Each year, well-heeled folks can spend a few thousand dollars to participate in the Porsche Performance Tour. On the agenda, a road trip of several hundred kilometres behind the wheel of their sports cars, fancy hotels, and an off-road trek in a Porsche SUV.
Off road? You might not remember this, but when Porsche launched their first Cayenne, the company put the emphasis on its off-road capabilities as well as on its mechanical and electronic technologies, making a worthy rival to Land Rover.
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The Cayenne’s main obstacle for off-roading has always been its brakes. Not that they aren’t effective, quite the contrary. It’s just the brake rotors up front are too big, which necessitates a big minimal wheel diameter, meaning the Cayenne can only roll on low-profile tires. Not very practical when hitting the trails.
That being said, while we can’t fit knobby, military-grade rubber on our Cayenne, Porsche’s SUV compensates with advanced technologies. We’re talking about adjustable air suspensions, adjustable differentials, an off-road mode that reprograms the automatic transmission, and much more. You guessed it; by simply pressing on a few buttons, our Porsche Cayenne is ready to discover the unknown.
However, is that a good thing?
Part of the thrill of off-roading is the challenge of driving a vehicle far away from nicely paved roads. We can’t just mash the gas pedal, as we need to adjust to the surface we’re tackling and choose the best approach angle, for example.
Well, our Porsche Cayenne can virtually figure all this out on its own. Whether you’re tilted at a 45-degree angle from the ground, crossing a small river, escalading a sand dune or creeping down a steep, rocky incline, the vehicle does it all for us. At the top of a hill composed of tightly packed rocks? Let go of the throttle, and the descent control system does its work. You simply need to turn the wheel, and even then, I’m guessing the SUV performs some minor trajectory corrections for you.
In fact, the Porsche Cayenne in off-road mode was so easy to drive that my dear 91-year-old grandmother, who never had a driver’s license in her life, could manoeuvre the SUV. “Watch this, grandma; this pedal is to move forward, this one’s to stop and this wheel is to change direction.” No need to modulate the pedals; even if we punch the throttle, the vehicle will only apply the necessary power.
Actually, isn’t making everything easy the beauty of contemporary cars and trucks? Purists generally don’t like sports cars because they can turn anyone into Ron Fellows on a track, as long as they leave the electronic driving aids activated.
Same thing for off-roading. Even if our Porsche Cayenne is very capable in the mud, we bet it’s much more fun to get stuck in a good old Jeep TJ.
Nevertheless, our off-road experience made me fully appreciate the goodness of the Cayenne’s chassis. Even with two wheels in the air (see pictures), we could open and close all the doors without any strange slamming noises, sign that the chassis is flexing. Simply put, the Cayenne’s platform is stiff.
The Porsche Cayenne is a solid performer off road, and requires no special training to clear even the most impressive obstacles. However, less than 1% of Cayenne owners will bring their shiny new, $100K Porsche SUV in the woods. As Porsche says, it’s not about doing it, it’s about knowing you can.