Driving in a convoy of press vehicles with a lead car setting the pace is rarely (read: never) my preference when it comes to testing a car. The physical lack of room, the governed speed and the tangible loss of freedom to fully explore a vehicle’s ability rarely leads to any meaningful insights. Driving in a convoy also increases the chance of me getting a bit cranky and testing the durability of the interior plastics and steering wheel by sinking my teeth deeply into them and chewing on them like a rabid dog.
Begrudgingly, however, even I have to admit that sometimes it is logistical logic for a manufacturer to run a convoy drive and the regional launch of the new Porsche Cayenne and the Cayenne S annoyingly (kinda) falls into that ‘justifiable convoy’ category. With two vehicles to test today, city sections, mountain roads and even a bit of off-roading in our Cayenne convoy, it’s a much easier task for Porsche to keep us all safe and neatly together in a pack rather than send individual recovery trucks to our rescue when we inevitably end upside down in a ditch or accidentally fall off a mountain if left to our own devices.
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The day therefore begins with a legal and leisurely plod in our Cayenne convoy through the mean streets of Fujairah reaching speeds of up to 60kph. But usually less. Unsurprisingly, the Cayenne S I am in with its 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo producing 440 hp and 550 Nm of torque has absolutely no problem keeping up with morning traffic. But just as I am about to chow down on the steering wheel in frustration we reach the border crossing into Oman.
Porsche has already sorted out all the permissions for us and the vehicles to cross here so it’s a simple process of individual passport checks, quick security search of all the vehicles and another — begrudgingly given — logical reason for our convoy formation. It is still a reasonably lengthy process getting all the cars through the border check and into Oman however, and my thoughts naturally turn to what looks edible in the interior…
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The Cayenne S we have been provided with has been nicely optioned with lashings of lovely leather everywhere including a quality piece of hide stretched across the upper dashboard. It feels luxuriously soft, expensive and is the prime candidate for wailing and gnashing of teeth should professionalism give way to foaming at the mouth in frustration.
Elsewhere, there’s less switchgear to chew on as everything has been streamlined and some genius at Porsche has (finally) realised we don’t need an individual switch for every single operation. Main functions still inhabit the physical switchgear universe. Everything else has been seamlessly transferred to the virtual universe of the beautifully functional and intuitive 12.3-inch full-HD-touch-screen display that also graces the new Panamera. To quote your 12-year old nephew who knows way more about this tech stuff than us, “it’s a nice bit of kit.”
The rest of the interior — the chairs and trim et al — will really depend on what you option for and obviously Porsche wants you to tick all them boxes or even go fancy by getting ‘Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur’ to hook you up with some individual bespoke shizzle. But forget all that for the moment. There’s a little bit of magic going on in the interior of the new Cayenne…
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The exterior length has increased by 63 millimetres but the wheelbase has remained the same and the roof height has even been dropped by nine millimetres. And yet, the interior feels a lot more airy and spacious. The streamlining of the switchgear has certainly removed a lot of unnecessary visual clutter yet there is a tangible ‘roominess’ in here that exceeds the previous two generations. Porsche also claims it has increased the luggage compartment volume by 100 litres which will naturally be a massive selling point to whoever buys these mid-size luxury crossover sport utility vehicles. And Porsche sells a lot. Over 270,000 units for the first generation and over 500,000 for the second. And, as someone that laughed out loud when I heard Porsche was going to produce an SUV, I will now remain dignified and silent. Porsche: 770,000. Davison: Nil.
Back on the road but now in Oman and swerving around miniature goats — which are the equivalent to the ‘European Elk Test’ albeit on a much more regular and smaller scale — we finally hit a stretch of road where we are ‘allowed’ to explore the “sporting dynamics” of this Porsche. So I naturally pull over, stop and have a smoke. Obviously breaking convoy protocol to let everyone else disappear out of sight was simply an advantageous coincidence and not my intention. Convoy rules state no overtaking, but creating a little bit of individual space is probably more acceptable than eating up the furniture. Probably…
Let’s get down to brass tacks. A Cayenne S optioned with rear-axle steering, air suspension and roll stabilisation is not something you want to underestimate in your ‘sport coupé’. No Cayenne will come with a PDK which make sense and doesn’t really matter. It’s a fast operating eight-speed auto Tiptronic. And it goes fast. It handles like a Porsche should. And it’s also really a nice and comfortable place to be. While you are on the ragged edge of traction while I am playing with my 12.3-inch full-HD-touch-screen display I am in control. You aren’t. Porsche has engineered it that way.
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We hit a gravel track to do some ‘off-road’ that your granny could do in a 20 year old front-wheel drive Corolla, in a convoy of Cayennes. It doesn’t make much sense, but the point has already been made. We reach the end and we switch cars and I jump into a stock Cayenne for the trip back. It isn’t fancy optioned with rear-axle steering, air suspension or roll stabilisation. The dashboard isn’t as edible and is just high-quality soft plastic which might even hurt my teeth. Sure, it’s got a 3.0-litre engine but only a single turbo and only 340 horsepower and 450Nm of torque. It’s still a Porsche. You lose.
Next time I am in a Cayenne, I will be driving solo. No Porsche should ever be in a convoy. That’s the only mistake Porsche has made with this new Cayenne.