BUSINESS TRAVEL: On The Road

Porsche's new off-roader may not be fast, but the Cayenne V6 stacks up well against its rivals

by Richard Bremner
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Last time I looked, the road to my local supermarket was smoothly paved and uninterrupted by small boulders, marshy patches, fords or glutinous earth banks. I do not need an off-roader to get there. But if I travel in one, I ride high - making it that much easier to spot any felled tree barring my path - enjoy luxurious surroundings, a boot that will swallow plenty of provisions and a cabin that can accommodate companions to consume them. It's practicalities such as these, rather than the ability to cross the Serengeti, that have endeared off-roaders to car buyers. That, and their prestige: four-wheel drives are family estates without the sales rep stigma.

The 1970 Range Rover was the first luxury off-roader, since when there has been a growing welter of alternatives, lately from unexpected sources.

A BMW 4x4 would have seemed unlikely a while ago, and a Volkswagen too, but until recently an off-roader from Porsche would have seemed about as likely as David Beckham fronting a cookery programme. But the Cayenne is here, it's selling and it will not be the last Porsche aimed at families, as the company is working on a sporting four-door saloon. Until now, the Cayenne has been a strong performer, despite its ungainly proportions and a weight of more than two tonnes.

So far, Porsche has vested it with as much as 450bhp, if it's a £68,970 Turbo, but now it has introduced a version that by its own standards really isn't fast at all.

The new 3.2 litre V6 makes do with 250bhp, enough to shove it from 0-62 mph in 9.1 seconds, and on to 133 mph. That's not bad for an off-roader, but it makes this Cayenne easily the slowest Porsche on sale - if not the slowest ever.

Still more surprising to those unversed in Porsche lore is that it's powered by a VW engine, albeit a Porsche-fettled one. In fact, there have been Volkswagen-engined Porsches before, notably the 924 coupe, which employed a somewhat raucous VW van engine.

The V6 in the Cayenne, by contrast, is a pretty cultured sounding device, and although its thrust hardly startles, it does not leave you thinking that it has no place in the nose of this vehicle. Especially if you park your Porsche preconceptions and consider this car in the context of luxury off-roaders. Then it stacks up well, not least because of the £34,500 price. That's half the Turbo's price and pits the V6 headlight-to-headlight with BMW's 3.0 litre X5, and is a mere £3,000 above the VW Touareg, with which the Cayenne shares hidden componentry.

True, the Porsche does without satellite navigation and the Turbo's sophisticated air suspension, but you do get leather trim and air conditioning. What you also get is a commodious estate car offering commanding views across the roofs of lesser vehicles. The Cayenne is also easy to drive and park, despite its bulk.

Those wondering where the Porsche character lies will find it on the twisting open road, where it corners without the unsettling wallow and heave that afflict others of its ilk. Even so, Porsche's sporting gene is at its weakest in this offspring, the Cayenne's chief draw being its relative practicality - and the fact that it will upstage a BMW X5 3.0i for the same money.

SPECIFICATION

Porsche Cayenne

Price £34,500

Max power 250 bhp

Max torque 228 lb ft

Max speed 133 mph

0-60mph 9.1 sec

Fuel consumption 21.4 mpg

Emissions 320 g/km

RIVALS

BMW X5 3.0i £33,145

Similar package, but with less power and exclusivity. Looks better,

though.

VW Touareg £29,340

Shares the same innards, but not as powerful. Handsome, though, and

cheaper.

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