£53,044 - £95,778 Price range
24 - 85 MPG
Want the handling and performance of a sports car with the practicality and comfort of an SUV? Porsche has already built it and it’s called the Cayenne – now in a lighter, leaner third-generation version.
The latest model sees the death of the petrol 4.8-litre V8, which has been replaced with a new 3.6-litre V6 that’s had its powered boosted by a pair of turbochargers to offer 20hp more than the outgoing engine. The Cayenne Turbo S has also been revised for 2015. It too gets an additional 20hp – enough to get the SUV from 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds. That’s faster than the Cayman GT4.
The beauty of the Cayenne is that, when its not providing the performance of a Porsche, it doubles as a practical family car, with plenty of space for four people and a massive boot. Despite its on-road performance, the Cayenne is a surprisingly capable off-roader and tow car.
Porsche isn’t the only company to build a sporty SUV, the BMW X5 was arguably the first that was fun to drive on road and the company also builds the X6, meanwhile Land Rover has just launched the quick Range Rover Sport SVR.
Like its rivals, the Cayenne is not a cheap car to buy, but even basic models come with a decent amount of kit. That includes powerful bi-Xenon headlights, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, electrically adjustable front seats and a seven-inch colour display. Nonetheless, the Cayenne’s options list is both long and expensive.
Often derided for its somewhat challenging looks, being the obnoxious poster child for fuel guzzlers or the fact it’s not a ‘proper’ Porsche (whatever that means), the Cayenne is, nevertheless, probably the most important car (and certainly the most popular car) that Porsche makes – so the question is… have they got it right?
Buying the commonest Porsche doesn’t mean buying a commoner’s one – the interior is, as with all Porsches, amongst the best built and uses great quality materials, even in entry level models. There’s also quite the options list of leather and wood if you want to spruce it up further.
Like many other cars, the Cayenne has grown over its predecessor and this means better space inside, but it’s still not particularly roomy – rear legroom is about on a par with generic family saloons. Boot space is good though, at 670 litres with all seats in place.
SUVs of the past required you live with a compromised driving experience – not any more. Critics love the way the Cayenne drives whatever engine is under the bonnet (except the hybrid which is not as well received). The weight reduction over the previous car has benefited all aspects of vehicle dynamics – it’s still over 2 tonnes and this can’t be totally wished away, but it feels great on-road. Ultimately, the limit to the fun will be nervousness brought on by just how wide the Cayenne is and feels.
It rides pretty well too – something that couldn’t always be said about the first generation models. The GTS models are a hair on the firm side though, but specifying the PASM air suspension will smooth out most bumps if set appropriately – as will avoiding the larger wheels.
If you are looking to rein in costs (something the Cayenne isn’t best suited to) then the best model to go for is the 3.0-litre diesel. It may be the ‘frugal’ choice, but its 245hp and 428lb ft of torque is still enough carry the Cayenne from 0-62mph in a respectable 7.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 137mph. Given those figures (and the Cayenne’s size) fuel economy of 42.8mpg sounds almost respectable and not many Cayenne owners will bulk at the £205 annual tax bill. If you want even more performance, the Cayenne S diesel packs a 4.2-litre twin-turbocharged V8 with 380hp, which drops the 0-62mph time to just 5.4 seconds, but only returns 35.3mpg
The basic diesel makes the entry-level petrol model seem almost redundant. Its costs just £500 less to buy, but is significantly more expensive to run and also slower. The petrol Cayenne S suffers from the same problem being no quicker than the S diesel, but costing about the same and returning fuel economy of just 29.7mpg, although the new turbocharged V6 engine is significantly cheaper to run than the old V8.
When it comes to fuel economy, though, nothing drinks petrol quite like the flagship Turbo S which returns woeful fuel economy of just 24.6mpg as it goes about its business casually bending the laws of physics. It hurtles from a standstill to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds and doesn’t run out of puff until 176mpg.
Of course if you want to score some green points, there’s a petrol electric hybrid with 410hp divvied up between a petrol V6 and some electric motors. The hybrid has on-paper consumption of 83mpg, this is in part down to the fact it can go 22 miles on electric power alone.
Porsche Cayenne towing capacity
The Cayenne’s range of powerful engines means all models can pull a maximum of 3,500kgs.
The old Cayenne diesel was a bit of a stop-gap to help Cayenne sales in Europe, but despite using an Audi diesel, the current model was planned from the start and is all the better for it.
Reviewers are fond of the economy and low running costs by Porsche standards, managing 39.2mpg and sitting in tax group J, at £245 a year.
Performance is strong enough for most but a few testers note that acceleration isn’t what you’d want from a Porsche - 60mph appears in 7.6 seconds and top speed is 136mph. Some can’t quite get past the diesel rattle either, even if the engine is quite refined - though other critics even say it sounds a little sporty. The auto gearbox is smooth and optional paddles make the most of the 8 speeds.
Reviews on the Cayenne’s hybrid model are mixed. One review describes it as hopeless, another as extremely effective. Testers have no problems with the engine’s refinement and when running in all-electric mode it’s even quieter, but some critics have concerns over poor engine response as the electronics attempt to combine petrol and electric power. Sometimes the car can’t decide whether it wants to run on electric power, petrol, or a mix of both.
Performance is better than the diesel at 6.5 seconds to 60mph, but economy is down by 5mpg and most reviews say that the Hybrid really isn’t worth the extra money over the diesel. Unless all your driving is around town, you’d be better off with the oil-burner.
With turbocharged, diesel and hybrid models in the range, the naturally-aspirated V8 S is overlooked by most reviewers, it seems. However, it’s more powerful than the old S and significantly more economical too. It’s all relative of course - economy sits at 26.9mpg and you’ll be paying £445 a year in road tax. As a result, it’s unlikely to sell in the same volumes as the diesel.
The performance of the 400bhp V8 should make up for it though. Critics love the huge torque, flexibility and smoothness throughout the rev range and the new lighter-weight Cayenne body ensures impressive performance. The 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox is smooth and swift too, and the car even features stop-start technology.
Evo’s review seems to sum up the Cayenne Turbo pretty well: Astonishing. All reviews cite the Turbo as the highlight as the Cayenne range, and damn the expense. 500bhp gives performance that some say would see off the 911 - 60mph can be attained in only 4.7 seconds and top speed is an almost ludicrous 172mph.
It has huge torque, massive power and all reviews describe it as smooth and refined. It's also 23 percent more economical than the old model, at 24.6mpg - which isn't far off the non-turbo V8.
The new 8-speed automatic gearbox it’s attached too is apparently smooth and delivers quick changes. If you needed any more superlatives to describe the turbocharged V8, one reviewer suggests, “relentless”.
Like the rest of the Porsche range, the Cayenne hasn’t been crash-tested by either EuroNCAP or the North American IIHS and NHTSA safety bodies, so exactly how it will behave in a collision is an unknown quantity. However, just like the rest of the Porsche range, it’s stuffed with electronic driver aids to prevent it from crashing. All Cayennes are four-wheel drive too.
The Cayenne is based on the Volkswagen Touareg and this rates 5 stars in EuroNCAP’s collision tests. While you can’t directly infer anything from that, it’s worth keeping in mind.
Starting at £50,000, no Cayenne will be cheap to buy and the relatively thirsty, large capacity engines mean it won’t be too cheap to run. Still, the levels of performance and interior quality means that the Cayenne might be worth the extra cost over its rivals.
The base diesel model approaches affordable running with nearly 40mpg and is one of the cheaper models to buy, so at the very least it’s the best value for money – as far as Porsches are concerned. To save money try to avoid ticking too many options but, given the relatively poor standard specifications, this may be easier said than done.
The original luxury crossover SUV is still the best and it’s overcome some of the challenges of the first Cayennes. It’s still quite a hard car to love the look of, but it combines performance, quality, comfort and practicality in an accomplished but expensive package.
While it’s never going to stop being the car people love to hate, there is at least a lot to love about the Cayenne.