The Porsche Cayenne. It was a controversial move by the German manufacturer when it first arrived in 2002, but two generations on it’s a cornerstone of the SUV class, proving that 4x4s really can offer something to the enthusiast scene. Can this third generation live up to the reputation established by its forebears?
Body Style: 5 door SUV
MRP from lb57,220 – lb101,346
Did you know? The Porsche Cayenne Turbo with Sport Chrono is as fast to 62mph as a Ferrari F430.
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The Porsche Cayenne has a deeply rooted reputation as the sports car of the SUV field, and this model more than lives up to it. It’s got more handling panache than any other SUV – even the aggressive BMW X5 and fluid, neatly responsive Range Rover Sport – and is also classier and more practical than before,
The Cayenne S is currently the sweet spot in the range – just be careful you don’t go mad with the endless options list, and you’ve got a world-class car.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Running Costs & Fuel Economy
Aggressive yet accessible performance
Fun, mobile chassis
We Don’t Like
Options list is lengthy and confusing
No diesels from launch
Ride is firm on 21in wheels
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Design & Exterior: (8/10)
The third generation Cayenne’s roofline is 1cm lower than its predecessor’s, but as a whole the newer model is still longer and wider, if lighter thanks to more extensive use of aluminium in the construction.
The rear end of the Cayenne is particularly distinctive, with that rear light strip looking cool and understated by day and just the right side of glitzy by night; of course it’s the brand design language and is reminiscent of the 911, but it looks absolutely at home on the haunch-heavy Cayenne. That rear wing rises according to your speed, too, and even acts as an air-brake in emergency braking situations, to shorten your stopping distance by up to 2-metres, Porsche reckons.
The front end is a bit blander, perhaps, but the big air intakes and bold horizontal lines look appropriately aggressive. Headlights that have a three-point daytime running light signature also fit the unmistakable Cayenne shape well.
We’ve only seen cars on 20- or 21-inch alloys so far (the Turbo gets 21s as standard), and even they have sizeable sidewalls on the tyres, so it’s possible that the standard 19s on the Cayenne and Cayenne S might look a bit lost in the huge wheel arches.
Ultimately there’s no doubt that the Cayenne is a slick-looking SUV, and while it’s grown a bit, it’s still easy to judge where its extremities are when you’re swinging round a multi-storey car park. Visibility is good by the standards of this class.
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Interior & Comfort: (9/10)
All Cayenne’s get at least partial-leather upholstery, with heavily bolstered seats that promise to suit every size and shape of driver, although we did feel that the seat – which has electric adjustment as standard – would benefit from being able to drop a fraction lower. It’s also a shame that you have to spend well over lb1000 to get adjustable lumbar support, even if that does include seat memory function, adjustable thigh support and electric steering wheel adjustment.
The dash looks spectacular. A 12.3in touchscreen dominates the fascia, while a flat, glass black raised central spine acts as a divider between driver and passenger, and hosts a series of touch-sensitive buttons and a couple of rocker switches that control the climate functions.
It’s a more modern-looking and generally slicker setup than the button-heavy cabins of older Porsches. Our only quibble is that it’ll show up your fingerprints pretty quickly, and it can be tempting to take your eyes off the road in order to see where you need to prod to change a setting. Mind you, if changing the temperature is all you need to do, that’s easy since it’s a physical rocker switch, or you can adjust it via the voice control that’s clever enough to respond if you simply say ‘I’m cold’. Even this advanced new voice control system seemed a bit hit-and-miss in our brief experience of it, but it does apparently learn your voice, so we’ll wait to spend a bit more time with it before judging it.
Of course you get two digital readouts either side of the central rev-counter, which you use the steering-wheel buttons to scroll through.
Overall, we’d say that Porsche has even surpassed the Audi Q7 for being the purveyor of the finest cabins in this class.
Porsche has stepped up its game with practicality on this generation of Cayenne. The boot is usefully bigger than before, and the rear seats slide and recline in a 60/40 split as standard so you can prioritise space for stuff or space for people. It’s quite a high load lip, but if you’ve added air suspension then you can drop it a bit. Your dog will certainly be grateful.
There’s loads of leg- and head room in the back for two tall adults, and the two outer seats are heavily sculpted and really comfortable, although a middle occupant will feel rather short-changed. Fold the seats down and you get a smooth extended loadbay, albeit one with quite a slope to it.
Ultimately, the Cayenne is a usefully roomier car than it once was, and will be more than good enough to deal with the motoring needs of a boisterous family of four plus Labrador. The likes of the bigger (diesel-only), seven-seat Audi Q7 and Range Rover Sport are well within the Cayenne’s price range, though, and they’re more practical cars by any measure while also ticking the fun and posh criteria. Bear that in mind if lugging kayaks, or ferrying grandparents around is a consideration.
As far as big five-seat SUVs go, the Cayenne is going to be more than good enough for your needs.
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Technology & Connectivity: (8/10)
The 12.3-inch touchscreen system is designed to be configurable, just like your iPad. So you can change the functions that appear on the homepage and all of that jazz, which will make it feel appealingly personal to you, and makes a lot of sense given the sheer volume of functions that these systems offer these days.
Sat-nav, four USB inputs, digital radio, WiFi hotspot, Amazon music streaming facility and Apple CarPlay are standard. Android Auto isn’t available, though.
The Porsche’s screen offers great graphics, and the widescreen effect is brilliant for easy overviews of a route on the map, but we do find it unnecessarily tricky to turn off voice commands or select the auto-zoom function. That sort of stuff should be easy to find and on the Porsche’s system you have to hit a fiddly, irritatingly small icon at the top of the screen to open a drop-down menu, and then access a further sub-menu, which is a right faff when you’re trying to drive.
It’s stuff that you’ll get used to with time, but we’d still like some of the obvious nav commands to be adjustable with one prod rather than four. Otherwise, with the use of the shortcut buttons arrayed underneath it, you can jump between functions easily and enjoy a generally very impressive system.
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Three turbocharged petrol engines are offered from launch. The standard Cayenne gets a 3.0-litre V6 with 335bhp, while the Cayenne S gets a 2.9-litre, 434bhp V6 and the Turbo wades into the fray with a brutal 542bhp, 4.0-litre V8 – the latter two both coming with a couple of turbochargers rather than the standard car’s single blower.
A V6 diesel, and more than likely a V8 diesel, is pegged to join the range later in 2018, as will a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid.
We’ve driven all of them, and – put simply – they’re all great. Refined, free-revving, and blessed with an abundance of urgency when you want it, all conducted neatly by the standard and rarely wrong-footed eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The sweet spot of the range is the Cayenne S, which sounds much rortier than the base model and feels full-on sports car quick, where the base car feels a bit more like a chunky, rambunctious hot hatch (no bad thing in itself).
The Turbo is, if we dare say it, perhaps a bit much for its own good. It’s wonderful in its sheer lunacy, and just as easy to potter about in as the others, but no Cayenne gives you much sense of what speed you’re doing – it’s so refined and isolates you so well that you can be hacking about at rather questionable speeds and barely even notice it. Which is a criticism that you can level at virtually every fast SUV, but the Porsche is particularly susceptible to it, and when you’re in the Turbo and can be doing 62mph in 3.9sec (provided you’ve added Sport Chrono that includes launch control – 4.1sec without), it’s alarmingly easy to get carried away without even realising it.
We’d stick to the Cayenne S, with its metallic rasp and barking up-shifts, smug-inducingly easy overtaking ability, and simultaneously unflappable everyday manners. Plus, 0-62mph in 5.2sec is pretty darn quick, and even the base model will do that standard sprint in 6.2sec.
A slightly soft, smooth throttle response and silky engine and gearbox response in all of the Cayenne models (provided you avoid Sport Plus, which sharpens the throttle response a bit too much for comfort at times) means that this is an effortless cruiser and about-town moocher.
Braking performance and feel in the Cayenne is really good, although we haven’t driven a car with standard brakes. Our test cars either came with the optional carbon ceramics, or the Porsche Surface Coated Brakes, which have tungsten-carbide coated discs. It’s claimed that these will last for as much as 30% longer than standard brake discs, will improve responsiveness thanks to greater friction, and will even produce less brake dust. They certainly stopped the car fine and offered good brake feel and modulation when we tried them, and the white calipers look good, so we’d say these are more recommendable than the eye-wateringly expensive carbon ceramics.
As another aside, the Cayenne can tow up to 3500kg, so this is one of the heavy-hitters when it comes to towing.
Handling and comfort
A word of warning before we get stuck-in here. There is a mind-boggling array of stuff that you can add to the Cayenne to affect its driving dynamics.
Wheel size is the least of your decisions – you also need to decide if you want air suspension, which was fitted to all of the Cayenne test cars we drove (its standard on the Turbo). Adjustable dampers are standard on the Cayenne S, but you can add them as an option to the ‘base’ Cayenne. Then there’s the rear-wheel steering, and the electro-mechanical anti-roll bars that help to lessen body lean when you’re cornering (called PDCC) – both options that were also fitted to our test cars. You can also have ‘Power Steering Plus’ which makes the steering lighter at parking speeds, and is obligatory if you add the rear-wheel steering, which we’d recommend you do.
All Cayennes come with an on-demand four-wheel drive system, with power normally going to the rear wheels unless there’s some slip at the front end, when drive will be sent there as well. You can also add a torque-vectoring system that allows the system to shuffle power from side-to-side as well as front-to-back. This, of course, was also fitted to our test cars.
So while we’d love to tell you what a standard Cayenne is like to drive, we can’t. Still, a Cayenne with no options will be about as common as a cheerful day in Game of Thrones, but we can say that – with all those additional extras – it is truly remarkable how much sports car there is lurking beneath this SUV.
Turn-in isn’t razor sharp but it’s keen without feeling nervous, while the front-end resists understeer well and body roll is kept to an absolute minimum courtesy of that PDCC, active anti-roll bar system. There is a slightly odd weighting to the steering as you initially load on the lock through corners, so – partly due to the rear-wheel steering varying the car’s ferocity of turn-in – it doesn’t always feel as natural as we’d like.
But it is the most textural and the most enjoyable steering we’ve experienced in an SUV, and that four-wheel drive system gives the Cayenne a playfulness that would be an improvement on a number of all-wheel drive sports saloons and even sports cars. You can really sling the Cayenne about with gusto, and it delivers full-on, enthusiast-sating thrills; cheeky moments of oversteer and an aura of rear-wheel drive naughtiness, but ultimately always sure-footed and confident. It’s exactly what you’d want and expect of the Cayenne, if not even a little bit more.
Ride comfort is also good, although we found the Turbo a bit firm and shuddery over broken tarmac and expansion joints at low speeds despite its standard air suspension, and all the models had a touch more suspension noise than we expected. Mind you, while the Turbo feels rather more fidgety and thumpy than a Range Rover Sport, for instance, although it does have ruthless damper control with little or no uncouth rebound going on, so while it is firm, it’s also well controlled. We suspect anybody after the Turbo’s banzai performance is going to find a slightly brittle about-town ride more than acceptable as a trade-off.
The standard Cayenne and the S are a touch softer and more pliant, and we’d say that the willingness to soak up road patina is worth the whiff more body roll given that they both remain stonkingly entertaining to drive despite it.
Recommended engine: Cayenne S
5.1seconds (4.9 with Sport Chrono)
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Safety Features: (8/10)
The Cayenne hasn’t been Euro NCAP tested yet, but it does get a full suite of airbags including driver’s and front passenger’s knee airbag, which is one or even two up on a lot of rivals.
Automatic city braking is standard, as are front and rear parking sensors, but it’s a shame that lane assist, adaptive cruise, reversing camera and blind spot assist are all optional. You have to pay extra to get rear side airbags, but that’s par for the course even in this class.
An alarm and immobiliser are standard across the range, and you can add a tracker.
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Specs and Trim Levels: (6/10)
White is the only standard colour, and then you’ve got a mostly monochrome selection of five metallic shades to choose from. We’d go for the rather lovely, dusky-looking Biscay Blue shown in our pictures here. Porsche does offer its Exclusive service, where you can have virtually any paint colour you want and interior trim to match, and just about anything that you could want from a personalised SUV, albeit at a price that doesn’t even bear showing on the company’s public site. If you have to ask, etc…
Check out our full gallery below, showing the Cayenne, Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo in a variety of the colours you can have.
Each Cayenne model is its own trim level, but even the base Cayenne gets LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, that rear light strip, the full-fat 12.3in touchscreen system and online functionality, climate control, part-leather seats, front and rear parking sensors and cruise control. The S is our pick of the range, not only thanks to its slightly fruitier performance and soundtrack, but also because it adds adaptive springs over the base Cayenne’s passive suspension,
The Turbo is well equipped, with sports seats and all the style trinketry you’d want including the 21-inch alloys, but you can guarantee that most buyers will still find plenty of options to add.
We’d stick with the Cayenne S, add the air suspension, the Sport Chrono pack, the rear-wheel steering (which does really help in a tight spot), keyless entry and – remarkable that this is optional – heated front seats, reversing camera and even floor mats. And at that point you’ve already added more than lb6,000 to the price of your lb70k SUV, so no need to push on to lb80k, eh?
Size and Dimensions
Max towing weight unbraked – braked
750kg – 3500kg
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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (7/10)
Nobody is going to buy a Cayenne for its affordable running costs. The Porsche’s tyres are going to be expensive, and insurance is also going to be a bit steep.
However, fuel is going to be no more expensive in the Cayenne that it will be in any other petrol performance SUV – in fact it’ll likely be better than you’ll see in the Range Rover V6. We’d reckon on seeing around 30mpg on a good run in the Cayenne or Cayenne S, while the Turbo will probably be more around the 25mpg mark, but we haven’t spent enough time in the cars to be able to judge real-world economy accurately.
If economy is a concern, you’re better off waiting until the V6 diesel model arrives in 2018.
Reliability and servicing
Porsche has a decent reputation for reliability, but when big things go wrong they do come with predictably big costs. It’s hard to say with this Cayenne, though, as it’s not even in the showrooms yet. Servicing will be subject to usage – if you do a lot of short journeys it’ll likely be more frequent than if you do longer journeys, but budget for a minor service each year for the first two years and a major one in the third year.
A three year, unlimited mileage warranty is standard and you can pay to extend it.
Variable based on usage
Variable based on usage
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The Cayenne range starts at just over lb57k, and given that the standard car is great fun, easy-living and not at all slow, that’s a good place to be if you can afford it. Just don’t forget that you’re going to want to add at least lb5000 of options, and that’s probably optimistic.
If you’re not too worried about keeping costs down, plump for the S, which is a sizeable jump up at nearly lb70k, but does feel rortier in general and sounds great. A Mercedes GLE 43 AMG or a Range Rover Sport V6 S/C are both usefully cheaper and a lot better equipped, or a Maserati Levante S is roughly the same price. However you look at it – but particularly if you look at it from the bottom of the options list – the Cayenne is rather on the pricey side.
Even after a hefty deposit of some lb13k, the Cayenne is going to set you back around lb630 per month over three years on PCP, while the S will come in at closer to lb800.
The Turbo is a stratospheric jump up from there to past the lb100k mark, which seems excessive despite its extravagant performance swagger and the more generous standard kit list. Mind you, a Range Rover Sport SVR is in the same oxygen-thin price arena, and a Bentley Bentayga fathoms again above that, so all things being relative, its heady price is justified.
A deposit of lb22k will still see you paying lb1200 per month for three years. If you do finance a Cayenne, mind the excess mileage charge on Porsche’s PCP agreement, which is a frightening 23.8p per mile.
Go for the Cayenne S, and be sure to add the Sport Chrono pack
If you’re stretching your finances to get a Porsche SUV rather than one of the cheaper options, go for the base Cayenne. Entry level it may be, but it feels every inch what you expect a Porsche to be, and looks it, too.
Again, go for the Cayenne S and be prepared to set aside five figures for options that should include the panoramic roof, or even your bespoke colur choices if you go down the bespoke Porsche Exclusive route
Range Rover Sport
Fewer petrol options but silky and intuitive to drive. The SVR is wicked fun and sounds outrageous.
Looks good and has brand cache to spare, but build quality and driver entertainment isn’t up there with the Porsche
All diesel, and more deadpan to drive, but still a stand-out SUV. The SQ7 is rabidly fast and fun, yet efficient
The Cayenne’s real nemesis, but feeling old and a bit heavy-footed by comparison
If the National Trust did SUVs, this’d be it. Expensive, but for many the exclusivity and sumptuous drive justifies it