What is the Porsche Cayenne?
The Cayenne is a luxury SUV that delivers the best driving experience in its class. When originally launched (in 2002) it seemed like the most cynical exploitation of the brand, but has gone on to has become Porsche’s best-selling car and biggest earner, and has kept the company in business. The Cayenne reviewed here was launched in 2010, and rival cars include the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-class and Range Rover Sport.
The Cayenne shares much of its architecture with the VW Touareg and Audi Q7, and is made in the same Bratislava factory, and the range begins with a 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine. The higher-end versions, however, use Porsche’s own 4.8-litre V8 engine, with 400bhp in the Cayenne S, 420bhp in the GTS and an ample 493bhp in the mighty Turbo. Other possibilities are the 3.0 turbodiesel V6 with 242bhp and the S hybrid, which uses a 3.0-litre, 328bhp supercharged petrol V6 plus an electric motor. The 3.6 V6 is the only one available with a manual gearbox, all other models have an eight-speed automatic. All versions have four-wheel drive of various designs.
This tall, butch SUV has the pricing to match the brand, starting at £47,390 and peaking at more than double that for the Turbo S at £107,784. The Hybrid costs almost £14,500 more than the diesel yet is fractionally worse for CO2 emissions. It’s aimed more at the diesel-disliking US and Far East markets, so our advice is to avoid it.
Being a Porsche, the Cayenne has to be a little lower and more sporting in its stance than an SUV with less of a reputation to uphold, but the miracle is that it handles as sharply as it does. You’re very aware of its ample weight as you brake for a bend, but the brakes are very powerful and the Porsche corners with a flatness, an eagerness and a precision quite extraordinary in a 4×4.
Today’s Cayennes ride well, too. Most customers specify the air suspension and active damping to ensure this, but actually a conventionally coil-sprung Cayenne is entirely comfortable. That wasn’t the case way back when the Cayenne was launched, but it’s had a big facelift since then. The entry-level V6 is a fairly pointless purchase given that the diesel feels gutsier, is ultimately nearly as fast and much less thirsty; it’s the most sensible version of a not-very-sensible car. However, you really need a V8 for the proper Cayenne experience of effortless power, the right sound effects and some justification for choosing the car in the first place. The GTS is genuinely good fun, while the Turbo S is just extraordinary with its 4.5-second 0-62mph time and 175mph top speed. It’s a supercar on very stable stilts. All Cayennes are very capable off-road, if it matters.
Porsche-ness and SUV-ness sound like tricky concepts to meld in a credible cabin, but it works. The style is clearly 911-inspired but there’s space and luxury all around and a great view out for all. Your passengers can marvel with you at what the Cayenne can do, while looking down on the lesser mortals below. Lounging space for five? Of course, unless you opt for the heavily contoured rear sports seats which bring the count down to four.
The one to buy
Porsche Cayenne diesel
- £47,390 (correct at first publication)
- 2967cc, V6, turbodiesel
- 242bhp @ 3800rpm
- 405 lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 8-speed automatic
- 0-62mph in 7.6sec
- Top Speed:
- 39.2mpg combined
- Road Tax Band:
- L 4846mm, W 1939mm, H 1705mm