In-depth reviews

Porsche Cayenne SUV review

"The Porsche Cayenne offers the brand's expected driving appeal, packaged as a practical, comfortable SUV"

Carbuyer Rating

3.9 out of 5

Pros

  • Scorching performance
  • Remarkable handling
  • Everyday practicality

Cons

  • Predictable looks
  • High running costs
  • No seven-seat option

While long-time sports-car maker Porsche's decision to launch an SUV was initially controversial, there's no doubt that the Cayenne has been an enormous success. Now in its third generation, the original high-performance SUV has inspired countless premium carmakers to introduce their own luxury off-roaders, including the Bentley Bentayga, Maserati Levante and Aston Martin DBX. Reviewed separately, the Cayenne Coupe joined the line-up in 2019 as an additional variant, as Porsche expanded into the popular Coupe SUV segment.

The Bentley Bentayga actually shares its mechanical platform with the Cayenne, as does the Audi Q8 and third-generation Volkswagen Touareg. The Cayenne range is by far the broadest of these – although some models align with its Mercedes GLE, BMW X5 and Audi Q8 rivals, the range-topping Turbo S E-Hybrid is more expensive than its Mercedes-AMG GLE 63, Audi SQ8, SQ7 and BMW X5 M competition.

The Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid has a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, which is smaller yet more powerful than the 4.8-litre engine of its predecessor, along with a 134bhp electric motor for a total output of 671bhp. None of this flagship's understudies could be described as slow, though – the entry-level Cayenne has a still-considerable 335bhp at its disposal and the twin-turbocharged Cayenne S has 434bhp.

The latter seems uncomfortably overshadowed by the faster, less expensive Cayenne e-Hybrid plug-in hybrid, which also boasts a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating for company-car users. Unlike previous Cayennes, there's no diesel engine offered in the latest model.

The latest car is easily recognised as a Cayenne and has overtones of the smaller Porsche Macan, a car that looks far more lithe and dynamic than previous Cayennes ever did. While Porsche hasn't taken any big risks with the latest model's looks, it's undeniably handsome and fits in well with other models in the range – not looking uncomfortable in the presence of a Porsche 718 Cayman or Porsche 911 sports car.

The same is true inside, where the look and feel is very much like the Porsche Panamera hatchback or its shooting-brake-styled Panamera Sport Turismo sister. There's plenty of interior space, too, and the boot is at least as generous as rivals'. However, it's on the road that Porsche has taken the most effort to ensure it fits with expectations of the brand.

A drive in the Porsche Cayenne is enough to show just how much potential the muscular SUV has on a challenging road – or even off it, if the need arises. Sophisticated chassis technology gives this heavy car an agility that belies its size, making it genuinely fun to drive. There's even more to be unlocked with options like adaptive anti-roll bars and carbon ceramic brakes – as ever, the sky's the limit when it comes to the extras list.

It comes as no surprise that this third generation of Porsche Cayenne is the best yet, but it comes as quite a shock that it should be quite so responsive and involving to drive. Taking the SUV route when choosing a fast, practical family car used to involve compromised driver appeal – even the previous Porsche Cayenne struggled to feel truly agile and fleet-footed. The latest model, though, feels truly worthy of the Porsche crest on its nose.

Porsche models aren't always crash-tested, but the Cayenne's popularity means Euro NCAP has tested its flagship SUV, and given it the top five stars, reassuring customers.

Porsche describes the Cayenne as its 'sports car for five'. A bold claim, but one that rings true. It's expensive and the usual Porsche running cost caveats apply, but few practical family SUVs are quite so rewarding to drive.

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