Ever looked at the Porsche Cayenne Coupé and wondered if it can go dune bashing? Wonder no more...
When you look at the Porsche Cayenne Coupé, you are most likely to think of fast highways, twisty winding roads, and long journeys. For most people, the Cayenne Coupé is an SUV that, in all likelihood, will never leave the tarmac, covering hundreds of kilometres at a fast clip. But what happens when you take the Cayenne Coupé off-road over rocky terrain or dune bashing in the sand? Well, Porsche Middle East designed its Camp Cayenne program to do exactly that and demonstrate how it can handle adverse conditions while still being a brilliant-to-drive SUV on the road.
A Bit of History
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Cayenne changed the course of history for Porsche. I distinctly remember when Porsche first unveiled the first-generation Cayenne exactly 20 years ago in 2002. There was a collective sigh of dismay from enthusiasts and motoring press alike across the world – how could Porsche hoodwink its purists and produce an SUV, they wondered. Also, I think that the first-gen Cayenne’s styling didn’t work in its favour. But, to give credit where due, the boffins at Porsche had spotted the SUV craze, which was about to take the world by storm, quite early, allowing them to enjoy a first-mover advantage in the SUV world. And before anyone realised, the Cayenne was the best-selling Porsche model worldwide – they couldn’t make enough of them to meet demand.
To showcase a bit of the Cayenne’s history, Porsche Middle East also procured six units of the first-generation Cayenne (facelifted version) and tweaked them to make them off-road capable. The tweaks included raised suspension, off-road tyres, skid plates, and custom paint jobs, which used the racing colours that Porsche has used in its illustrious racing history. And I must say that with their aggressive stance and lovely paint jobs, the Cayennes did look rather purposeful. It was also an interesting way to show that while those SUVs were 15 years old, they were still working well and could undergo rigorous off-roading. Frankly, it’s all a nod to the famed build quality and reliability of Porsche products – one of the brand’s most enduring hallmarks, and one that makes it a favourite of enthusiasts and collectors alike.
'You don’t normally associate the words ‘off-road prowess’ with Porsche, but you should'
And as one would expect, the modified Cayennes made the off-road course look easy. With the differential lock engaged, climbing steep inclines or even running over big stones was a piece of cake for them.
On the surface of the Moon
Yep, you read it right – for that’s exactly what the first part of our off-road course looked like. The main attraction of our drive, however, was how the Cayenne Coupé would behave in tough conditions. First, we drove the GTS version, which is powered by a 4.0-litre turbocharged V8, producing 454bhp and 620Nm. Now, true to tradition, the GTS versions of all Porsche products feature not only visual tweaks but also mechanical changes to make them more aggressive and sportier. In the Cayenne Coupé’s case, the visual modifications included gorgeous 22-inch wheels and GTS badging, while the interior featured fabric inserts and Alcantara. On the mechanical front, it features tuned suspension, sharper steering, and a switchable sports exhaust, which sounded pretty sweet.
Our first drive of the GTS started with the on-road journey to where the rough stuff began. Given its potent engine, we could instantly feel that the GTS was something quite special. There is virtually no turbo lag, the engine loves to rev and provides an astonishing amount of grunt. Gaining or maintaining three-digit speeds just requires a flex of your right foot, while the sharp steering keeps you well informed. On twisty roads around Hatta mountains near Dubai, the GTS was a delight to throw around on the flowing curves, as it inspired superb confidence and composure throughout.
Of course, the highlight of the day was to go off-road and onto rocky terrain, which meant engaging the Offroad and Rocky Terrain modes to get the needed assistance from the electronics. Now, the only thing we had to worry about was to make sure we didn’t blow the thin sidewall of the 22-inch tyres. So, how did the Cayenne Coupé perform over the rocky terrain? Well, to be honest, our instructors, after guiding us through the rocky terrain, actually took us on to an area that had no paths, meaning we had to create our own. But, nowhere did we feel that the Cayenne Coupé was under any kind of stress or even near its limits. With the powerful engine and electronics, it was ridiculously easy to drive off-road. But, for me, the real test of the Cayenne was to come next.
Into the Sand
After reaching the desert, our first job was to deflate the tyres a bit to have better traction in the sand. The sand was reasonably soft, so we started off gingerly. But as I soon rediscovered, the key to driving in the sand is being smooth and maintaining momentum, which wasn’t difficult to do, given the 620Nm of torque. However, one has to be very careful, for it’s quite easy to get bogged down. We tackled multiple inclines, some sharp drops, and lots and lots of sand. With the Offroad mode selected for sand, the Cayenne Coupé once again made dune bashing look easy. In fact, as you can see in the pictures, the sand was quite deep, which meant that if you exercised your right foot liberally, there was a lot of fun to be had, allowing us a lot of opportunities to capture some great visuals.
The learnings from the experience? Well, to be honest, if you’d asked me beforehand if the Cayenne Coupé could handle this kind of terrain, my answer would’ve been a flat no. But I’m happy to be proven wrong. Also, I got to experience first-hand the capabilities of this road-focused SUV, especially in tough conditions. This makes me think that if you could build a Cayenne Coupé GTS with 18-inch off-road wheels and tyres, it could probably go anywhere in the world. So, I am, then, off to check Porsche’s configurator to see if I can build something like that for myself.
- Cayenne E1
At Camp Cayenne, Porsche had a lineup of first-generation Cayennes – featuring some cool liveries and trick-off-road mods.
- Bash me up!
The mods included skid plates, a raised suspension, and more. The durability of the cars also reflected on the reputation for quality that the German brand enjoys.
- Rubber Matters
Fitted with off-road specific tyres, the Cayennes were mighty capable on all kinds of terrain, showcasing Porsche’s off-road prowess.