Porsche Cayenne: superb SUV hits next level
The new Porsche Cayenne is the result of years of work behind the scenes
The backroom teams at the world’s motor manufacturers are certainly earning their keep nowadays. They are the product engineers, production engineering teams, supply chain personnel and everyone involved directly in complex car manufacturing.
The pressures and tight time frames under which these people must operate in these fast-stepping times of rapidly evolving new technologies were brought home at an international Porsche Cayenne technical workshop in Germany.
Porsche not only has to make sure it stays ahead of the game in the highly competitive premium end of the passenger car market, where SUVs are now highly desirable status symbols, but it must also coordinate its product development with its partners in the Volkswagen Group, in this case Audi (Q7) and Volkswagen (Touareg), who all share the MLB platform.
The global car industry is transforming at a breathtaking pace, not only in terms of adapting new technologies, but also working with a variety of materials, such as using a combination of aluminium, steel and plastic for the body, which all bring their own challenges, such as varying rates of expansion.
Car manufacturers counted model lead times in years up until only a few years ago. Now it is months. This is due to the rapid development of new technologies and changes in consumer demand, which are leaning towards connectivity and an increasing measure of autonomous driving features.
The team responsible for the fastest-moving target in the car world — electronics, which includes infotainment and driver assistance aids — had a lead time of only 30 months from starting investigation and development of new hardware and software until public launch of the 2018 Cayenne. They will still be adding and updating software programmes into the new year to stay ahead of the game.
Then, there is still regulatory compliance required by the authorities for matters such as fuel consumption, emissions and crashworthiness. They are now getting far more stringent and it is now increasingly costly to meet the required standards.
Throw in the fact that reliability and durability should be givens as far as consumers are concerned and the rate and scope of endurance testing must be increased and accelerated as lead times are shortened.
This is doubly so in the case of an SUV, such as the Cayenne, which not only needs to shine in terms of its performance on tarmac roads but also requires more than a modicum of ability in off-road driving conditions. Taking up all these challenges in tight time frames and with cost restrictions highlights the need for a dedicated, experienced, and highly skilled workforce. In Porsche’s case, this extends to 6,000 engineers working in product development. This is besides all those people employed in production engineering and procurement, with the latter having to cooperate closely with suppliers, who are responsible for an increasing amount of component design and development.
The Cayenne, which will arrive in its third-generation incarnation in SA in June 2018, has been an amazing success story for Porsche. It started out when Ferry Porsche, son of the company founder, said Porsche only needed to put its badge on a quality SUV for it to sell.
These words proved prophetic. The first generation Cayenne arrived in 2002 and 270,000 units were sold before it was replaced by the second generation in 2010. This model has almost doubled sales of the brand’s first foray into the SUV market, with sales amounting to more than 500,000 units.
In fact, the Cayenne has contributed largely to changing the face of the brand completely. Initially known only for its high-performance sports cars, it now plays on a much bigger stage, with SUVs (Cayenne and Macan), large sedans (Panamera) and station wagons (Panamera Sport Turismo), as well as a constantly expanding range of 911 and 718 sports cars. This means two doors, four doors and five doors and some delectable drop-top roadsters.
Power units have gone from normally aspirated petrol to turbocharged petrol, turbocharged diesel, petrol-electric and plug-in hybrids, while there are now pure electric models waiting in the wings such as the Mission E. Transmissions have evolved from manual gearboxes to Tiptronic, dual clutch and fully automatic transmissions with a torque converter, while some are linked to complex all-wheel drive systems and incorporate an automatic, fuel-saving stop-and-start feature.
Porsche, with transmission specialist ZF, has developed an eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission with normal, sport and sport plus modes for the 2018 Cayenne, now incorporating a launch control feature. All Cayenne models reach top speed in sixth gear, with overdriven seventh and eighth ratios providing better fuel economy and more relaxed high-speed cruising. There is now a new Chrono Plus transmission option that permits the selection of an individual mode, for instant responsiveness for 20 seconds, at the press of a button, the same as that on its cars.
Sophisticated traction management is used on the all-wheel drive system of all 2018 Cayenne models. During off-road driving, the system uses the variable distribution of drive forces between the front and rear axles to ensure maximum propulsion over all surfaces.
The enthralling explanations by highly qualified Porsche engineers of the roll-out of new technologies and new solutions for old problems, backed up by visuals and a host of quality cutaway exhibits made for a very interesting day at the world-class Adac driver training facility in Grevenbroich, near Düsseldorf. Topics for the group of journalists were handled in the order of electrics/electronics, powertrain, chassis, body, and taxi drive, which involved being chauffeured on test tracks by top-class drivers from the company. This meant we could listen to real experts drilling down into the latest technologies in the various aspects of designing and developing the new model.
Among the most interesting innovations were Porsche-developed tungsten carbide-coated brake discs for better performance and durability, as well as producing less dust, while costing about one-third of a set of ceramic brakes.
Others were an adaptive rear spoiler on the tailgate that adjusts to driving conditions, including acting as an air brake in an emergency, and temperature-controlled flaps on the radiator and intercooler air intakes for best performance linked to aerodynamic benefits.
As the saying goes, "the proof is in the eating" and this took the form of going faster and faster as a passenger in a Cayenne Turbo on a track wet in parts with a very experienced racing driver keeping things under control.
We then went off-road in a Cayenne S, which included very steep slopes of rough concrete which was wet from a rain shower.
The 2018 Porsche Cayenne handled these varied driving conditions with aplomb as it lived up to the high standards set by the product engineers.