Porsche Puts Some Spice Into "the Center of the Universe"
By Jim BrayPart two....
(click here for part one)
Hightailing it through Hogtown….
The journey from Ottawa to Leamington is about eight hours, mostly on the 401 unless you want it to take 12 hours, with Toronto sitting as a major blight at the half way point. And though I wanted to avoid that blight, we had to drop off our passengers for a wedding stop in the suburb of Scarborough.
This was where the Porsche's GPS-guided navigation really shone; it directed us flawlessly from my father's place right to our Scarborough destination.
You can choose either a male or a female voice for the system; I chose the female because, being married, I'm used to taking orders from a woman. Porsche has chosen British accents for their droids' and they hardly sound like robots at all, except for a bizarre habit of calling a highway an "h…w…y".
Ilsa (hey, it's a German vehicle!) is easy to use and, besides giving you vocal and map-based guidance, includes distance and ETA information.
Just once, I'd like to see a nav system that pitches a fit if you ignore its commands. You know, something like "Well, fine. If you're not going to pay attention to me you can find your own way!"
Hey, if they're going to nag….
Other than our quick stop in Scarborough, we tried to skirt the "event horizon", the point beyond which you are inexorably sucked into the center of the universe with no hope of escape. In practical terms this meant sticking with 401 as it bisects the city.
Toronto was where the Cayenne's brakes got their best test. 401 from east of Toronto to about half way to London proved to be either a big, low speed parking lot or a big, high speed parking lot.
We'd be zipping along at a reasonable clip, say 120 km/h when some whacko would swerve into our lane in front of us, about two feet from the Cayenne's front bumper, then jam on the brakes 'cause the driver had performed the maneuver with eyes closed.
Enter the Cayenne S's four wheel ventilated disc brakes. Boy, can they stand this 4,949 pound beast on its nose – and good thing! The front discs use six piston, aluminum calipers, while the rear calipers have four piston, and of course you get ABS. Brake pedal feel is good, though a tad grabby at times. But the stopping power is definitely there!
401 to London is mostly rat race, but with its suspension in low mode and the shocks on the sport setting the Cayenne hunkered down and squeezed through traffic like an all-star running back.
We hit some heavy rainstorms on our way south, which provided a workout for the Cayenne's rain-sensing wipers. You can vary their sensitivity, and they work well, but I wish they'd return to that particular setting each time you turn on the Cayenne if you leave the lever at that position. Alas, you have to re-activate it each time, though it's only a minor inconvenience.
I also wished the wipers had a faster "fast" setting (or maybe a deflector beam), though I don't know of any vehicle's wipers that would have been fast enough to clear some of the rain we encountered.
The Porsche's audio system was ideal for cruising. I'd set the radio to scan and when the RDS (radio data system) found a station so-equipped it would read out the call letters or, better still, the format – and occasionally a station even transmitted the artist and title. This isn't unique to Porsche, but it's sure handy when you're traveling.
The Bose system's audio quality is top notch, though for the price it should also handle DVD-A discs (not that I had taken any!); but it has plenty of power and spreads the tunes through the Cayenne S via 14 speakers.
The Leamington, Kingsville area sits at about the same latitude as northern California, and they don't call it the Sun Parlour for nothing. When my wife and I swapped vows there it was so hot we might as well have been on the surface of the sun. And humid.
Fortunately, we had a cold, wet week that made life tolerable even without the Porsche's dual zone automatic HVAC, though it also meant we had to keep the moonroof closed most of the time, too.
I loved that moonroof, which features a twist-knob that lets you control how far open the roof goes. I first tried this on the Audi A8L and hope every other manufacturer steals the idea quickly.
Leamington, Canadian headquarters of Heinz (the "Heinzquarters"), calls itself the Tomato Capital of Canada. It's also the gateway to Point Pelee National Park, a spit of land extending south into Lake Erie. A nature watcher's delight, it's also a stopping off point for monarch butterflies on their migrations.
We were a tad too early for the migration, though as our week unfolded more and more of the pretty, winged critters made their appearance. At their peak, it's said they can cover trees completely, which must be quite a sight, but we had to be content with three or four at a time.
This area isn't a driving treat; if it weren't for the curve of the earth you could see from London to Windsor and the roads are straight and flat. But it was a good place to revel in the Porsche's bounteous creature comforts.
Besides Point Pelee and Kingsville's Jack Miner's bird sanctuary (where Canada Geese stop on their migrations), one of the landmarks of the area is Colasanti's Tropical Garden. It's a wonderland of greenhouses and acreage featuring exotic birds and other animals, as well as abundant flowers and plants. They have a restaurant area where on Wednesdays and Fridays you can (and I did) eat yourself sick at their lunch buffet.
The Cayenne's nav system couldn't find Windsor airport from Kingsville when we needed to make a trip there, so we headed off on our own – and got lost in Windsor. I tried it again in Windsor and it had the nerve to point out that we were about two miles past the airport turnoff.
At least it didn't call me an idiot….
A cute touch: When you reach your destination the nav system displays a checkered flag.
Two weeks in the Cayenne S were a great way to get a feel for this vehicle. It's expensive: my tester came in at $100,920 Canadian ($80k plus terrific Bi-Xenon headlights with washers, the PCM system, air suspension with PASM and more). But if you have the cash, this is a heckuva vehicle, one that's obviously aimed at the well-heeled person who enjoys "getting there" as much as "being there."
It's exotic and scarce enough to snag an amazing number of compliments and stares from admirers – except for one gas jockey in London who didn't have a clue where it fits in the automotive hierarchy. I was tempted to complain to the management….
The Cayenne features nice big outside rear view mirrors that give you an excellent nice view behind and to the sides. They also block the view forward a bit, but not so much that you're in danger of running down pedestrians. The two piece hatch (you can open only the window or the whole shebang) raises high and reveals a wide loading area. But it should be powered – and you have to be careful that you close it completely with a good "thunk" (at which time the vehicle draws it shut even tighter).
The PCM’s phone includes a drawer under the key pad where you can insert your own phone's SIM card and use the Porsche hands free. Mine wouldn't work, though, probably because I have the world's cheapest plan and oldest phone.
And the cupholders up front are a tad small if you want to haul big bottles or cups.
But these quibbles are minor, and I was really sorry when the time came to turn this great vehicle back in.
Spending quality time in the Cayenne S convinced me that if Porsche would make a four door car that offers the practicality and fun of the Cayenne without the size, weight and off road capability, something like a four door 911, they could have a real world beater.
And wouldn’t you know: the Panamera is scheduled to debut in 2009.
I can't wait.
Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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