Sunday, April 9, 2017

#41 - 2012 Porsche Cayenne

When Porsche first announced the Cayenne SUV in 2001, I got it. The concept was simple – data showed that a large percentage of Porsche buyers also owned a luxury car or sport utility vehicle. Porsche didn’t have something their customers wanted.

This is the basis of capitalism, all the way back to Adam Smith. Deal with it Porscheworld I thought. If Porsche can build a good SUV and make a bunch of money, maybe they will return to prototype Le Mans racing where they belong. So they did, and then they did.

The Gen 1 Cayenne was a beast.
The first gen Cayenne was a beast. Porsche clearly had Range Rover in their sights, and not just from a luxury standpoint. The engineers and marketing weasels in Zuffenhausen set out to build not just a fancy suburban grocery-getter, but a seriously capable off-road machine. The original Cayenne was a beast. And in S, GTS, and particularly in Turbo/Turbo S trim, it was a seriously fast beast.

The first time I drove a Cayenne Turbo all I could think was, “Nothing this big should be this fast.” Of course this description did not apply to the first base V6 models. They were, well... slow.

And all this was fine, but with the second generation Cayenne’s launch in 2010 it was clear thinking had changed. The sport utility market was on fire, Porsche’s market share fairly secure. And so they dialed back the hair shirt aspects of the new model a bit, choosing luxury, comfort, and style over sheer brawn – particularly off-road brawn. The darned things are still very fast, and very capable. But the car now seemed a bit more country club. And that was a good thing.

I set out to buy a Cayenne in the fall of 2015. Reality sent me to Porsche's CPO ranks in search of the nicest, best-optioned one I could find. After a bit of searching I settled on a 2012 base V6 model.

What??? Ralph bought the slow Porsche? I'm never reading this blog again!

OK, hold on. Let me explain. This car would be my daily driver. I have a pretty red 911 in the garage to satisfy my more carnal driving requirements. This SUV would spend its days commuting and running to the store; toiling in suburban anonymity. It would never experience the Climbing Esses. So I prioritized comfort, fuel economy, and price over zoom. And I don’t regret it.

The Cayenne interior is a great place to spend time.
When I started looking I specifically chose to test drive a V6. I figured if it was decent to drive then I didn’t really need the S. Well, I put a Leith CPO 2012 V6 Cayenne in sport mode and quickly discovered that this big boy had plenty of go for the suburban jungle. It’s downright quick, compared to its SUV competitors. My then daily driver Acura MDX was a dump truck compared to the 300 horsepower V6 Cayenne. I was sold.

Unfortunately I didn’t just buy that very car. While it was nice and well-optioned, I didn’t want the panoramic sunroof due to both complexity and heat concerns. So I found instead that car’s twin at Foreign Cars Italia. Just no giant sunroof. And while I’m not going to get in to the story here... suffice it to say I wish I’d done business with Leith Porsche or Porsche of Southpoint. Foreign Cars is a den of snakes. I’ll just leave it at that and move on.

So on to the Cayenne review... It’s simply fabulous—the best car I may have ever owned. I’ve put over 30K on it in 18 months with barely a hiccup. On the highway it can get up to 26 mpg driving 75-80, and my overall mileage since purchase is nearly 21. Pretty good for a 4500+ pound all-wheel drive luxury vehicle that’ll run 0-60 in about 7 seconds.

This car is comfortable, reliable, and attractive. And it doesn’t suffer from the ponderous luxobarge look that so many of its competitors have (looking at you MDX). The 14 way heated and cooled seats are fantastic. I get out of the car in DC or Atlanta like I have only driven around the block.  I have also come to love PCMPorsche Communication Management. The system is easy to use, functional, and reliable. I miss it when I’m in my 911... until I start the engine of course.

Would I change a few things? Sure. My biggest complaint is the standard steering wheel. While mine is heated, the Tiptronic buttons are right at 9 and 3 where I rest my thumbs. Not comfortable, and cold in the winter. For 2015 Porsche made the previous sport steering wheel standard. And while I love the Luxor Beige interior, the rubbery plastic wears a bit too easily. 

But these are just nits. The Cayenne is a great car. It’s fun to sit behind that crest every day, instead of just on special occasions. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, I highly suggest you buy one.


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