Porsche still gets it right with the 09 Cayenne

2009, Porsche, Cayenne

Porsche enthusiasts weren't all that thrilled when the German luxury brand decided to build an SUV a few years ago, thinking it would cause the automaker to lose focus on making the world class sports cars for which it has been known for so many years.

But the automaker went forward anyway.

The result?

The Porsche Cayenne has become one of the most luxurious and dynamic SUVs on the market.

Oh, and Porsche still has managed to keep building pretty good sports cars, too.

The 2009 Cayenne has a 4.8-litre V-8 engine linked to either a six-speed manual or an optional Tiptronic S dual-mode automatic transmission, which our tester had.

The Cayenne makes 405 horsepower and 369 pounds-feet of torque.

In addition to all that power, fortunately you also get great braking and handling.

Porsche Stability Management with automatic brake system also has anti slip regulation, automatic brake differential and engine drag torque control.

The steering is right on the money, and is effectively weighted for low or high-speed driving.

The list of standard equipment includes 21-inch wheels, variable ratio power steering, front and rear stabilizer bars and a double wishbone front - multi-link rear suspension, which really reminds you that even though it's an SUV, the Cayenne is a true Porsche.

You can pick from different damper settings, which allow the Cayenne to get down on its hunches and firm up at different levels. In sport mode, you get an even distribution of fearsome power and a seemingly louder note from the exhaust pipes. That's the one you want to use if you get out on some nice twisty roads that aren't attended to by local authorities.

A true Porsche also has a certain level of luxury, and the Cayenne delivers that as well.

Amenities on the inside include a great AM/FM/CD sound system with 12 speakers, 12-way adjustable front seats with driver's memory and a three-spoke heated leather steering wheel with audio controls.

Convenience for the driver is also aided by a five-gauge instrument panel that presents information clearly, including speed, rpm, gear selection and outside temperature and thumb shift paddles for the Tiptronic S transmission.

Porsche made wise choices in designing the interior.

For example, note the grab handles on both sides of the transmission section and the big center console that contains the navigation and audio systems.

The automatic climate control system lets you regulate temperatures in the front and rear zones.

The back seat comfortably sits three and offers pretty good legroom.

It has a 60/40 split configuration that folds down for added cargo utility.

The exterior design has been tweaked from its debut in 2003, and the Cayenne now has a bit more of an aggressive stance.

But the muscular, compact posture remains, and now there is a new headlamp style and the wheel wells are larger.

As you might expect, gas mileage isn't great. According to EPA figures, you'll get about 13 mpg city, 19 highway in the Cayenne.

In a mix of driving, we got about 15 mpg. As you also might expect, the Cayenne isn't exactly an inexpensive machine.

They start at around $70,000, and our tester, a Cayenne S, was tagged at a little over $108,000. But if you covet performance, engineering, luxury and the prestigious Porsche name, in an SUV package, the Cayenne delivers.

Take that, enthusiasts.

By Rob Douthit

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Images of the 2009, Porsche Cayenne

2009 Porsche Cayenne front view
2009 Porsche Cayenne front view
2009 Porsche Cayenne interior
2009 Porsche Cayenne interior
2009 Porsche Cayenne center console
2009 Porsche Cayenne center console
2009 Porsche Cayenne rear shot
2009 Porsche Cayenne rear shot