Torture testing a Porsche Cayenne S on the Rebelle Rally

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killer app Any technology has to make your life easier and more comfortable; The GPS in your car helps you find the best route to a restaurant. When traffic is backed up, if you have cruise control, you can set a speed on the highway to make sure you don’t get a ticket. meet. These vehicle features are a modern-day essential, yet because these complex systems are so important to our daily lives, we only think about them when they’re not working or, in the case of the Rebel Rally, competition. are blocked for.

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Competitors in the Rebel Rally – the annual off-road navigational competition for women – got to play test engineer for eight days, an experience that provided a deeper understanding of what automotive-grade really means, while Everyone was competing to find the hidden checkpoints in the desert. for points.

Driving high-tech products at or near their range in a tech-adverse environment is one way automakers test vehicles during pre-production. Carmakers travel around the world to test vehicles in extreme weather and temperature locations to ensure the vehicles in your driveway range from sub-zero temperatures, snow, mud and rain to intense heat, sand and wind. can bear everything. When running at or near the limit.


Still, it’s a part of the process that few people even consider—that is, unless you’re in the middle of a sandstorm or navigating a desert, both of which I’ve encountered. Behind the wheel of the 2020 Porsche Cayenne S. That experience showed just how strong automotive-grade is, and gave me a small taste of the kind of testing that these vehicles undergo before putting them in the hands of consumers.

extreme competition

The Rebel Rally is part terrain-training and part off-roading competition that takes place each October in a variety of settings in the Western Desert in the United States. It was built by veteran rally driver and navigator, Emily Miller and is in its sixth year in 2021. Miller has said that he started the rally specifically for stock vehicles—or ones that haven’t been modified to tackle bumpy off-road terrain—for women to really test the limits of the vehicle in their driveways. as a method.

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On each day of competition, 52 teams set out to find hidden geological checkpoints in the landscape, using nothing more than traversing paper maps, handheld compasses, and map rulers. Some checkpoints have visible flags, while others have no markers, and each checkpoint has a specific opening and closing time.

Contestants use a handheld GPS locator, an iridium yellow brick tracking device to check in at each checkpoint and earn points that are based on various factors, including location, level of off-road driving difficulty , and the accuracy or how close. They land at the correct geofenced point. At the end of the competition, the team with the most points takes the podium.

image credit: Resene Trias / Rebel Rally

This year the competition covered more than 1,500 miles of off-road trails in California, Arizona and Nevada, and manufacturers such as Porsche, Rivian, Volkswagen, Jeep, Nissan and Toyota often featured women’s teams in OEM-owned vehicles. How capable are their crossovers, SUVs and trucks. This year, eleven manufacturer-sponsored teams competed.

The competition was a first for me and Porsche North America.

According to Miller, the rally “is designed to be a proving ground. We have some [companies] In which engineers are participating so that they can literally live and compete in the vehicles they design, some who see it as an authentic, hard-core test drive for journalists, employee development, customer opportunities and incentives . And the materials collected come from the most beautiful landscapes anywhere. ,

When sand and modern vehicles meet

rebel rally 2021

image credit: Resene Trias / Rebel Rally

This year’s event presented a more difficult challenge than previous years as a result of the weather.

We endured a range of extremes from the lows in the 30s with rain, snow, and sleet to a tremendous sandstorm that lasted 24 hours at Big Dune near BT, Nevada. Overnight, during that storm, wind gusts reached above 60 mph, creating a total white-out situation, and most of the contestants, including my teammate Beth Bowman and I, were forced to leave our house as a safety precaution. Forced to sleep in vehicles.

Wind and blowing sand broke and destroyed the tents and created an extremely unsafe situation for the fuel truck, which typically supplies fuel to more than 50 competitors each night.

Those are just the kind of weather conditions that people like Ralf Bosch, Cayenne testing director at Porsche, observe when testing a vehicle. “Sand is a terrible torture for a modern vehicle. There is a lot of cooling, clutch and drive shafts that have to be specially designed so that they don’t break in the dunes,” Bosch said.

Bosch and his team travel all over the world – from Finland to Africa – to test the prototype Cayenne, both combustion and hybrid-powered, in extreme weather.

“We look for extreme cold, extreme wet and drizzle and salty weather, extreme temperatures with mud and snow, to make sure these conditions don’t affect the car too much,” he said. said. “We drive vehicles in sandstorms, and then we pack them in snow and ice and cold until everything is frozen and there are no fault signs.”

While it is highly unlikely that an owner will take their Cayenne to the forests of Yellowknife in Canada, a popular and extreme winter testing site for auto makers, such rigorous testing is a routine practice in the industry. This test helps car manufacturers ensure that the technology, both inside and out, is automotive grade. This means that everything from the GPS, auto/stop-start system in your vehicle to the engine or motor will run in all kinds of conditions—especially at extremes—without breaking down or failing altogether.

Technique: a double-edged sword

Rebel Rally 2021 Competitors

image credit: Resene Trias / Rebel Rally

The Rebel Rally presents challenges unique to modern vehicles, especially as they become even more technology-laden. Since GPS and a digital compass aren’t allowed in the Rebel, our Cayenne S, which we nicknamed the Ruby after its red-painted interior, went through an extensive process of cowboy by Porsche to ensure That the navigation system was completely confused and wrong data was shown. Meet the rules and regulations of the competition.

“To disable GPS capabilities on the Cayenne S, we removed all antennas (GPS, GSM and WiFi), and additionally programmed the PCM to search for non-US satellites only so that it would be able to access our US-based satellite network. Don’t connect to it,” said Kyle Milliken, a Porsche Press Fleet technician who worked on the system.

This meant that the whole time we were driving in remote areas of the desert, the system thought we were somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, and its digital compass was completely useless.

Like most modern vehicles, our Cayenne S had a single screen that controlled everything from climate to ride height and traction. Those last two features are absolutely critical when taking on any challenging off-road trail in an all-wheel-drive vehicle, as you need to be able to actively manage and control ride height and power distribution. Had Porsche not confused the GPS enough, the Rally would have physically blocked our access to that screen, leaving us unable to do more than drive, reverse, park and put the car in neutral Go.

Rebel Rally 2021 Porsche Cayenne

image credit: Resene Trias / Rebel Rally

Unlike the first generation Cayenne, which has a rightful reputation as an off-road beast (as it had a sturdier chassis and was complete with a locking differential and a transfer case accessed via physical buttons), a modern Cayenne’s Off-road features and programs are only accessible through the main center console screen.

Beyond that, you should be able to access the screen (and its menu) to change tires on a modern Cayenne S outfitted with air suspension as in Ruby. You have to turn off the auto-leveling feature that makes the Cayenne comfortable on-road and off-road to lift the car. If Rally had blocked our screen because of the GPS, we would have had a much harder time competing.

Some of the really nice off-road settings that come with the air suspension on the Cayenne S (my favorites were Sand & Rocks with chassis height on the Terrain) got a little too smart during our version of the torture test.

While training at Ocean’s Dunes in late August, Beth and I struggled to deliberately burrow into the soft sand so we could practice the self-defense skills we needed to rally. The traction control system on the Cayenne would override and stop the wheel spin when I gunned us to dig in that training. Fortunately, during the rally itself, we never got stuck – neither did I blow a tire nor break anything on the vehicle. The Cayenne proved to be so strong that we even saved another vehicle that got stuck in the Glamis Dunes.

Rebel Rally 2021 Porsche Cayenne

image credit: Nicole Drain / Rebel Rally

All of this is a testament to the robustness of the extreme testing that goes into developing automotive-grade technology and components, particularly in the modern Cayenne. Despite massive sandstorms (as well as two more smaller ones that pelted us over eight days of stint), extremely harsh environments, and difficult driving, the Cayenne S performed as expected every single day.

Every morning, Ruby cleansed life, kept us comfortable and warm (or cool), and never made a single mistake. We never had to blow the air filter or brakes and drove straight out of the terrifying glamis dunes onto the highway and back into the chaos of Los Angeles, doing nothing more than adding air to the 20-inch tires we rode on.

That’s exactly what “Automotive Grade,” tested to do – to keep you on the road no matter what kind of weather or environment you’re facing.

“If it’s so good on the road, you’d think it couldn’t be so good in such a sandy and filthy condition,” as Bosch said. “We at the Cayenne try to maintain off-road performance by improving on-road performance and it is a very capable vehicle.”

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