What's New for 2006
Porsche adds a new style this year. Labeled the Cayenne Turbo S, this version is now the range-topping model and it boasts superior performance to the Turbo. Its V8 is capable of 520 horsepower and 530 lb-ft of torque, and it also comes with a firmer state of suspension tune, more powerful brakes and a revised stability control system. Other changes for the Porsche Cayenne lineup this year include a new electronic logbook, a preheating and pre-ventilation feature for the climate control system, a trace-back feature for the navigation system, wider rear wheels and upgraded front airbags.
Long a builder of world-class sports cars, Porsche was an unlikely entrant into the SUV race. It seemed illogical for Porsche to go after a piece of this lucrative pie at the expense of watering down its illustrious reputation. But who can blame the company for wanting to cash in on the bounty?Porsche bigwigs worried that continuing to build only two products, the 911 and the Boxster, was a narrow market niche would leave the company much more vulnerable to fluctuations in the economy. The gamble has paid off so far as the Porsche Cayenne has sold well. Going up against vehicles like the BMW X5 and Infiniti FX45, the Cayenne is the first Porsche since the 928 to offer a V8 engine.
There are four versions of the Porsche SUV: the Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo and Cayenne Turbo S. A 250-horsepower V6 powers the base model Cayenne, while a 4.5-liter V8 rests under the hood of the remaining three. With its 340-hp normally aspirated V8, the Cayenne S can scamper to 60 mph from a stop in 6.8 seconds. The Turbo version makes 450 hp and 457 pound-feet of torque. Porsche says this is good enough to propel the SUV to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. The new-for-2006 Turbo S, meanwhile, produces 520 horsepower and can reach 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, which is as quick as a 911 Carrera.
As this is a luxury SUV, Porsche has equipped all models with a full complement of features. Indeed, the furnishings are opulent even for this class, with plush carpeting, a suede headliner and rich leather; although, as in other Porsches, additional leather and wood inlays will cost you. There's room for five, or you can fold the rear seats down to reveal a decent amount of cargo space. The four-wheel-drive system is electronically controlled, and the division of power between the front and rear wheels is not determined by the lack of traction alone, but by sensors measuring road speed and driver inputs. Should the owner actually want to take his Porsche Cayenne off pavement, the transmission offers low-range gearing for improved performance on steep ascents and descents, and a 100-percent front-to-rear differential lock for maximum traction. Turbo and Turbo S models also come with an air suspension that can raise and lower the ride height for better low- and high-speed performance; it's optional on other Cayennes.
As for safety, all four versions come with a full complement of airbags and standard Porsche Stability Management. The base Cayenne with a manual transmission includes a hill-holder feature, called Porsche Drive-Off Assistant (PDOA) System. This enables the driver to easily set the vehicle in motion on steep inclines. The system "holds" the brakes automatically, allowing the driver to remove his foot from the brake pedal without the vehicle rolling backward. In addition, the turbo models come with a bi-HID headlight system that can aim its light into a bend, thereby improving illumination when cornering. All this comes at a price, however, as the Turbo S stickers at a price above $110,000. Meanwhile, the S model starts in the upper $50Ks, while the base V6 model starts in the $40Ks. Regardless of which Porsche Cayenne you choose, this is serious money for an SUV, but for those who have been cramming kids and briefcases into the back of a 911 for years, it might well be a price worth paying.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Four versions of the four-door, five-passenger Porsche Cayenne SUV are offered: base, S, Turbo and Turbo S. Base models come with features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seating, 12-way power seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 12-speaker CD stereo. The S adds 18-inch wheels and a 350-watt, 14-speaker Bose audio system. The top-line Turbo and Turbo S provide an air suspension with automatic ride height and damping adjustment (Porsche Active Suspension Management), bi-HID headlights, a navigation system, heated seats front and rear, seat memory and front/rear parking assist. The Turbo S also has 20-inch wheels and special interior and exterior trim details. Most of the upgraded features on the turbo models can be had as options on other Cayennes, and other extras include four-zone climate control, bolstered sport seats, a six-CD changer, various wheel/tire upgrades, an off-road package, a moonroof and trailering preparation.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Porsche Cayenne uses a 3.2-liter V6 that makes 247 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. The midgrade Cayenne S is upgraded with a 4.5-liter V8 rated at 340 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Turbos boast 450 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbocharged version of the S model's V8, and ordering the optional Power Turbo Kit raises output to 500 hp. The top-shelf Turbo S squeezes out 520 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque. Power flows to all four wheels via a permanent dual-range four-wheel-drive system. Although the base model takes about 9 seconds to reach 60 mph, acceleration is sports-carlike on other Cayennes: the S hits 60 mph in 6.8 seconds while the Turbo S dispatches that sprint in 4.8 seconds. Maximum towing capacity for all models is a substantial 7,700 pounds. The base Cayenne is available with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional on that model and standard on S and Turbo models.
Standard safety features on all models include seat-mounted side airbags in the front, full-length side curtain airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control. The Porsche Cayenne has not been crash tested.
Interior Design and Special Features
In a nod to its Porsche heritage, the Cayenne's ignition switch is on the dash's left side, and the instrument cluster would look equally at home in a 911. For those unfamiliar with the legendary sports car, this means that the gauge cluster is nearly perfect, but the climate and radio controls are an indecipherable cluster of buttons and knobs. Cabin furnishings are truly opulent, even by luxury SUV standards. The Cayenne has a maximum cargo capacity of 63 cubic feet, a low number for this class.
Strange as it seems, the 2006 Porsche Cayenne does live up to the Porsche name in terms of acceleration and handling. The transmission shifts with precision and the engine growls reassuringly under full throttle. Turbo lag is annoying on the top-line models, but otherwise the drivetrain offers little to complain about. It may sound like a cliche, but out on the road the Cayenne is truly the Porsche of SUVs, exhibiting tight body control in the corners. The Cayenne is also a capable SUV when it comes to off-highway work, but only if you specify the optional off-road package.