It's true the ec staff logs more frequent flyer mileage than we care to admit, with three scheduled trips to Europe inNovember alone. This said, we often look forward to a good road trip. While flying is in many cases the only option, nothing quite compares to a nice leisurely drive. Each of the staff has opted to get behind the wheel rather than fly at one time or another.

For the past 15 years, Editor Bidrawn has consistently passed on flying to SEMA, preferring the long, yet comfortably familiar drive to Vegas. Considering the time spent in airport security screening lines and the related hustle, who can blame him? Funke has driven a Murcielago half way across the country. It's an exceptionally long drive in a car built for the track and a marked target going through ball-buster states like Texas, but wouldn't you have jumped at the chance? Damn straight.

Recently, I arranged to photograph a car in Scottsdale, Ariz., and instead of trying to catch a quick flight, I gassed up our long term Cayenne S ($70 to top), loaded my gear and headed east on Interstate 10. And since I decided not to fly, I was able to pick up a hitchhiker, my wife Jen. Another benefit of driving.

The Cayenne is ideally suited for long trips. It's got ample head and leg room (even for me), comfortable seats and plenty of passing power (340 bhp). And unlike most SUVs, save for BMW's X3 and X5 and the Range Rover Sport, the Cayenne handles much like a sports car. Its sporting character is also carried over inside, where Porsche designers incorporated various attractive trims and finishes. It's an ideal balance of sport and luxury styling. Even the lighting is well executed. We especially like the backlit illumination from under the door armrests.There's also a great view of the instrumentation and most controls are easy to reach, perhaps too easy. The steering wheel-mounted shift toggles seem to get in the way and are often mistakenly hit with hand-over-hand turning. When in Tip mode, I tend to use the center-mounted gear selector. It feels much more natural when rowing through the six forward gears. Steering wheel shift buttons or toggles are meant for the backside of the wheel like true F1 paddles.

The Cayenne's audio system is state-of-the-art and an essential component for a long trip. Finally, an opportunity to play through my aging suitcase of '80s CDs. Our rig is also equipped with a handy nav system, which Jen learned to master inside and out. Although navigation is its primary function, it's designed with far more features than to just get you from point A to point B. Roughly five and a half hours later, it literally dropped us off at the main entrance of the James hotel-door to door service with a smile. How anyone got anywhere without this wonderful device is beyond me.

The Cayenne is as stylish as it is functional. And it garners respect with the all-powerful valet. He's sort of the barometer of cool. The last thing you want when you drop 80 large on a vehicle is a back space in the valet lot. The Cayenne may be an SUV, but by no means is it an ordinary one. It carries prestige and a certain panache the others simply don't. Who knew an SUV looked so good sandwiched between a Continental GT and a CLS55? For those who don't care for its styling, the Cayenne will receive a mild facelift scheduled for next year.

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