Drives: When Rebels Get Grounded
In the slow lane to middle age, safety and comfort take precedence. That's why the Porsche Cayenne S seems like the perfect ride for reformed rebels. Even in Los Angeles, home of the great American car chase, I was able to tool around without so much as spilling a drop of my green tea smoothie. That nifty trick is courtesy of the Cayenne's new optional chassis control system, which continually adjusts the front and rear stabilizer bars as the car's sensors recognize and adapt to driving conditions and the terrain. Corner on a harrowing road in Laurel Canyon, and both stabilizer bars will stiffen for smooth passage.
Porsche plunked a new direct fuel injection engine into the 2008 Cayenne S, which gives it 45 more horses than its predecessor. Still, the five-seat SUV is a far cry from Porsche lovers' boyish fantasies of tearing up the curves on Mulholland Drive as James Dean did before setting out on an ill-fated drive to Salinas in his 550 Spyder. But Jimmy ain't coming back, the five-and-dime is a Super Wal-Mart, and eventually rebels become parents with causes--their kids. In the Cayenne S, former speed demons can buckle up the tots secure in the knowledge that the projector beam headlamps swivel to better illuminate turns and the seat belts automatically tighten if you take an off-ramp a little too fast.
Porsche Cayenne S
$57,200, $69,050 as tested
4.8-liter 385-hp V8 engine; six-speed Tiptronic S transmission; 369 pound-feet of torque; 13/19 mpg
The monitoring system alerts you when tire pressure is low. The navigational system gauges your remaining fuel and estimates your time of arrival--even if traffic on the 405 renders it moot.
The $3,510 chassis control option requires an additional $2,990 air suspension package, so it's really $6,500. The gas mileage leaves a lot to be desired.
"The Cayenne stays surprisingly level during aggressive maneuvering," says Mark Halvorsen, staff editor at Truckin' magazine. "It's more fun to drive than the typical wallowy SUV and has a freshened look that livens up its utilitarian shape."