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Review: 2012 Porsche Cayenne

Chris Tracy normally mans the post at Every Man’s Auto. He sent over a review of the 2013 Audi Allroad, which we ran recently… and we liked it so much, we asked him back for another round. This time he’s stepped up to a more expensive marque from Germany.

We’re talking about the 2012 Porsche Cayenne, and somehow Tracy got his grubby mitts on one for a bit of seat time. Keep reading for his take on the Teutonic soft-roader. – Hooniverse

Base Price: $48,200
As-Driven: $66,905, but asking $60,905
Engine: 3.6L V6, 300hp
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Curb Weight: 4,398 lbs.
Wheelbase: 114 in.
MPG Rating: 15 city/ 22 hwy

I drove an earlier generation Cayenne last summer. By earlier, I’m talking about an example from the late 90’s-early 2000’s. It was… okay. That Cayenne boasted supple suspension for a smooth ride, a Tiptronic automatic transmission with horrid buttons, and a heaping of awkward styling. This was the first Porsche I had driven in which I was able to remain comfortable.

This 2012 Cayenne is the second one.

Interior: Quite simply, the interior feels fantastic. Leather everywhere is the immediate impression, because it’s quite literally everywhere. Thanks to all that cow-supplied sound deadening, the cabin is quiet and road noise is an afterthought. The rear seat has ample legroom, and all 6’4” of me fit in the back just fine while the driver’s seat was set to my driving position. There are two LATCH systems in the back, but there is enough room to fit an angsty teenager between the child seats. It’s the best form of acceptable bad-child banishment since they outlawed corporal punishment seeing as it can produce both mental and physical pain if the two younger ones get bitey.

That’s the only bit of punishment though because the interior features include passenger window sunshades, dual/rear climate control, a sliding and reclining rear seat, and a bit of cargo room. The cargo space does not lead the segment, but it is functional. Ventilated front seats were a welcome option on a day where it was over 90 before 10am. Said seats are eight-way-adjustable power units that also heat your rear for the winter months.

The driver’s seat provides the sensation of sitting in a cockpit. Everything is at your fingertips, and the mix of analog and digital gauges provide a ton of information. The middle instrument cluster is an analog tachometer while a digital speedometer sits in the middle. The Cayenne surrounds you with comfort and technology. It’s like a modded La-Z-Boy, but with a V6, AWD, and an attitude.

Exterior: I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to write anything here. To put it plainly, the styling of the Cayenne is polarizing. Some like it, while others become sick at the mere mention of the model name. I, for one, rather like the updated styling. The early curves have been shaved down to more angular, racy lines, and the front grille looks much more menacing.

This is no longer a 911 with a shed on the back. Porsche has done a good job of rounding the edges in the rear for more of a hatchback look, and sharpened up the front end to produce a far sportier appearance.

Tech: Our tester came equipped with satellite radio (“The Coffee House” was listened too, but wasn’t enjoyed very much), hands-free Bluetooth, and a USB input. A CD player is still included and it made me think about how much longer that will be a part of factory cars. Three years? Five? It can’t be much longer until we see the Auxiliary input no longer be auxiliary; it will just be “the input.”

The Navigation was easy to navigate. You laugh, but this can be a problem with other vehicles, specifically those in the luxury segment. Oddly, I struggled with the volume controls on the steering wheel. I drive a number of different cars on a fairly routine basis, but I couldn’t turn up the volume from the steering wheel. This could absolutely be user error, so make sure you ask the dealer how to do so should you buy one. Then send me an angry note telling me how much smarter you are; they’ll make me laugh-cry from my bubble bath.

I didn’t try to pair my phone, since this particular car is for sale and I didn’t want them to have my address book. I have some… private numbers in there.

Performance: Can you love a transmission? I think you can because I love this one. Surely you’re not much of a car nerd if you shy away from manual gearboxes, and row-your-own is the main reason I wanted to drive this particular Cayenne. There are not a ton of SUV’s or trucks that are still equipped with a manual. Jeep is stuffing them into Wranglers, and… I’m drawing a blank. Leave a comment if you can think of any factory prepped SUV’s with manual transmissions.

The 3.6L V6 produces 300 horsepower, and averages 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. The base Cayenne isn’t fast, but it’s certainly far from slow. It’s quick, it’s just that rest of the family is much quicker. The 0-to-60 time is 7.1 seconds, we’re talking about a 4400-pound vehicle.

The performance of this Cayenne brings me back to the “Slow Cars Fast” argument. I’m definitely on the side of driving slow cars fast instead of fast cars slow. Because this car isn’t over the top powerful, you’re able to put your foot in it fairly often, enjoy the driving experience, and not get as many tickets as say the S model. You could shred your morning commute in it, and the all-wheel drive system ensures it always feels planted. It also means that you will probably experience some understeer if you being to push too hard.

The Cayenne does not have any performance issues. The S models rock a V8, but the V6 has power. It isn’t throw you back in the seat power, but it will get you home safe every night, unless you get T-boned by a Darwin Award winner… It doesn’t matter what car you’re in at that point.

Overall: The Cayenne isn’t my ultimate LONG road trip vehicle (8 to 20 hour trips). The Suburban/Yukon XL still heads that list for me. If it is a weekend trip with a drive time between 2 to 5 hours though, then this is the car. Did you like that specificity?

Sure, family SUVs that seat 4 to 5 are everywhere: CRVs, 4Runners, Highlanders, Explorers, Traverses, Equinoxes, Durango’s, and a whole list of others. The Cayenne comes with some extra Porsche panache. It sounds great when you down shift, jumps into action when you ask it to, and then immediately dulls out the bumps when you’re ready to just cruise.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’ll spell it out. I loved the Cayenne.

I also love driving any new car, and I’m not yet as jaded as some other automotive writers [Ed.'s Note - Hi everybody!]. Sorry if things get too positive… I don’t like putting too many negative vibes out into the world, especially when you’re talking about something that someone created.

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