et’s travel back to slightly more than a century ago. Electric taxis can be seen whizzing silently around London, a young gentleman built the first hybrid vehicle in Austria, and Autocar magazine started reviewing motor carriages. No, this is not a fictional steam punk dystopian future, Autocar magazine really did published its first issue in 1895, and that hybrid car from 1901 really has four motors housed within each of its wheels.

If you’re a person from the future walking on the streets in the 1900s , you’ll realise every single motorised carriage during that time have the same form factor of what resembles an SUV of modern times. They’re all huge and tall with passengers seated high above the mechanicals that were housed below. Those large wheels trotting by clumsily with the sole objective of avoiding doodads littered ahead. Tarmac roads as we know now were far and few between, this meant that vehicles need to deal with ‘terrains’ as opposed to ‘roads’ by traversing a combination of pebbled trails, rock ladened clearings, grass and of course, mud. It’s also an era where not many knew who Ferdinand Porsche was - oh he’s the guy who created the world’s first hybrid vehicle aforementioned.  

Also in the year 1901, a paradigm shift in the car industry took place with the introduction of the Mercedes 35 by Daimler Motoren Gesselschaft. Commissioned by Emil Jellinek and named after his daughter. This car fundamentally changed motorised carriages from high riding clumsy carriages of yore into the low riding modern cars as we know today. Instead of housing all mechanicals below the passengers stacked high above, the Mercedes 35 spearheaded what we know today as three-boxed cars that houses passengers between the axles with the mechanicals in front or behind the passenger compartment. This allow the 35 to have a significantly lower centre of gravity to destroy high riding SUV-like carriages in motor racing.

Yes. Because race car.

The DMG Mercedes 35 was specifically built for winning races - something important to proof one’s worthiness - and of course, to sell cars. It did so with such devastating effect that the Mercedes 35 became more famous than Daimler itself. Thus DMG decided to adopt Mercedes Jellinek’s name as DMG’s brand and upon the merger with Benz & Cie, became what we now know as Mercedes-Benz ever since 1926.


words by BOBBY ANG

Apart from this incredible seismic moment in the course of the automobile’s evolution, the rest of the automotive industry’s unbelievable achievements seem to linger within the realms of Porsche family’s sphere of influence. Ferdinand Porsche invented mid engine racing cars, he invented limited slip differentials, he created the Audi Type C Streamliner that hit 427km/h in 1937, he made the bonkers 700km/h Mercedes T80 right before the war broke. And during the war he invented the air cooled ‘Strength Through Joy Wagen’ (Beetle), and of course if you put a brilliant engineer to arms engineering, he will naturally create great weapons. His daughter single handedly built the biggest car distributorship in Europe, his grandson Ferdinand Piech revived Audi with the creation of Quattro, invented the W16 engine and made Volkswagen Group the biggest automotive company in the world.

And of course, the amazing company that bears his name, founded by his son Ferry needs no introduction as it is one of the most admired car companies in the world. Let’s put it this way, as a super car brand, Porsche is so successful that you can combine the sales figures of Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, McLaren, Rolls Royce and then multiply it by 3 times to match that of Porsche’s. It’s not just successful in the present and influential in the past, but Porsche is on its way to switch the course of history yet again, as I think the default ‘car’ of the future, might switch back to SUVs after all from the template dictated since the Mercedes 35.

You see, as the need to prove reliability and speed via racing became less and less important over the course of the 20th century, so does the commercial structure of racing where funding no longer comes from the proceeds of ‘Winning on Sunday, selling on Monday’. This dwindling importance of motorsports racing in general also means the detachment of road cars with racing cars. The consumer perception that fixated the form factor of a standard three box sedan as the ‘greatest’ form factor of cars began to diminish in a steady manner ever since 2002 when Porsche showed the whole world that a gigantic SUV in the form of a Porsche Cayenne Turbo can hunt down a Lotus Elise on a big racing circuit.

And what the Cayenne bring forth isn’t just the cynical question of “Who’s going to bring a two tonne SUV to the race track anyway?” But they sent everyone back to the drawing boards for an even better one, for they know others will catch up. Because if a luxury 2.6 tonne SUV can do this, there’s no reason a mass market 1.6 tonne SUV couldn’t. Of course price can be an excuse in the eyes of consumers, but to the manufacturers, they understand that designing a 2.6 tonne Porsche is no different from making a 2.6 tonne Toyota at the end of the day. Over the course of 15 years, we now have Mazda CX5s and Volkswagen Tiguans that handles just like, if not better, than many low slung three box sedans. Coupled with the ride height that promotes easier ingress and egress that makes for a more comfortable drive over road undulations, the SUV suddenly is the ‘car’ without any compromises.

"If you're a person from the future walking on the streets in 1900s, you'll realised every single motorised carriage resembles what we now know as SUVs."

And this brings me to the all new Cayenne, third generation in its making, lighter, slimmer, less imposing, more user friendly, more space, and most importantly, more grace when one’s aftering pace. Porsche made their point very clear, and brought me to this place in Greece, Crete Island. It’s the island that harbours the very beginning of Europe’s earliest civilisation, the harbinger of Greek Mythology, of gods and monsters, of amazing driving roads and scenery. And Porsche’s point? This monster of a car deserves what is, driving heaven.

Crete is relatively unknown to non Europeans. In fact I couldn’t quite decide if my inner voice is pronouncing it correctly from the moment I got hold of the itinerary. It’s also rather non-tourist-y as airlines that maintained flights are far and few between. Porsche had to charter a flight from Munich airport to Crete airport. From Google maps, it’s a huge rocky island that’s the same distance from Greece as it is to Libya or Turkey, and it’s also halfway in between if you’re sailing from Italy to West Bank. Turkey can boast itself as the bridge of Asia and Europe, but Crete is the midpoint between Europe, Asia and Africa.

As the plane begins its descend, I can see the little villages that littered on the fringes of the island, unlike the greenery of the plains of Western Europe, Crete is mostly barren but with huge modern highways having very few cars commuting even on a weekday. The airport’s rather basic too, confirming our thoughts that it’s just a not very popular tourist destination. This isn’t a posh location either, not the Beverly Hills or Monacos we’d like to associate with Porsche vehicles. However, there’s something we’d associate with Porsche vehicles here, long sweeping modern highways, lovely winding roads on cliffs with hundred foot drops, and a scenery of the Mediterranean Sea to die for. Crete is a giant public road racing heaven too it seems.

We were brought to what seemed like a make shift bungalow perching on top of a cliff overlooking the sea. With landscapes like that of Crete, I guess it’s not hard to find a spot on top of a cliff overlooking any direction of the Mediterranean sea. And to my tropical eyes that are used to lush greenery landscapes, the hard rocky surroundings bordering the violent sea and the distant wind turbines make this the perfect location for yet another James Bond movie villain's lair and of course, the ensuing car chasing scenes. And on Crete roads, the most nimble of Porsche Caymans won’t be able to outrun that of a Porsche Cayenne I reckon. Littered with elevations, undulations, high speed cruising, gravel off road tracks etc, this is Cayenne’s playground.  

"Elevations, undulations, high speed cruising, gravel off road tracks etc, Crete is Cayenne’s playground."

The car looked clean, almost boring from the front, no the front isn’t pretty, it’s un-designed to be honest as there really isn’t much going on. The sides are almost identical to the previous MK2, the back though is where things get absolutely stunning with the light strip that runs across the rear forming the family design language of Porsche that also adorns the rear of 911s, 718s and Panameras. Stepping inside, it’s spacious as usual, the Porsche build quality is still there, solid, sturdy, and absolutely top notch fit and finish. The entire dashboard has been tidied up this round, gone are those Vertu-like buttons, and every function has been neatly integrated into the new touch screen infotainment system. For a Porsche lover like myself, the removal of physical buttons takes a lot to get used to. In fact I’ve never really gotten used to it even after long stints in the new Panamera and now the Cayenne. I do however understand the intention, they need to sell cars still, and to justify Porsche’s numero positioning in the premium segment, they cannot lose out in this new touch screen craze that’s going on. The only disagreement between my brain that’s telling me that I’m now in a Porsche as opposed to what I’m touching and seeing is the rear centre armrest that seems to have ended up here accidentally from a Passat assembly line. Yes, it’s just a squidgy cheap cushion with two holes serving as cup holders - something that shouldn’t have any place in a Porsche Cayenne - but If you think this is a deal breaker, fret not, as this is also the exact same arm rest in the Bentley Bentayga. Yes, some genius in Volkswagen Group believed that using Passat arm rests in a Bentayga will help them with their $18 billion dollar diesel crisis. Let’s hope that person is fired before Matthias Mueller finished reading this sentence. Wait, Matthias Mueller was fired too. That explains.  

Whatever judgement I may have so far falls completely within my expectations. Porsche interiors are well built checked, German cars are high tech checked, Volkswagen Group loves to parts share for no reason checked, Porsches should handle exceptionally well checked. What I didn’t expect, is how the Cayenne S chest thumps in the face of that silverback of a Cayenne Turbo. You see, if you buy a based Unicef specced Cayenne, you can tell people you just wanted an SUV to go anywhere and do anything, and you actually plan to manhandle the fuck out of that Porsche SUV. You might split your front mudguards from the wheel wells, you might kerb your wheels, and you might knock the undercarriage before you run in your drivetrain. When you buy the Cayenne Turbo, it means you want to park at the main entrance of Zouk and Ali G your way into the VIP area. Buying the Cayenne S then, only means you cannot afford the Turbo. Or is it?

Surprisingly, the Cayenne S showed the Turbo the essence of what made so many cherish the 911 GT3 over a 911 Turbo - it’s for those who enjoy the journey instead of the destination. The new 4.0 V8 twin turbo is no doubt the more potent mill of the two, but the Cayenne S’s 2.9 V6 is quite something else with the way it works towards the redline. Ever eager to rev and spin freely up the rev band, the engine lets you savour every climb of its rpm accompanied by a whimsical spool of mechanical sound that corresponds with the manner with which the car picks up speed. The Turbo on the other hand, just felt like you’re rammed by a locomotive and being transported to the horizon up front accompanied by deep rumbles that sound exactly the same whether you’re at 3000 rpm or 5000 rpm, the torque surge in the Turbo just overwhelms all meaningful sensation of speed or the rewards of progress. Fast no doubt, but gulping down a shot of Macallan M will never be as unforgettable as sipping a lingering shot of that much cheaper Macallan 18 so to speak. What about the base Cayenne 3.0 V6 you ask? Well that is just a lazy engine tuned to punish those who bought their Cayennes too early in their career. In this time and age, there’s no reason to buy a 330hp Porsche that’ll get flash off the fast lane by a pesky little GLA45 AMG.

Straight line performance aside, the biggest surprise from the new Cayenne is how they drive and how they handle. We all know Porsche makes the best modern electric power steering; accurate, direct, perfectly weighted and positioned in the cabin. Be it the 330hp, 440hp or 550hp versions of the Cayenne, the way the car takes everything thrown at it without breaking a sweat is just unbelievable. Of course the ones we drove are equipped with the Cayenne’s new active damping and active anti roll bar working together with the rear wheel steer system. All of which are options, but are options you shouldn’t skip we reckon even if you’re buying the most ‘affordable’ base Cayenne. I’m sure many of you are familiar with adaptive damping which dynamically adjusts the hardness or softness of the suspension, but active anti roll bar that connects the front wheels can effectively change the caster angles of the front wheels when in need too, this gives a whole new dimension of what the front wheels can do to keep the angle of travel in the most precise manner however fast, however undulated the surfaces are. The true magic that underscores this achievement is of course the physics defying rear wheel steer system that effectively reduces the wheelbase of the Cayenne, making it feel like a much smaller car than it really is. The combined effort of all these systems means the new Cayenne is able to transfer much lesser load to the tyres, letting them do their job without overloading them with the weight transfer from a 2 ton behemoth. The real world result? Throw it into a corner at speeds higher than you should, and just when you expected the Cayenne to squeal its tyres in protest, of which none can be heard, and the entire car just switches direction as if on rails. This SUV should out handle many performance coupes.

The conditions were perfect in Crete for us to explore the dynamism of the Cayenne, the mountain roads, the beautiful highways, the sea shimmering far away from the Mediterranean sun, the winds that blew across the mountains spinning those gigantic turbines, and the barren landscape laden with rocky off road tracks through olive farms; all these just tells me one thing, that Porsche’s new Cayenne is able to traverse any form of surface, conquer any conquest, and doing so with an absolute confidence that reflects the one behind the wheel. It makes one feel good to be able to handle any kind of situation one faces. A car that deserves the paths this island provides, deservingly the car to be driven in what is, driving heaven. And it is a car like this that confirms my belief that this form factor, with such capabilities,  are default cars of the future - doesn't matter if it's emblazoned with the Porsche crest or not.


"...Porsche’s new Cayenne is able to traverse any form of surface, conquer any conquest, and doing so with an absolute confidence that reflects the one behind the wheel."

"...the Cayenne S chest thumps in the face of that silverback of a Cayenne Turbo."