Porsche Cayenne SUV
Price £49,576 - £92,628
- Spacious boot
- Good build quality
- Drives like a sports car
- High running costs
- Rear visibility is poor
- Styling won’t appeal to all
At a glance
"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 has gone on 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 that car's bigger brother is anything to go by, we certainly wouldn't be surprised.
While lots of SUVs are billed as 'sporty', the Cayenne is the real deal, with top-of-the-range versions capable of getting from 0-62mph from a standing start in less than six seconds and reaching top speeds of up to 173mph. It's also more fun to drive than any of its rivals, with sharp steering and almost no body lean through bends. Rivals such as the Range Rover Sport, BMW X6 and Mercedes M-Class all have their own strong points, yet none can match the Cayenne for sheer driving pleasure along a twisting country road.
All this performance doesn't come cheap, however. The Cayenne is expensive even before you factor in the cost of pricey options such as Bluetooth phone connectivity, a DAB 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 that come with the petrols.
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 costs a small fortune to keep running, but as 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 road tax free. Company-car users may be interested to know that the emissions figure also means an excellent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate of 11%.
The S E-Hybrid 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 want to avoid using its petrol engine. Use the car on electric power alone for short journeys and you may never have to visit a petrol station again, but switch the car into Sport mode for fast progress on twisty roads and the 83.1mpg figure will quickly plummet towards the 20mpg mark.
Most UK buyers choose the standard Cayenne Diesel or more powerful Cayenne Diesel S versions, returning 42.8mpg and 35.3mpg respectively, with CO2 emissions of 173g/km and 209g/km. For these engines, road tax will cost £205 or £285 a year, making them comparable to the 37.7mpg Range Rover Sport diesel, which emits 199g/km of CO2.
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. It manages just 26.1mpg and emits 261g/km of CO2, placing it in the highest road tax bracket of £500 a year.
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 makes 262bhp, while the Diesel S produces a massive 385bhp and can reach the same speed in just 5.4 seconds. The S E-Hybrid puts 416bhp under your right foot, but it's also heavier, so its 0-62mph time is a slightly slower 5.9 seconds. In full electric mode, the car is smooth but slow, so the extra power from the supercharged V6 is welcome and provides plenty of performance in tandem with the electric motor.
If running costs are no concern, the Cayenne S petrol has a 420bhp V6 and does 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, while the Turbo has a 4.8-litre V8 and takes a second less to do the same. Its top speed of 173mph also makes 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 seem very wide on British country lanes, it's in its element along sweeping A-roads and also manages comfortable motorway driving. Refinement at cruising speeds is particularly impressive in the hybrid model, as the petrol engine will usually cut out to let the electic motor maintain the car's speed on motorways for almost silent running.
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 (PASM) adaptive air suspension. This comes in handy, not only for reducing body roll from acceptable to almost non-existent, but also by 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 Cayenne offers a low ride height setting for better high-speed aerodynamics, as well as two different high-ride settings 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.
If you take 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 extremely 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 that it drives like a sports coupe on the road becomes even more impressive.
Interior & comfort
The Porsche Cayenne boasts a well built and luxurious 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 closer to a conventional 4x4 than the Cayenne, the Range Rover Sport is a more relaxing place to spend time. Similarly, the iDrive system in the BMW X5 feels easier to use, because it has a single rotary dial with fewer buttons around it.
For a performance-oriented 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 BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport. If you do choose 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 is longer, which particularly benefits passengers in the back. The rear seats can slide forwards and backwards to adjust boot space and legroom, while also reclining to improve comfort. Unlike some rivals, however, there's no optional third row of seats 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 lagging behind the 690-litre boot in the Mercedes M-Class and the Range Rover Sport's 784 litres. Still, it's a huge boot, with plenty of room for a family's holiday luggage and the option of folding down the rear seats to free up 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.
In the S E-Hybrid model, the battery pack is neatly fitted into the compartment underneath the boot so that it doesn't impact too badly on space, though it does of course mean there's no underfloor storage.
Reliability & safety
Satisfied owners vouch for the Porsche Cayenne’s quality and reliability
Porsche owners rate the brand so highly, it jumped from 13th to seventh place in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, beating brands such as 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.
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 completely broke. The diesel models are competitively priced and have good resale values, but 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, enhanced Bose or Burmester stereos and even a mahogany interior trim package. Surprisingly, Bluetooth phone connectivity is an option across the range, while a DAB digital radio is only fitted as standard to the near-six-figure Cayenne Turbo. Bluetooth, DAB and sat nav are all standard on the Range Rover Sport.