Porsche Cayenne SUV
Porsche Cayenne SUV
- Drives like a sports car
- Spacious boot
- Badge appeal, build quality
- High running costs
- Styling won’t appeal to all
- Rear visibility is poor
"The Porsche Cayenne has 4x4 practicality and the character of a sports car, but its abilities don’t come cheap."
The Porsche Cayenne caused a real stir when it first launched, but went on to become the German manufacturer's best-selling model, thanks to its incredible combination of practicality and performance. It remains to be seen if it will now be outsold by the newly released Porsche Macan, but if its bigger brother is anything to go by, we certainly wouldn't be surprised.
While lots of SUVs are billed as being ‘sporty’, the Cayenne is the real deal, with top-of-the-range versions capable of getting to 62mph in less than six seconds and reaching top speeds of up to 173mph. It also feels more fun to drive than any of its rivals, with sharp steering and almost no body lean through the bends. Rivals like the Range Rover Sport, BMW X6 and Mercedes M-Class all have their own strong points, but none can match the Cayenne for sheer driving pleasure along a twisting country road.
But all this performance doesn’t come cheap, and not only is the Cayenne expensive, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of pricey options including Bluetooth, digital radio and sat-nav. You’ll also need to stick with the diesel or hybrid engines unless you can afford the huge fuel and tax bills.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Diesel Porsche Cayenne models are the sensible choice, petrols require deep pockets
You’d be forgiven for thinking a Porsche Cayenne SUV must cost a small fortune to keep running, but so long as you avoid the thirsty petrol engines, it’s actually quite reasonable. In fact the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid returns a claimed 83.1mpg and emits just 79g/km of CO2, making it free to tax. It can achieve these figures because its battery pack allows it to travel for up to 22 miles using only electricity, but it needs topping up from a plug at home or at a public charging point fairly regularly if you're not prepared to use the petrol engine too.
Most British customers choose the standard diesel or more-powerful ‘S’ version, returning 42.8mpg and 35.3mpg respectively, with CO2 emissions of 173g/km and 209g/km. With these engines, tax will cost £205 or £285 each year, making it comparable to the 37.7mpg and diesel Range Rover Sport, which emits 199g/km.
The petrol Cayenne S is sports-car thirsty, with figures of 29.7mpg and 223g/km, while the Cayenne Turbo is the true SUV alternative to a supercar and manages just 26.1mpg and 261g/km, placing it in the highest tax bracket of £500 each year.
Interior & comfort
The Porsche Cayenne boasts a well-built and cosseting interior
Despite sitting high up in the Porsche Cayenne, the dashboard and centre console have been designed to cocoon the driver, so it feels more natural to drive quickly. With so much cornering grip, it’s important the seats support you, and the Cayenne’s leather chairs do a great job of holding you in place, while also offering excellent comfort for longer trips.
The cabin feels very well-built and solid, with lots of personalisation options available. Our main complaint is the confusing number of buttons and switches on the centre console. While it’s less car-like and more like a conventional 4x4, we also think the Range Rover Sport is a more relaxing place to spend time.
For a performance-orientated SUV, the Cayenne deals with rough roads very well, particularly when fitted with air suspension. Smaller wheels provide the most comfort, and keep more road noise out of the cabin, but it's easy to see why the bigger, more stylish options are so popular. Rear visibility is poor because of a small rear window and thick tailgate, so you’ll need to rely on parking sensors to make reversing easier.
At motorway speeds, the Cayenne isn’t as refined as the new BMW X5 or a Range Rover Sport. If you do specify the larger 20 or 21-inch alloy wheels, tyre noise is louder than we’d like in a luxury SUV. Also, there’s quite a lot of wind noise around the bulky door mirrors.
Practicality & boot space
Lots of cubbies and a big boot make the Porsche Cayenne very family-friendly
A world away from the two-seat Porsche Boxster, the Cayenne is a full-sized five-seat SUV, with plenty of headroom and legroom for front and rear passengers. In fact, the latest Cayenne has grown in length, to the particular benefit of rear passengers. The rear seats can slide forwards and backwards to adjust boot space and legroom, while also reclining to improve comfort. Unlike some rivals, however, no third row of seats is available for kids, so if you've got a big family you'll have to look elsewhere.
The Porsche Cayenne has 670 litres of luggage room behind the rear seats, beating the BMW X6 (580 litres) and Infiniti QX70 (410 litres), but it’s smaller than the Mercedes M-Class with 690 litres and has less space than the Range Rover Sport’s 784 litres. Still, it’s a huge boot, with plenty of room for a family holiday and the option of folding down the rear seats to liberate even more space. There’s a wide boot opening and smooth loading lip, but sadly the seats don’t fold completely flat, so large items can get caught as you slide them in. An electrically-powered tailgate is standard.
On the move, there’s a large glovebox and doorbins able to swallow a big bottle of water. Cup holders are found in the centre console and rear seat rest. The boot has lashing points and we’d recommend the optional cargo nets to stop items rolling around in the boot.
Reliability & safety
Satisfied owners vouch for the Porsche Cayenne’s quality and reliability
Porsche owners rate the brand so highly it has jumped from 13th to seventh place in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, beating marques including BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Most impressive was its second place result for build quality, proof its cars are just as well screwed together as they feel.
The Cayenne has never been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but it’s based on the Volkswagen Touareg, which scored the full five stars for safety. Every Cayenne is fitted with traction control and technology to help prevent skids and improve stopping distances, as well as front, side and curtain airbags. Powerful brakes and four-wheel drive should also enhance safety and confidence.
Engines, drive & performance
The Porsche Cayenne is incredibly fun to drive for a car of this size and weight
Even the slowest Porsche Cayenne accelerates from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds – a respectable figure for a hot hatchback, let alone a massive SUV. This entry-level diesel has 262bhp, while the ‘S’ diesel gets a massive 385bhp and can reach the same benchmark in just 5.4 seconds. Choose the E-Hybrid model and even more power is available, with 416bhp under you’re right foot, but it’s also heavier so the 0-62mph time is slightly slower, at 5.9 seconds.
If running costs are no concern, the Cayenne S petrol has a 420bhp V6 and reaches 62mph in 5.5 seconds, while the Turbo has a 4.8-litre V8 and takes a second less, with its top speed of 173mph making it one of the fastest SUVs in the world. Unfortunately the mind-bogglingly fast Porsche Cayenne Turbo S has been discontinued.
Sharp steering, four-wheel drive and almost no body lean all make the Cayenne fun to drive and it feels more like a rapid sports saloon or estate car than a two-tonne SUV. While the Cayenne can feel very wide along British country lanes, it’s in its element along sweeping A-roads and also proves comfortable for motorway driving.
Like all Porsches, the Cayenne offers a vast array of optional extras to change how it drives. The most important of these is the Porsche Active Suspension Management adaptive air suspension. This comes in handy not only in reducing body roll from acceptable to almost non-existent but also in making the car easier to get into. When parked, the car can squat up to 52mm closer to the ground to make climbing aboard or loading the boot simpler. Once you’re underway, the car offers a low ride height setting for better high-speed aerodynamics, as well as two stages of high-ride setting if you plan to go off-road. The stiffer settings are too harsh for use on the road, but the comfort mode is a very well-judged compromise.
Should you want to test your Cayenne off-road, you’ll likely be astounded at how competent it is. Though its wading depth isn’t as deep as a Range Rover’s it can handle obscenely slippery or rocky terrain and the hill-descent mode to control scrambling down a slope is particularly intuitive. When you’ve sampled the Cayenne’s off-piste prowess the fact it drives like a sports coupe on the road becomes even more impressive.
Price, value for money & options
You’ll need deep pockets to buy a Porsche Cayenne, particularly if you want the latest tech
There’s no denying the Porsche Cayenne is an expensive car, but choose sensibly and it shouldn’t leave you too broke. The diesel models are competitively priced and have good resale values, while the top-of-the-range Turbo will lose its value the quickest.
The entry-level Cayenne is fitted with dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen and a powered tailgate. There are numerous options, and most are expensive, so it’s possible to add thousands to the price.
Extras include sat-nav, wireless internet, an enhanced Bose or Burmester sound system and even a mahogany interior trim package. What’s surprising, however, is that Bluetooth is an option across the range, while digital radio is only fitted as standard to the near-six-figure Cayenne Turbo, when Bluetooth, DAB and sat-nav are standard in the Range Rover Sport.
What the others say
“There's no better 4x4 in terms of handling - even BMW's X6 cannot eclipse the Porsche.”
"Perhaps the Cayenne's toughest test will come from within its own family. The newly launched Porsche Macan is a smaller take on the sporty SUV and for those simply wanting family car practicality, imposing size and a supercar badge it could do the job without the Cayenne's slightly lumbering size."