It’s what we add to bland fare to give it a bit more kick. The Cayenne, though, has never been bland. You might begrudge the brand’s huge success selling SUVs rather than sports cars, but if you’ve never driven a Cayenne you have no right to judge—these beasts are fast as hell when they come with V-8s, and handle impressively as well.
We’ve heard yet more cynicism about the new (this fall) 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid. A Porsche HYBRID! Scoff all you like, but the $67,700 SUV is rumored to get roughly 28 mpg city/highway fuel economy. And it will still be plenty quick, with an eight-speed, 333-horsepower supercharged V-6 (same motor as you’ll find in Audi’s S4) coupled with a 47-horsepower electric motor. And with the latter you’ll be able to cruise on electric power alone in stop-and-go driving, which is a hell of a lot better for the planet than the 12mpg Turbo in the present lineup.
And a Hybrid Cayenne will arguably save marriages—and do good things for the Porsche label, too. Think of the recently wedded Wall Street type who has to mothball his 911 or Boxster now that he has toddlers. His wife wants a “green” ride to shuttle the rug rats. He wants another Porsche. Enter the Hybrid Cayenne!
All that’s in the future, though. What if Mister Wall Street’s wife just had their second baby last month? The new family chariot cannot wait! Well, why not the Transsyberia?
More than a name
Trans-what? Yeah, the funny spelling aside, Porsche actually has raced a version of this crossover (albeit one with more tweaks than the “street” version), winning the 4,300-mile Transsyberia Rally in both 2006 and 2008 and besting Mercedes and mighty Land Rover.
Which means exactly squat if we’re just talking about commemorative orange paint. Luckily this $70,800 Porsche gets actual hardware—the 405 horsepower V-8 lifted from the Cayenne GTS instead of the stock, 385-horsepower mill in the Cayenne S.
Cayenne Transsyberia side
Important: We tested the version with lots of orange; so much that we restricted test-drives to night time (photos, too, were shot at night), when the cops were less readily curious. But you can get your Trans in much quieter livery, black with accents of silver or gray with silver accents.
Assuming you hew yours towards tamer hues know that beyond the GTS V-8 at a $1,600 discount, you’ll also be getting a Cayenne with a six-speed Tiptronic gearbox, an adjustable air suspension that lets you manually raise the chassis for snowy driving and drop it for unloading aforementioned kids (it auto drops for high-speed driving by the way), skid plates, and standard Alcantara-blanketed sport seats that are absolutely top notch for providing body-hugging support for sporty driving but genuine long-mile comfort as well.
As for the aforementioned V-8; it’s not green. Fuel economy of 13 city/18 highway is simply not planet-friendly. Then again, if you’re mothballing your GT3 with the fear you’ll be forced to cart around in a Sienna this muscle will put a grin back on your face; the pure acceleration (0-60 mph in a hair under six seconds for a 5,000 pound vehicle doesn’t suck) and ripping exhaust note are just plain thrilling. Al Gore would hate this beast.
You may want to wait, however
Some of the changes you see on the Transsyberia are cosmetic, from the orange gauges that reverse hue at night (see gallery photo), to the orange safety belts. Some changes are functional, like optional roof lights, locking rear diff, and more armor for the fuel tank and rear axle.
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.
Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia gauges
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.
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.