thick roof posts partially obstruct a driver's rear visibility, which is assisted by large outside mirrors.

The spacious cargo area has a low, wide opening, and cargo capacity can be significantly expanded by folding the rear seatbacks forward. There's no third-row seat, but that item would be out of place in such a sporty vehicle, anyway.

The front bucket seats provide good support, but the 911-style gauges are too spread out for a quick read of all of them. Audio system controls are small. Climate controls are large, but are seemingly designed more for style than function. Porsche's traditional, awkward placement of the ignition switch to the left of the steering column is retained.

It's nice to know that the lowest-priced Cayenne with the V6 is the most pleasant version, although many Porsche fans will want the faster acceleration provided by the V8s.

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BB06 - 7/28/2014 12:00:19 AM