One proposed solution is what America calls the sport utility vehicle, or SUV, which has infiltrated Europe, the UK and the fleet market in increasing numbers. But the truth is these vehicles have as much to do with sport as darts.
Even the BMW X5 – from a brand that during the 1990s was built on the slogan ‘the ultimate driving machine’ – on standard wheels and without optional sports suspension is rather cumbersome when compared to a rear-wheel drive BMW. The trouble is, the SUV sector is lucrative for manufacturers, thanks to the huge numbers sold in North America.
Porsche’s Cayenne project was a joint venture with Volkswagen, both companies seeking to share the costs of developing an all-new car that would be similar sizes but have different philosophies. While the Volkswagen Touareg is an accomplished off-roader with a bit of luxury and on-road ability thrown in, the Cayenne, claims Porsche, is completely different from anything that has gone before.
The Cayenne S, with a 340bhp 4.5-litre V8 engine, is surprisingly close on price and power to the BMW X5 4.4i, the Porsche being a couple of thousand pounds cheaper and a little more powerful. For most people its looks would be low on the list of attractive features. From the front it looks like a Frankenstein car, the shell of a 911 grafted on top of a Jeep.
The rear is less jarring with imposing rear light clusters and a satisfying symmetry with the sculped twin exhaust pipes set in the lower part of the bumper.
But there is no denying its muscular appearance, emphasised by broad shoulders and its low roofline.
The Cayenne S is also well equipped with leather seats, a 12-speaker audio system, electrically adjustable seats, front, side and curtain airbags, heated washer jets, a CD/radio, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear cup holders, Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and an independently opening tailgate window. Our Tiptronic auto test car seemed preferable to a manual transmission. The Tiptronic Cayenne S records a 0-62mph time of just over seven seconds, but it feels faster. The transmission is programmed to change up early when cold to ensure the optimum temperatures are arrived at quickly, change down during braking for increased control and to maintain a gear through a bend for maximum responsiveness.
The ride is uncompromisingly firm in the Cayenne, but the trade-off, along with the wide tyres and sharp steering is unbelievable cornering ability.
It’s hard to believe the Cayenne S is the wrong side of two tonnes when you charge into a corner, scrub off some speed with the mighty brakes, turn the wheel and wait to be spat out the other side. There is no body roll, perhaps an occasional squeal from the tyres, but that’s it. And it will do it time and time again.
The Cayenne has a roomy rear compartment and a practical square boot with folding rear seats, so it can also play the part of a family car.
Off-road? Yes, it can also do more than you might expect there, too.
Three rivals to consider
THIS is unfamiliar territory for Porsche with its long heritage in sports cars and racing. However, it wasn’t so long ago that BMW and Mercedes-Benz were also newcomers to the sport utility vehicle sector – the older Mercedes G-Wagen being a proper off-roader. Volkswagen – the Touareg being a joint development with the Cayenne – is also new to the sector, but perhaps a reflection of the brand’s status in this group, it has the lowest entry price. However, BMW believes its X5 is worth more than a Cayenne.
The Cayenne is cheaper to service and maintain than all but the Touareg. However, the picture is confused as the BMW X5 is offered with an optional Service Inclusive pack that could take a considerable chunk out of the bill.
It is almost inconceivable that a fleet would choose an X5 without the opportunity of fixing servicing costs for 60,000 miles. The only downside is what it would add to a driver’s tax bill. Porsche offers a two years/unlimited mileage warranty, compared with most manufacturers’ three-year cover.
The X5 has a certain ace up its sleeve in its Valvetronic engine that offers significant fuel savings over the other cars here with an estimated bill over 60,000 miles of £11,106. However, that’s rather like saying Richard Harris was less of a party animal than Oliver Reed. The Cayenne’s bill of £12,630 could buy a Vauxhall Astra, as would the £12,564 incurred by the Touareg. The Mercedes drinks fuel in relative moderation, but still breaks the £12,000 barrier at £12,432.
If the fuel bills of these cars are enough to buy a lower medium car, then the depreciation is enough to buy a well specced premium upper medium car. However, through a combination of the best percentage retained value – 45% over three years/ 60,000 miles, according to CAP Monitor –the Volkswagen’s lower front-end price helps compensate for its lower 38% residual value. It just edges out the BMW X5 at £25,332, compared with £25,572. The poor residual on the V8 ML results in a depreciation hit of £26,490.
DESPITE its relative thirst the Porsche beats the BMW on costs by £102. It is probably worth bearing in mind the potential advantage of selecting Service Inclusive on the X5, which would probably give the BMW the advantage. The Volkswagen stays in touch with the BMW, at about £190 more expensive on £40,296, while the ML500 appears to be in another league coming in a distant fourth on £42,144.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
NO surprises that all four cars here are in the 35% bracket for benefit-in-kind taxation, meaning that the bills will be affected by the price of the vehicles. It means the Volkswagen would work out least expensive, with a 40% taxpayer parting with just under £500 a month. All the others break the £500-a-month barrier. Bear in mind that any options will increase the liability. Selecting a lower-power diesel variant would help only because the list price would be lower, however, in the case of Porsche there is no diesel.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value) £45,300
CO2 emissions (g/km) 361
BIK % of P11D in 2004 35%
Graduated VED rate £160
Insurance group 20
Combined mpg 17.9
CAP Monitor residual value £20,350/45%
Depreciation 40.91 pence per mile x 60,000 £24,546
Maintenance 4.54 pence per mile x 60,000 £2,724
Fuel 21.05 pence per mile x 60,000 £12,630
Wholelife cost 66.50 pence per mile x 60,000 £39,900
Typical contract hire rate £854 per month
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance
At a glance
PORSCHE seems to have created a sport utility vehicle that drives like a sports car, or a sports car that has the ability of an SUV. In any case, it has achieved it without compro-mising its sports car heritage. Better to drive and cheaper than an X5, it is the resounding winner in this comparison.
WINNER: Porsche Cayenne S Tiptronic