The Car Connection Porsche Cayenne Overview
The Porsche Cayenne is a five-seat luxury SUV with a strong focus on performance, one which does a shockingly good job of instilling the typical Porsche driving feel into a tall-bodied wagon. It's easily the most versatile Porsche ever, with stunning capability on the track and road, as well as a strong measure of off-road talent.
The Porsche Cayenne lineup includes base, S, GTS, Turbo, Turbo S, and S E-Hybrid models.
With such a varied lineup, the Cayenne is a rival for a broad cross-section of SUVs and crossovers, from the Audi Q7 to the Infiniti QX70, from the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class to the BMW X5, and even to the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
For the 2015 model year, the Cayenne was joined in the Porsche lineup by a smaller crossover, the Macan. The two make up the bulk of the sports-car maker's sales, especially in the U.S., which is one of Porsche's largest markets.
MORE: Read our 2018 Porsche Cayenne review
The new Porsche Cayenne
The second-generation Cayenne arrived for 2011, wearing new sheet metal in a similar shape, although with more obvious influence from the Panamera hatchback sedan. The interior also took cues from that car, borrowing its spine of a center console, which housed buttons to control all of the vehicle's major functions, such as suspension and all-wheel drive. Trim quality and materials were also improved in this generation.
At the start of this generation, Porsche offered three Cayenne models. The base Cayenne came with an improved V-6 making 300 horsepower; the Cayenne S used a 400-hp, 4.8-liter V-8; and the Turbo model slapped two turbochargers on that engine, for a total of 500 hp. Porsche added the first Cayenne Hybrid to the U.S. lineup for 2011; it was fitted with a 333-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 sourced from Audi and backed by an 8-speed automatic fitted with a 47-hp electric motor.
The 2013 Porsche Cayenne added the brand's first diesel engine, in the Cayenne Diesel; it came with all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic as standard equipment to go with its 240-hp, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. A new, 420-hp Cayenne GTS also joined the lineup, slotting between Cayenne S and Turbo models, and an analog timepiece was added to the dash. The top Cayenne Turbo S model, debuting as a 2014 model, was boosted to 550 hp, yielding a 4.3-second 0-60 time and a top speed of 175 mph.
The Cayenne received a significant refresh for the 2015 model year, including some advanced new powertrains. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid shares much of its internals with the Panamera S E-Hybrid: A 10.8-kwh lithium-ion battery pack can be charged via plug-in power or from the 333-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine on the fly. A 95-hp electric motor provides all-electric drive mode and efficiency-boosting hybrid thrust, depending on the circumstances and charge level. Total combined system power for the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is rated at 416 hp. Top speed in all-electric mode is 78 mph, and total electric-only range is 14 miles.
The Cayenne S also received a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 engine as a replacement for its previous 4.8-liter V-8. With 420 hp, the Cayenne S hits 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds.
In 2015, parent-company Volkswagen admitted that Porsche's engine for the Cayenne Diesel model didn't meet mandated emissions levels and issued a stop-sale for those cars. The company has worked out a fix for most of those models and will buy back the others.
Porsche beefed up the lineup in 2016. The base model once again uses a naturally aspirated Porsche 3.6-liter V-6, while the GTS has an uprated version of the new twin-turbo V-6 instead of the naturally aspirated V-8. The GTS continues as a Turbo lookalike, aping the model it sits below more than ever inside and out.
Porsche unveiled an updated version of the Cayenne Turbo S for 2016. The engine makes 570 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, thanks to turbos integrated into the exhaust manifold.
Styling changes were mild for 2016, making it look just a bit more like its Macan sibling. Inside, a new multi-function sport steering wheel became standard across the range, with design and features drawn from the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar. The rear seats were redesigned for improved comfort, and seat ventilation became available as an option.
For 2017, all Cayennes get the latest version of the Porsche Communication Management infotainment system. It features a new 7.0-inch touchscreen, a standard navigation system, and voice activation. The navigation system offers real-time traffic info and integration of Google Earth and Google Streetview. The new PCM absorbs some of the controls previously handled with buttons, and it can now respond to handwritten inputs. Also new this year is a Platinum Edition package for the base and S E-Hybrid models.
Even though Porsche purists initially scoffed at the idea of an SUV wearing the brand's sacred crest, the Cayenne has changed hearts and minds. It's been warmly received and gets most of the credit for keeping the brand afloat during a disastrous flirtation for control of Volkswagen.
The Cayenne was first introduced in 2003, when its arrival raised eyebrows and elicited more than just a few protestations from longtime Porsche-philes. Sharing core components as well as its hybrid uni-body/frame construction with the Volkswagen Touareg, the Cayenne entered the market shaped like many of its rivals, but with a sleek Porsche front end and distinct Porsche wheels, taillights, and exhaust pipes. Initially, the 340-hp, 4.5-liter V-8 Cayenne S and 450-hp turbocharged Turbo S were introduced, but following them in 2005 was a Cayenne V-6, powered by a "specially tuned," 247-hp, 3.2-liter version of the long-running narrow-angle Volkswagen VR6 engine. Those worried about Porsche pedigree cried foul, as the engine had been installed on all sorts of products from the Volkswagen Golf to the Eurovan over the years—and the base Cayenne took about nine seconds to get to 60 mph.
After sitting out the 2007 model year, the 2008 Cayenne received a serious facelift and some significant improvements. The base V-6 model was given a higher-output version of the 3.6-liter VR6, making 290 hp, and the Cayenne could now dash to 60 in around eight seconds (still slower than many V-6 minivans, however). Cayenne S versions received a 4.8-liter V-8 making 385 hp; and the Turbo S got a 500-hp version of the same engine. The V-6 model came with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmissions, while the S and Turbo had only the automatic. But a new GTS model, introduced for 2009, slotted between the S and Turbo, and got a 405-hp version of the V-8 along with a 6-speed manual transmission, larger wheels, and a retuned suspension. The GTS also included a Sport setting that controlled its suspension calibration and exhaust note.
Many Porsche enthusiasts were quite surprised to learn that the Cayenne had actual off-road ability. Versions from these early years could ford up to 19 inches of water and handle most of the moderately difficult trail demands.