Balance: Porsche Cayenne in the North East
It takes all of five minutes to get out of Guwahati and onto the road leading to Cherrapunji on a busy morning. We were staying on the outskirts of the city and the plan was to drive on the winding roads of Meghalaya and get to one of the wettest places on Earth by sunset, bang in the middle of the monsoons. And along the way, test the facelifted Cayenne and Cayenne Coupe that were recently launched in India. Oh well, I don’t know about road testing, but I was sure I would get the chance to test the Cayenne’s water wading abilities.
The roads in this part of the country don’t have straights. You turn into one corner and can spot the next one as you exit – so, the ideal place for a sporty SUV such as the Cayenne, which, even in the base variant, is the sportiest luxury SUV you can buy. Don’t get me wrong and point out that an RS Q8 or a Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S make much more power than the Cayenne. What I’m saying is that the Cayenne, for a top-tier SUV, strikes the finest balance between sport and comfort.
Anyway, I knew right away that I was driving a very special car. Unlike most facelifts, the Cayenne gets critical mechanical tweaks. The cars retailed in India now get air suspension as standard. You also get Porsche Active Stability Management coupled with new two-valve tech in the suspension now to give you the best of both worlds. In the normal comfort setting, the ride quality is so incredible that I was hunting for potholes to drive over. The suppleness in the suspension is magical, and then as I switched to Sport mode, the Cayenne hunkered down like a corner-carving animal. It is wide and bulbous and heavy, but the way the Cayenne devours corners, even in its base spec, is unreal. The new suspension not only improves ride quality, but also steps up the Cayenne’s handling game, ably supported by the quick and direct steering. And guess what, we didn’t get a single drop of rain until we reached Cherrapunjee.
As the sun was yet to set, I got a chance to admire the design of the updated Cayenne. The bumpers are redesigned to make the SUV look wider than before. A new set of optional tinted Matrix-LED headlights will set you back by Rs 5.66 lakh, but as I would find out later, they are like Christmas everywhere you go, without affecting oncoming traffic. The Carmine red and Cashmere beige paint are a Rs 5 lakh option each and the 21-inch wheels you see on the Cayenne Coupe on these pages, painted to match the exterior colour, will set you back by Rs 8.3 lakh. Then there is the interior package that can be customised to your liking if you want to spend another Rs 8 lakh for it. There’s also a third screen for the passenger now and it can be used to navigate and play music. Club it with an internet connection and you will also be able to use streaming apps and that too without disturbing the driver.
As a matter of fact, nothing in a Porsche disturbs the driver, and when they make that mistake they are prompt to correct it. The digital instrument cluster for instance is new, lifted from the Taycan, but the complicated touch buttons on the cluster are gone. Even the buttons on the centre console balance those with haptic feedback well. The ones you would use regularly are proper knurled buttons that feel as rich as the price you pay for the SUV. There’s also a Rs 2.8 lakh-worth Bose sound system in the Cayenne. You’d be using that more than listening to the exhaust note, that barely filters into the cabin. Sound isolation from the outside world is so impressive, you will often roll your window down to hear what you are missing. That said, you can order a sport exhaust for Rs 5.91 lakh and entertain yourself on a winding road. The Cayenne runs a soft limiter, but out on the open road, those pipes sing a sweet tune.
On our drive back to Guwahati the next day, the winding road outside Cherrapunji leading to Shillong was empty but damp, and I could finally stretch the legs of the 3-litre twin-turbo V6. The engine makes 348bhp and 500Nm; 12bhp and 50Nm more than before. On these roads, that’s plenty of performance. This V6 loves to rev, the turn of pace is brisk and the grip levels from the AWD system make you feel like you can’t go wrong as long as you hold on to the steering wheel, even in these damp conditions. It’s amazing how this 2.1 tonne SUV takes on a snaking hill road like it’s a nippy little hatchback. 0-100kmph comes up in 6 seconds and if you pay Rs 2.1 lakh for the Sport Chrono pack, you will be able to shave off 0.3 seconds. It’s funny how many times I saw the digital speedo show numbers north of 100kmph in the shortest of runs out of corners, that I felt like Cayenne owners will be flirting with the law all the time.
While in most driving conditions, the Cayenne needs no effort to impress, it’s the gearbox that robs the Cayenne of a full score. Progress is smooth in normal mode with the 8-speed auto ’box doing its thing to give you a rapid but relaxing drive, but switch to sport and you realise that you need to commit to the throttle pedal to make for a comfortable drive. The gearbox feels unsure of the gear it should drop to at part throttle and always reminds you of how brilliant PDKs are. This torque converter is ideal for such a heavy AWD SUV but you better not have experienced the intuitive shifts from a PDK gearbox. That would be my only criticism of an otherwise well-rounded SUV. That said, get into a rhythm on the beautiful winding roads of Meghalaya and you feel like you’d want to drive this car all day, everyday. You will want to plan your next road trip before you have finished your current one.
The Cayenne SUV and Coupe are identical barring that sloping rear end that gets an active spoiler. It’s the more stylish option and considering the size of the SUV, you don’t compromise too much on interior space in the Coupe. I would pay the Rs 6.5 lakh extra to buy the Coupe and spec it just right with about Rs 30-35 lakh worth of optional extras if I had the money. Spec it to the gills and it will cost you north of Rs 2 crore, ex-showroom. A Porsche doesn’t come cheap, but once you drive one, you wouldn’t dare look at a similarly performing M or AMG or Range Rover. The Cayenne has my heart.