One thing that sets this Porsche apart is the air suspension and very quick steering.
Set the Transsyberia into the firmest suspension mode and it really will shock you with brilliant cornering and intuitive placement of every tire on the tarmac. Wisely, Porsche engineered the Tiptronic to hold gears right up to the 6,500 rpm rev limit, so you can use the transmission to maintain stability through corners, confident the chassis won’t be upset by a sudden upshift. BMW’s X6 and Infiniti’s FX are similarly shocking crossovers for how far you can push the limits. But with the Cayenne there’s less sense that you’re actually doing something “daring.” In that regard this is as much a genuine Porsche as a Boxster or a Carrera. Damn the curmudgeons who will never see it that way.
Then again, you won’t mistake this Cayenne for a sports car—in a positive sense. Since, naturally, it’s far more comfortable as an Interstate freight train, and will laugh off potholes the way no Porsche two-door could.
All that said, there are changes coming to the Cayenne that make even the Transsyberia edition of the outgoing crossover a push. For instance, there are thumb controllers for shifting the Tiptronic. Porsche didn’t give in to the paddle-shift trend this time around, but given that even the Honda Fit has paddles—and they’re optional on Porsche’s sports cars with Tiptronic—there’s ample reason to believe they’ll come to the eight-speed Cayennes as well.
Another change that’s desirable is less mass. The next-gen Cayennes get a rear-drive biased all-wheel drive system that’s considerably lighter; combined with a lighter body structure such changes shed 400 pounds from the 4,950-pound Cayenne S, for instance. And if you figure Porsche won’t scrap the telepathic steering of the present-gen edition, the new crossover is going to feel quicker on its feet for certain. Also, that system will be able to vary torque to either rear wheel, creating a quasi-rear steering effect as you ease onto the throttle out of corners. One thing: the Hybrid will not get the same variable all-wheel drive system; it will have a full-time all-wheel drive system instead and our bet is it may not feel quite as sporty.
Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia gaugesEnlarge Photo
Porsche Cayenne TranssyberiaEnlarge Photo
One needed update is to the interior. Backseat knee room will improve on the forthcoming model, and rear seats will have tiltable backrests as well. One comment on the outgoing Cayenne: the cockpit controls, from A/C to audio sources, are overly complex and distracting. For a Porsche this is really a crime, since driving—not baubles—is why you buy a Porsche and not a Lexus. The new car will look more like the Panamera inside, and from what we’ve seen, that’s a big plus.
In fact for all the dogging the Panamera has received about its looks—consider this reviewer decidedly not in that camp—the 2011 Cayenne will benefit hugely from looking more like that sedan and less like the outgoing crossover, which has always seemed pumped up rather than sleek. And of course, that’s the other reason to buy a Porsche—because it doesn’t look like any other car on the road. Expect the next Cayenne to do a better job of that, too.
Still, despite its quirks, and maybe because of them as well, if you have to have your Cayenne now, we can honestly say that the Transsyberia is amusing as hell. You may not always love the quirks, but they’re 100% Porsche.