I heard it through the grapevine

Yes, I did. I heard the Cayenne was the best of its class. And then I went and drove it and can confirm it’s absolutely true.

Remember when Porsche was the 911? Yeah, me neither. I mean, yes, in the early 1990s there was still the front-engined 968 and in 1996 the Boxster showed up and helped the brand move away from some pretty low sales numbers, but really, Porsche was the 911.

And then, in 2002, they gave us the Cayenne. Oh my God – cried Porsche fanatics – an SUV: Porsche is dead. Turns out, it wasn’t. The Cayenne carved something of a name for itself and quickly became the reference in sporty, high-riding vehicles, which the market is completely flooded by today.

The idea of a sports carmaker building something as utilitarian as a family truck was just too much for some people to bear and the idea of what a Porsche was took a bit of a beating in those first few months. But then came the sales numbers and the haters – or lovers, depending on the perspective – had to zip it and go home.

The first Cayenne, dubbed E1, was a tremendous hit. In fact, tremendous is not enough to describe what it did for the constructor as a whole. To explain it in just a few words goes something like this: Porsche had little or no money, spent all they had developing the best SUV they could and bam – they became the most profitable name in the business. Yup, simple as that.

The first-generation Cayenne sold 270,000 cars worldwide and gave Porsche the means to develop two brilliant machines: the first Cayman and the 997-generation 911. And they have never looked back.

After the Cayenne came the Panamera, another first for Porsche in the form of a four-door saloon, and finally the Macan, a mini-me Cayenne that does everything so well it is infuriating.

Personally, I laughed at Porsche when they built the Cayenne and thought ‘ah – they sold their soul to the devil and they will now pay the price’. But no, they have not paid one thing and collected lots and lots of new, profitable stuff instead.

I am so sold on the Cayenne idea that when my dad asked me what car he could buy to have a little fun – knowing he has an all-titanium knee and will definitely not be joining any Cirque du Soleil contortionist team – I said well, you know, a Cayenne Turbo. And he did.

I actually enjoy driving around in it, thus, in our garage, next to my Ferraris, sits a Porsche truck for a family of four. That is how good the Cayenne is.

Anyway, on to the new one. The E3, third generation model, which Porsche just launched at the Douro region, on some of the most beautiful landscapes Portugal has to offer, in the middle of some centenary grape vines at Quinta do Vallado, is another landmark. I have been back from two days driving it almost a week now and I am still looking for some way to fault that car. It is not easy, I tell you.

Wait, I know, I know: the front end looks almost exactly like the previous model, the E2. Yeah, I did it, I found something. Take that, Porsche.

Okay, okay, I am knit-picking. But that is just because, just like the M5 I wrote about a few weeks ago, this is pretty much a perfect car. World-class engineering meets teutonic design and extreme performance to create a super-fast, super-capable machine.

The front may look a lot like its predecessor, but the back does not: it is beautiful. All smooth surfaces with the light clusters perfectly integrated, it exudes that particular kind of class a Porsche must have.

Inside, the same virtual cockpit used on the Panamera can be found, meaning almost every button has become a fixture on the car’s infotainment system. Quality is what you expect from these guys and the seats are so much better than on the E2 generation I could not believe it. The Cayenne is now so comfortable that if you are driving slowly, you question if this really is a sporty car.

Of course, those doubts are quickly dissipated once you step on the pedal on the right and feel 550 horses pushing you through the air. The new Turbo has a 4 litre V8 and more performance in one wheel than you can use on all of Portugal’s roads, but still, it feels good knowing it’s there, knowing you bought the best Cayenne available. And the Turbo is the daddy, believe me.

As for the others, well, they are still pretty amazing. The S version is now a twin-turbo V6 with 440 horse power and the entry-level model still packs 340 stallions from its turbo V6. Probably the right car for the feminine audience, who will pay more attention to the outstanding ride comfort, the gadgets and the smell of the leather than the 0-100km/h time. Hope I am not being sexist. I love seeing a woman driving a Porsche. Oops, hope I am not being sexist again.

Porsche sold 246,000 cars on this planet alone last year. There are no more good words to describe how well it is doing. The reason, however, is pretty clear to see: they make the best cars in each of the segments they compete in. The Cayenne is really just one more triumph for the guys at Stuttgart. A very, very good triumph.

Land of confusion or how the Compass is not Class 2 at the toll

Correction || When you write for a newspaper, it is important to get your facts right. I got them wrong. Please allow me to explain.

Two weeks ago I wrote on these pages that the new Jeep Compass was a Class 2 vehicle on our very, very stupid toll charge system. This, I said, would rob it of a successful commercial career in Portugal.

Well, it turns out, the Compass is not Class 2, it is Class 1. Great news. But how did I get it wrong? Well, doing what I do, I get dozens of emails from car brands every single day with the latest products, news, updates and god knows what. So I would say I am pretty well informed about the car market.

When a car is launched over here, particularly these new SUVs and crossovers, one very important thing to know is what toll class it will fall into, because Class 2 usually means travelling will cost you double.

For me the Compass was a Class 1 car and that was it. But when I drove it, I was charged as a Class 2. I was quite surprised by that, but because our toll system is, you guessed it, very, very stupid, I filed that information under ‘ok, the Compass is a Class 2 car’ and didn’t bother to check.

Of course, I shouldn’t have trusted the nice man at the toll gate. Maybe he mistook it for a Cherokee, maybe he was too busy on Facebook to care – either way, he got it wrong.

Still, it was me who put it on paper and for that I have to apologise. If a car’s height is 1.1m or less on top of the front axle, than it is a Class 1. More than that and it automatically is a Class 2. There are some ways around that, like fitting a sport suspension and lowering the ride height, but any way you look at it, it is just stupid, stupid, stupid. Weight is what damages the road, not height. But there are a lot of politics and money involved, so this is what we got.

To Jeep and all those who read this paper two weeks ago, I sincerely apologise. Lesson learnt: never trust the man at the toll gate and always double-check your facts.

By Guilherme Marques

Photo by: Fernando Guerra
Photo by: Fernando Guerra
Photo by: Fernando Guerra