Apart from those in 911s and Caymans, Porsche doesn't have a stellar reputation for manual transmissions. Many years ago, a senior Porsche distributor confided that only a dope would order a 928 coupe with its clunky, slow-shifting manual. He'd probably say the same thing about a Cayenne V-6. For much the same reason.
Electing to shift it yourself will shave $3000 off the price of a Cayenne V-6 auto. Surprisingly, roughly four to five percent of Cayenne buyers elect to do just that, even though it's barely a six-percent savings on an SUV that takes a mere handful of options to nudge $50,000. It's more to do with their perception of the Porsche image, we suspect, than any real cost-saving strategy.
Those contemplating the manual to inject more driver appeal into the entry-level Cayenne need only a quick trip around the block to realize it doesn't. The six-speed is notchy and rubbery, with long throws and an indeterminate gate, characteristics far from helpful in ensuring smooth progress in a 290-horsepower SUV weighing 5045 pounds. Worse, the noise, vibration, and harshness inherent in a V-6 engine are simply amplified through the direct mechanical connections; you feel a constant buzz on the ball of your left foot from the clutch pedal, for example. An automatic transmission hides a multitude of V-6 sins.
For all that, the Cayenne's chassis is one of the better ones in the SUV class. The 38/62 front/rear torque split means less understeer on turn-in, and you're better able to balance the car on the throttle through the turns. The steering is also lighter and less corrupted than in other all-wheel-drive SUVs. The ride is horrible, though: jittery at low speeds, with lots of crashing and thumping from the wheels over the usual urban road acne.
If you must drive a Porsche SUV, skip the manual Cayenne V-6. Spend the extra money on the automatic, and you'll be rewarded with a smoother, quieter, more user-friendly vehicle, albeit one with the usual Cayenne caveats: the cramped, somber, and plasticky interior, plus the sneaking suspicion that everyone knows you bought one just for the badge.
| 2008 PORSCHE CAYENNE |
| Base/Tested Price || $43,400/$50,635 |
| Vehicle layout || Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV |
| Engine || 3.6L/290-hp/273-lb-ft, DOHC 24-valve V-6 |
| Transmission || 6-speed manual |
| Curb Weight (F/R) || 5045 lb (51/49%) |
| Wheelbase || 112.4 in |
| Length x width x height || 188.9 x 75.9 x 66.9 in |
| 0-60 mph || 7.3 sec |
| Braking, 60-0 MPH || 125 ft |
| Lateral Accel || 0.84 g avg |
| MT Figure Eight || 27.6 @ 0.60 g avg |
| EPA City/Hwy Econ || 14/20 mpg |
| CO2 Emmisions || 1.20 lb/mile |
| On Sale in U.S. || Currently |