This is a rainbow nation – that is undeniable. Whether South Africa is The Rainbow Nation may well be up for debate but, since history cannot be unwritten, the wealth of influences from Jan van Riebeeck to the present day are what make up this wonderful multicultural and diverse country.
Irrespective of the rights or wrongs in the course of this history, it has evolved a range of languages, customs, architecture and gastronomy.
Of the people that came here as settlers it is the 1820 British influx that is most commonly remembered but around 1840, not long after the British had annexed the colony of Natal, a new group of immigrants arrived.
This was the start of the Natal Germans and their heritage makes for a well worthwhile road trip – and what better Teutonic Tourer for our travels than a Porsche Cayenne S.
The third generation of the Cayenne SUV was launched locally during 2018 and is a finalist in the Auto Trader South African Car of the Year because it is significantly re-engineered compared to the previous version.
The 2,9-litre V6 biturbo engine in the Cayenne S, which reaches speeds of up to 265 km/h, brings it up to 324 kW – an increase of 15 kW. Equipped with the optional Sport Chrono Package, the new Cayenne S accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in less than five seconds.
The Cayenne is based heavily on the 911 sports car and now has mixed tyres and rear-axle steering for the first time. In addition to these sports car features, the on-road capabilities are further improved by active all-wheel drive as standard, Porsche 4D Chassis Control, three-chamber air suspension and the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) electronic roll stabilisation system.
The Cayenne takes on style that runs through the Porsche Design DNA with enlarged air intakes at the front and new horizontal light edges.
With an exterior length increased by 63 millimetres without any change to the wheelbase (2 895 millimetres) and a roof height reduced by nine millimetres compared with its predecessor, the Cayenne, which is 4 918 millimetres long and 1 983 millimetres wide, has been noticeably streamlined. The luggage compartment volume is now 770 litres – an increase of 100 litres.
Heading North on the highway from Porsche Centre, Umhlanga, I click it into cruise control, since Porsche is a favourite food (after KFC) of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) traffic cops and use the time to soak in the ambience of the cabin.
The Porsche Advanced Cockpit is fully integrated into the sporty, luxurious atmosphere. At the heart of the new display and control concept from Porsche is the 12,3-inch full-HD touchscreen from the latest generation of Porsche Communication Management (PCM), launched last year with the new Panamera.
A range of digital functions can be operated intuitively – including by voice control. The standard Porsche Connect Plus allows access to online services and the Internet. This includes the standard online navigation with real-time traffic information.
The analogue controls on the new centre console are focused on the main functions of the vehicle. Other buttons are integrated into the smartphone-like, glass-look touch surface. In typical Porsche style, the driver has a central analogue tachometer to view.
This is flanked by two 7-inch full-HD displays, which display all other relevant driving data plus additional information selected using the multi-function steering wheel. Night Vision Assist with a thermal imaging camera is one of the most important assistance systems, along with Lane Change Assist, Lane Keeping Assist including traffic sign recognition, traffic jam assist, ParkAssist including Surround View and Porsche InnoDrive including adaptive cruise control.
It is not only the start screen and main menu that can be adjusted to the driver’s needs. Up to six individual profiles can also be configured. As well as a large number of interior settings, a profile is used to store specifications for lights, driving programmes and assistance systems.
In the early 1840’s, the Natal Cotton Company was established. One of its directors, Jonas Bergtheil, went to Germany to attract settlers to Natal to grow cotton for the Company, finding volunteers in the area of Bramsche, Osnabrücker Land, Kingdom of Hanover.
The Bergtheil colonists settled in New Germany, Westville, just outside Port Natal (later renamed Durban). Initially they attempted to grow cotton, but soon failed. The Natal Cotton Company disbanded and many of the settlers moved inland to Pietermaritzburg and the area around New Hanover.
It is largely due to the presence of the Bergtheil colonists, and especially their pastor, Missionary Posselt of the Berlin Missionary Society, that the first group of Hermannsburg missionaries decided to settle in Natal, after their entry to Ethiopia had been blocked.
And, it is to Hermannsburg I am headed – leaving the highway and heading in the direction of Greytown and, while not the shortest route to my destination, one with good roads that will allow the Cayenne to stretch its legs through the stunningly beautiful KZN countryside.
Falling easily to hand on the bottom right of the steering wheel is a rotary knob that instantly switches the car from Normal to Sport and Sport + modes – the differences making it like having three cars in one.
The Cayenne S has a combined fuel consumption of 9,4 l/100 km when kept in Normal mode and the hooligan that lurks beneath is kept at bay. Having cleared through the villages close to the highway and now on a nicely curvy road, it was time to switch to Sport.
This adjusts a whole range of settings, including the air suspension and injects a healthy dose of energy into the drive feeling. Going to Sport + tightens things up even more and the Cayenne becomes and wonderfully lively beast, eager to attack corners rather than simply go around them.
In the centre of the knob is a button that, when pressed, provides 20 seconds of maximum power – great for overtaking.
All too soon I am on the outskirts of Hermannsburg, a small hamlet that most people have never heard of but home to the oldest of the German Private Schools in Southern Africa, having been established in 1856.
Hermannsburg in South Africa was founded in 1854 by missionaries of the Hermannsburg Missionary Society in Germany, who built the Mission house (which today houses the Museum). The missionaries soon felt the need to establish a school and within a few years this school was well known throughout the colony of Natal, attracting many German and non-German scholars. General Louis Botha, co-responsible for the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910, is an old-scholar of the school.
The Old Mission House was built by the first group of eight missionaries and eight craftsmen, soon after their arrival in 1854. It has been established that the ‘Old Kitchen’ – the very first building they built – is one of the three oldest, dated buildings in Kwazulu-Natal, still of original construction. Both buildings were constructed of sun-dried bricks.
The Museum with historical displays of
life way back then.
Set in 16 acres of pristine countryside, the co-ed boarding school offers a stunning campus, the mix of old and new in terms of buildings also translating into the kind of ethos where students still greet you as they pass as ‘Sir’.
Today it has about 200 scholars and, while it still has a strong German flavour and close ties to the Lutheran church (ELKSA (NT)), it is open to all. During the war years, the Nazis tried to use the school for propaganda purposes and to avoid it being confiscated by the SA Government was transferred to the HMB Synod – the Trust that continues to ensure its operation.
The Museum is open to the public and presided over by its Curator, Petra and Assistant Curator, Sven, who will happily provide a guided tour and deep insights into the history of the region and its people – well worth a visit.
However, time is fleeting and I needed to get the wheels rolling again – and, speaking of which, the wheels are one inch larger in diameter, with wider tyres on the rear axle for the first time.
Certainly, pressing hard into a corner, the Cayenne grips tenaciously to the tarmac, offering little in the way of body roll and always remaining poised and ready for the next change in direction.
Pressed really hard, there is a little initial understeer but this is easily dealt with by modulating the throttle.
My next stop is the Lutheran Church in New Hannover. Once a beacon on a hillside, this 161-year-old edifice is now also fully ensconced within its school grounds, partly hidden by the trees that have grown up – and older – with the building.
The first pastor of the new congregation, Heinrich Schütte took up residence in a simple wattle-and-daub structure that served as manse, church and school. In 1859, a two-roomed structure of raw bricks and thatch was built also serving a three-fold purpose. The sandstone church building as it stands now was erected in 1867 and was declared a National Monument in March 1985.
The final stretch of the route for day is a short hop to the town of Wartburg, named after the Wartburg Castle that overlooks the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thüringen in Germany – more so it is a chance to relax at the Wartburger Hof Hotel.
Stepping out of the Cayenne, I felt relaxed with nary a sign of stress nor strain from the longish drive, the car combining three chassis concepts in the new design: sports car, off-roader and touring car.
This involved developing a new lightweight chassis base with a front axle featuring a separated link design and a multi-link rear axle. A typical sports car feature is the new mixed tyres, which are now on wheels of at least 19 inches. The mixed tyres improve stability and driving dynamics on bends. Porsche offers wheel sizes up to 21 inches as an option for the Cayenne – as fitted to my test unit.
This format provides the optimal basis for the active chassis systems, which are analysed and synchronised by the integrated Porsche 4D Chassis Control system. The system works in real time, optimising handling even further.
With the exception of the active PASM damper system (as standard with the Cayenne S), all other chassis systems are new developments.
The fitted optional adaptive air suspension with new three-chamber technology significantly increases the spread between a sporty, firm connection and the driving comfort expected of a touring car.
In short – comfortable in all conditions.
The original hotel was replaced with the current building in 1984 and it is uniquely German in style with a large enclosed ground floor, open lounge and large hearth with the walkway to the rooms on the first floor covering three sides.
In the late 70’s early 80’s it was a favourite venue for car launches because of the fine selection of roads from Durban. While this is no longer the case, it is still quite often used as a comfort stop on launch routes.
Under new management since late last year, the rooms and other amenities are due for upgrades but the traditional German fare in the Weinstube will remain largely unchanged.
After a hearty breakfast, it was time to head back to the dealership, using the opportunity to explore the new eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox.
Shorter response times and sportier ratios in the lower gears improve both on-road performance and off-road capability. At the other end of the expanded spread between comfort and sportiness, the long-transmission eighth gear ensures low torques, optimised fuel consumption and relaxed driving.
You know you are among enthusiasts when you had the vehicle back and the mileage logbook check also shows an average consumption of 17,9 l/100 km and the comment is: “Glad to see you used the car properly then.”
Off-road opportunity on this trip was strictly limited but it does have programmed off-road modes that activate the conditioning for mild off-road terrain: Mud, Gravel, Sand or Rocks and the drive, chassis and differential locks can be selected to adapt to the relevant scenario.
It is a car with the same depth of character shown by those early German missionaries and settlers and, while Porsche may see it as something of a ‘Mom’s Taxi’, it remains the purview of only the very well heeled.