Porsche Cayenne SUV Gets Sports Car FlairBy
Third-generation Cayenne model features 12.3-inch touchscreen
Porsche faces increasing competition from Jaguar, Maserati
Porsche’s refreshed Cayenne sport utility vehicle features fat rear tires, sharper handling and brawnier engines as the German manufacturer draws on its trademark 911 sports car to counter a growing array of competitors for the big-selling model.
For a sleeker look, the third-generation Cayenne is 6.3 centimeters (2.5 inches) longer and nearly 1 centimeter lower than its predecessor. The rear wheels are now wider than the front ones and steer to assist with the SUV’s cornering like in the 911. Meanwhile, the base version, which starts at nearly 75,000 euros ($90,200) in Germany, boasts a 340-horsepower engine, 40 more than the previous model, according to the Volkswagen AG unit.
“Our primary objective was to accentuate the character of the vehicle,” Michael Mauer, Porsche’s director of style, said at the unveiling at the brand’s museum in the Zuffenhausen area of Stuttgart. “More Porsche, more Cayenne.”
The enhancements, which includes smartphone-like electronics, reflect the increasing pressure on the Cayenne, Porsche’s biggest seller next to the smaller Macan SUV. When the model was first introduced in 2002, it marked the brand’s first expansion beyond low-slung sports cars, and its success helped spark the luxury SUV wave, with the likes of Jaguar, Maserati and Bentley following suit to challenge the upscale family car.
In addition to the Cayenne’s sports car thrills, the Stuttgart-based manufacturer is adding gadgetry like a 12.3-inch high-definition touchscreen, voice control, LED headlights and LTE wireless data connectivity. The dashboard interface can also be adjusted for the driver’s preferences.
The model is also as much as 65 kilograms (143 pounds) lighter to improve fuel economy and acceleration, helped by a lithium-ion polymer starter battery, which alone saves 10 kilograms in weight, Porsche said.
Thanks to sharing underpinnings with models from sister brands Audi and Bentley, the Cayenne is a key contributor to Porsche’s profits, which are vital for Volkswagen to stem the 22.6 billion-euro financial hit from the diesel-cheating scandal that erupted two years ago. Porsche hasn’t been completely unscathed by the crisis, with the marque forced to recall some 21,000 Cayennes with tainted diesel engines. The German Transport Ministry also temporarily imposed a sales stop for the affected models.
In a sign of Porsche’s shifting technology focus, the carmaker will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the Cayenne, while a decision on a diesel variant has yet to be made, Chief Executive Officer Oliver Blume told reporters at the event late Tuesday. The executive had previously mused that Porsche may give up on diesel entirely.
Demand for the embattled technology is minuscule in China and the U.S., Porsche’s two largest markets, so the manufacturer might again focus on gasoline engines along with a growing focus on electric propulsion. The brand’s all-electric Mission E is due to roll out in 2019.
“We’re not a diesel brand as such,” Wolfgang Porsche, the grandson of the brand’s founder Ferdinand Porsche, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. He called the technology important to meet targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and rejected calls for setting dates for when combustion engines should be phased out. “It’s not realistic. Who knows what the situation will look like in 10, 15 or 20 years time?”
The revamped Porsche SUV will initially be available in two versions, with the higher-end, 440-horsepower Cayenne S starting at nearly 92,000 euros.