New & Used Porsche Cayenne: In Depth
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The Porsche Cayenne is a luxury SUV with a strong focus on performance. It takes the standard SUV formula and adds in a lot of the driving character of Porsche's sports cars. It's the most versatile Porsche ever, and it actually has some true off-road ability. Today's lineup includes the Cayenne, Cayenne Diesel, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo S, and Cayenne Hybrid models.
With such a broad lineup, the Porsche SUV is a rival for a broad cross-section of SUVs and crossovers, from the likes of the Audi Q7 to the Infiniti QX70, from the Mercedes-Benz M-Class to the BMW X5, or perhaps even to the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
Even though Porsche purists initially scoffed at the idea of an SUV wearing the famed badge, 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 Porschephiles. Sharing core componentry, along with its hybrid unit-body/frame construction with the Volkswagen Touareg, the Cayenne entered the market essentially shaped like many of its rivals but with a sleek Porsche front end and distinctly Porsche wheels, taillights, and exhaust pipes. Initially, 340-horsepower, 4.5-liter V-8 Cayenne S and 450-hp turbocharged Turbo S were introduced, but following them in 2005 was a Cayenne V6 version, powered by a 'specially tuned,' 247-horsepower, 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 Cayenne took about nine seconds to get to 60 mph.
For 2008, after sitting out for the 2007 model year, the Cayenne got 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 horsepower, and the Cayenne could now dash to 60 in around eight seconds (still slower than many V-6 minivans, however). Cayenne S versions have a 4.8-liter V-8 making 385 hp; and the Turbo S has a 500-hp version of the same engine. The V6 model comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed Tiptronic automatic, while the S and Turbo come only with the automatic. But a new GTS model, introduced for 2009, slots between the S and Turbo, and gets a 405-horsepower version of the V-8 along with a six-speed manual transmission, larger wheels, and a retuned suspension. The GTS also includes a Sport setting that controls its exhaust note as well as suspension calibration.
Many Porsche enthusiasts have been quite surprised to learn that the Cayenne has 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.
The second-generation Cayenne arrived for 2011, wearing new sheetmetal in a similar shape, although with more obvious influence from the Panamera hatchback sedan. The interior also takes cues from that car, borrowing its spine of a center console, which houses 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.
The Cayenne lineup evolved over this generation to include a base Cayenne, with a 300-hp version of the VR6; a Cayenne S, featuring a 400-hp, 4.8-liter V-8; and the Cayenne Turbo, with a 500-hp, 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. A Cayenne Hybrid model also joined the lineup in 2011, pairing a 333-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6--through a clutch pack--with a 47-hp electric motor system and through an eight-speed automatic transmission.The 2013 Porsche Cayenne added the brand's first diesel engine, in the Cayenne Diesel; it came with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic as standard equipment to go with its 240-horsepower, 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 Smodel, debuting as a 2014 model, was boosted to 550 hp, a 4.3-second 0-60 time, and a top speed of 175 mph.
The Cayenne gets a significant refresh for the 2015 model year, including some advanced new powertrains. The new 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-horsepower, 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 driving of 18 to 30 miles is possible.
The Cayenne S also gets a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 engine as a replacement for its previous 4.8-liter V-8. With 420 horsepower, the Cayenne S now will hit 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds.
Styling changes are mild for the Cayenne, making it look just a bit more like its Macan sibling. Inside, a new multifunction sport steering wheel is standard across the range, with design and features drawn from the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar. The rear seats have been redesigned for improved comfort, and seat ventilation is now available as an option.
Sales of the 2015 Cayenne start this fall, with a base price of $61,700 for the Cayenne Diesel; $74,100 for the Cayenne S; $76,400 for the Cayenne S E Hybrid; and $113,600 for the Cayenne Turbo (all prices excluding $995 destination fee).