"It's a practical 4x4, but the Porsche Cayenne has the performance of a fast and fun sports car."
The Porsche Cayenne performance SUV dramatically shook up the 4x4 market when it was launched more than a decade ago in 2002. It changed the rules of the SUV market, proving that a high, heavy 4x4 could drive really well. All the engines on offer provide excellent performance, with even the entry-level V6 petrol and diesel models able to accelerate from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds. However, you'll pay for it at the pumps. The S versions of the petrol and diesel are even quicker, and the GTS and Turbo versions are as fast as some of Porsche's two-seater sports cars. All models also feel solidly built, and thanks to an impressive dealer network and decent customer service, Porsche ranked 13th overall in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power survey.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Even though the Cayenne is fitted with economy-boosting stop-start technology, its running costs are still resoundingly high. Even the most economical model – the 245bhp Porsche Cayenne Diesel – can only manage to return 39.2mpg in combined fuel economy and emit 189g/km of CO2. The Turbo model is the worst, though, and can barely get its mpg into the 20s, while emissions of 270g/km will equate to a massive annual road tax bill. Weirdly, the Hybrid is worth avoiding, too, thanks to economy of 34.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 193g/km. If you’re hellbent on getting a Cayenne and yet still cling to the idea of reducing your running costs (ever so slightly), the Cayenne GTS offers nearly the same performance as the Turbo, but with slightly lower tax costs. Servicing and insurance will also be uniformly expensive across all models, but resale values in the used car market should be stronger than similar rivals from BMW and Mercedes when you come to make a second-hand deal.
Interior & comfort
Cayennes fitted with the bigger alloy wheels do produce a less comfortable ride, and there's often a lot of tyre noise when driving on rougher surfaces. Wind noise is kept to a minimum inside the car, however, while the engines are all pretty quiet on the move. The driving position is cockpit-styled but still very comfy, with the highly bolstered seats holding you securely in place, even when going round corners at speed. GTS models come with racing-car-style figure-hugging sports seats that are even better, finished in suede-effect leather, although the bright red GTS logos and seatbelts could be considered a bit gaudy by some. There's easily space in the back for two adults to travel in comfort, or three people at a squeeze for shorter journeys.
Practicality & boot space
The most practical Porsche on the market offers a reasonably generous amount of boot space in the Cayenne, boasting 670 litres of luggage capacity, with the rear seats still in place. Fold down the standard-fit split-fold back seats and that expands to an impressive 1,780 litres. The rear seats also slide forward and back by 160mm each way, which allows you to adjust either the boot space or create extra legroom for passengers in the back. The glove compartment is a decent size, and there are some storage cubbies dotted around the inside, including a good-sized one in the centre console under the armrest. Its only real deficit is the lack of two extra seats, which are an option in the Range Rover Sport.
Reliability & safety
The trouble with luxury cars is that often the key to their desirability is their rarity. So, the Porsche Cayenne doesn’t qualify for inclusion in many owner satisfaction surveys because of the low sales volume. However, Porsche itself does feature in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, coming 13th out of 32 in the manufacturers rankings. That represents a drop of four places on its 2012 performance, with reliability being one of the most criticised areas, along with poor value for money. However, overall, Porsche's performance was strong and maintained its lofty reputation, although you should expect some pretty hefty bills if anything does go wrong with it – but it should prove fairly hardy thanks to its smart, upmarket interior. In terms of safety, Porsche doesn’t tend to send its cars to Euro NCAP to crash tested, but there is a lot of equipment in the Cayenne, including electronic stability control (ESP), traction control, powerful brakes, as well as front, side and curtain airbags all fitted as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
It may be a high, large 4x4 SUV, but the Caynenne is extremely agile despite its big dimensions. The suspension is comfortable but adeptly controls body roll while driving through the corners, with accurate if weighty steering. The V6 petrol produces 300bhp, but is ponderous when picking up speed at lower revs. The Cayenne Diesel is much better suited to driving around town, and proves to have the same level of performance on the open road, particularly if you go for the Diesel S, with a 4.2-litre V8 engine. The Hybrid isn’t as impressive, while the petrol V8-powered Cayenne S is extremely fast, accelerating from 0-62mph in only 5.9 seconds. Top-of-the-range Turbo models actually offer similar performance to the Porsche 911 sports car, covering 0-60mph in just 4.7 seconds and onto a maximum speed of 173mph. All versions feel more like tall sports cars rather than chunky off-roaders, and will put a smile on your face whatever the occasion.
Price, value for money & options
Surprise, surprise – a Porsche that isn’t cheap. Having said that, of all the premium manufacturers, Porsche genuinely does offer the most value for money. Reflecting that, the Cayenne may cost a lot, but you gets bags of luxury for your money, including accessories like electrically adjustable leather seats. You also get cruise control, parking sensors and dual-zone climate control as standard. Inevitably, the options list is both extensive and expensive with extras such as sat-nav, Porsche's hi-tech active suspension and carbon ceramic brakes increasing the list price considerably.