Porsche Cayenne SUV

2008, Porsche, Cayenne

UVALDE, Tex. -- Scene One: The red needle on a round analog speedometer of the latest turbo-powered vehicle from Porsche of Germany points to serious triple-digit numbers while running hot laps on a high-speed oval test track charted across barren Texas plains at the Uvalde Proving Grounds.

With go-pedal on the floor and all cylinders firing through a twin-turbo booster to muster the strength of 500 horses, this Porsche continues to accelerate. The monocoque body hunkers low on the pavement for streamlining, independent suspension elements mesh under constant computer control for electronically variable shock valve damping, while enormous speed-rated tires mounted on all four alloy wheels claw the asphalt.

And still the needle climbs: To 140 mph, then to 150 and on past 160, as sideline sage and tumbleweed on the pancake plains become a gray-green blur as we rush down the track. Scene Two: All four tires on our Porsche tester bite into soaking-wet asphalt on a mile-long curlicue route at Uvalde called the Wet Handling Course.

Even though we're running at 40 mph on the wet and wiggly track, our machine remains rooted to pavement in a keen demonstration of its foul-weather tire grip and nimble nature. Scene Three: The K-Course -- a clay-base gravel road -- extends for two serpentine miles through curves and twists and kinked corners to forge a rallye-style four-wheel-drive (4WD) training course at the Uvalde complex.

The same Porsche that zips so quickly around the oval test track or dances so deftly across water-soaked pavement also drifts like a rallye car tossed sideways at speed through a corner, wheels scrambling to bind against the loose chat with aid from the computerized Porsche Traction Management (PTM) 4WD system, plus a Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system that automatically corrects lateral skidding, and the new Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) device, which employs active anti-roll bars to offset virtually any body roll in a hard-cut turn.

But what kind of Porsche, you may wonder, can run around a test track at 160 mph like a race-ready sports car yet also scamper around a gravel road like a rallye car and still maintain sure-grip tire traction on soppy pavement? There's only one answer for a vehicle with the seemingly incongruent traits of an agile sports car and go-anywhere four-wheeler SUV: Porsche calls it the spicy Cayenne.

Porsche introduced the Cayenne sport-utility wagon five years ago and for 2008 rolls out three different versions for a second generation with sharper styling for the aerodynamic body, revamped engines with more power and torque, and more high-tech electronic devices aboard to control tire traction, vehicle stability and chassis-suspension dynamics.

For a brand recognized around the world as building incomparable two-seat sports cars capable of capturing the checkered flag at fabled endurance races like Le Mans and Daytona, developing a SUV for Porsche was significant.

Cayenne became the first four-door vehicle for Porsche, the first to carry a bench-style back seat, the only Porsche that accommodates five riders in the cabin and the only one with a cargo bay and hatchback lid at the tail. Despite its rather conventional yet streamlined format as a five-door and two-box SUV, Cayenne poses Porsche-engineered mechanical systems on a tightly tuned platform geared for high performance and sporty maneuvers.

But view it head-on and you will see that Cayenne's face resembles Porsche's primary sports car, the 911 Carrera coupe, only hiked higher due to the 4WD suspension and huge tires that run optionally up to 21 inches. There's the hood swooping down between corner flanks marked by uniquely shaped headlamp clusters and underscored by a yawning linear grille, stacked air ports and square-corner foglamps.

Fenders flare around the wheelwells like muscles bulging on an athlete's broad shoulders, while the flat roofline gives way near the tail with a sharp descent into taillamps to form a silhouette that appears tilted forward in a suggestion of speed. Styling changes are subtle for Cayenne's 2008 models but concern the shape of headlamps, a prow that's smoother, fender flares reshaped and overall streamlining of the body to reduce wind friction at speed.

Cayenne for 2008 continues to offer the same trims based on powertrain, but engines are bigger and employ direct fuel injection for the first time. The lineup includes Cayenne Turbo 2 packing a turbo-charged V8, Cayenne S with a naturally aspirated V8, and Cayenne the entry issue with a V6.

Cayenne's water-cooled V6 grows in displacement from 3.2 liters to 3.6 liters and has four overhead camshafts and continuously variable intake valve timing. The V6 delivers up to 290 hp at 6200 rpm with torque running to 273 lb-ft at 3000 rpm. That's a boost of 43 hp over the previous V6, with a lot more torque.

Transmission choices for the V6 are a close-ratio six-speed manual or Porsche's six-speed Tiptronic automatic with manual shift action controlled through toggle switches on the steering wheel. Cayenne S carries a V8 displacing 4.8 liters. It surges with 385 hp at 6200 rpm now as the torque hits 369 lb-ft at 3500 rpm.

The V8 achieves ULEV (ultra low-emission vehicle) status and improves fuel economy by 15 percent. Cayenne Turbo stocks the same 4.8-liter V8 but it's fitted with twin turbo-chargers to maximize the power punch. The new version reaches 500 hp at 6000 rpm with the torque ripping to 516 lb-ft between 2250-4500 rpm.

The turbo romps to 60 mph in less than five seconds and has a top speed over 170 mph. Both V8s tie to the six-speed Tiptronic automatic. Standard equipment on all Cayennes for 2008 includes the PTM 4WD system, PSM stability controls, a push-button Sports mode for engine operation and a rollover sensor to trigger the curtain-style air bags in an emergency tipping event.

Options range from different wheel and tire packages to the new remarkable PDCC with active anti-roll bars checking body roll, and Dynamic Curve Lights (DCL) with headlamps that swivel in concert with the angle of the steering wheel to keep a light shining on the vehicle's forward path.

Porsche establishes base price points at $43,400 for Cayenne M6 and $46,400 for Cayenne A6, $57,900 for Cayenne S and $93,700 for the incomparable Cayenne Turbo.

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2008, Porsche Cayenne

2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne