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21 Mar 2018

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PSCB and rear-axle steering, which are must have features, aren't standard on base and S models

The new Cayenne is faster, sharper and more advanced than one would expect of a sport utility vehicle.

Never in my life would I have imagined taking a half a million-dollar Porsche across 45-degree dirt banks and steep, off-road inclinations, or dance a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) that weighs just under two tonnes through a high-speed Formula One race track.

But behind the wheel of the third generation Porsche Cayenne at the Sepang International Circuit a few days ago, I managed to strike the abovementioned activities off my bucket list.

Even at 4,918mm long and 1,983mm wide, the Cayenne never really feels like a big car, thanks to superb driving dynamics

For the hot laps

Staring at the new Cayenne, which measures 4,918mm long and 1,983mm wide, it's forgivable to think that it would be painful to drive it around the 5.5km Malaysian racetrack but like the generations before, it's once again the standard bearer in the driving department.

Whether slowing down for corner entry, turning towards an apex or scurrying for the next one, there is never an instance when the Cayenne behaves like a big SUV. Instead, it displays the agility of a hot hatch - of which are the doings of several firsts.

Nothing short of impressive firsts

For starters, there's the world's first Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) that helps it shed speed faster than you can say 911. Standard on the Turbo and optional for the base and S models, PSCB works on the pairing of exceptionally hard tungsten-carbide coated discs and specially developed brake pads.

Tungsten-carbide coated discs, specially developed brake pads and massive 10-pot calipers make braking an easy affair

Gimmicky as it may seem, with what the mirror-like finishing of the discs and large 10-pot calipers, they worked just as marketing materials promised, despite the relentless punishment dished out to them under Malaysia's 36-degree weather.

Then, there is the model-first rear-axle steering that speeds up steering and shrinks the car's turning circle. The rear wheels turn in the opposite direction at lower speeds and in the same direction as the front at higher speeds.

This is perhaps the most obvious improvement to the Cayenne's drive. Coupled with a rewarding steering that's communicative and reasonably well-weighted, the Cayenne can be muscled with as much abandon through the circuit's tighter corners as a Volkswagen Golf R.

4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 supplies 542bhp and 770Nm of torque from just under 2,000rpm at the calling of your right foot

Fitted with the optional three-chamber air suspension and fat tyres, it is composed, with barely any body roll. Also belying its proportions is the way its twin-turbo V8 delivers its 542bhp and 770Nm of torque via a new eight-speed Tiptronic transmission that feels every bit decisive and smooth.

Flip the driving mode of the Sport Chrono Package switch on the steering wheel (another Cayenne-first) into the sportiest ones and the car will respond eagerly (and rather linearly) to every tap of the throttle, and bulldoze from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds.
And if you take the Turbo past 160km/h, its world-first 911-like adaptive roof spoiler flips up to provide for better downforce.

The car's adaptive roof spoiler, which aids stability at high speeds and during hard braking, is an SUV world-first

For going off the beaten tracks

Just as its driving modes can be adjusted for on-track performance, the car's suspension, power and drivetrain, too, are built to tackle the rough stuff.

Whether you're planning on taking on muddy forest tracks or deeply rutted roads, there's a setting for it and cameras around the car to help see you through.

However, the surround-view cameras are probably best for negotiating tight urban spaces, given the fact that few would take it off-roading.

It may be a luxury SUV that costs half a million dollars but it's every bit capable of taking on the rough stuff

For the family

As a family-hauler, the Cayenne remains as roomy as before thanks to an unchanged wheelbase, despite being lower-slung, and has added boot space (770 litres) from the overall gain in length.

Inside, it sports visual cues and cabin touches from the latest Panamera. Its cockpit is practically all-digital, with a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen offering smartphone connectivity and intelligent online voice control, as well as touch-sensitive centre console pads.

It also looks good for all occasions, wearing a sleeker front end and signature rear light strip that echoes the 911 and Panamera. It is by far the sharpest looking one of the three generations.

Cayenne's cabin ranks high on ergonomics, quality and refinement

But the Cayenne really doesn't need to turn heads with its design or wow you with cabin gadgetry for you to fall in love with it. Take all that away and the Cayenne still ranks at the top of its class, simply because of its natural athleticism that none are able to come close to yet.

The new Porsche Cayenne goes on sale in Singapore from Wednesday, 28th March 2018.

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