- Turbo model has lusty acceleration and high-speed stability
- Handles better than any other 5,000-pound SUV
- Firm, supportive front seats
- Surprisingly inefficient interior design
- V-6 model is still just adequate off the line
- Fuel economy for V-8 models
The Cayenne isn’t as well-rounded of a package as some of its rivals, but the Porsche name has a lot of draw on its own.
The Cayenne is Porsche's only SUV model, and it's now Porsche's best-selling vehicle in the North American market. For 2008, the base Cayenne model gets a revamped direct-injection version of its V-6 that makes 290 horsepower--43 hp more than last year's engine.
The six-cylinder 2008 Porsche Cayenne is still by no means fast. It can reach 60 mph in around 8 seconds with the automatic, which still places it behind many minivans; but it has much-improved passing ability, whether with the standard six-speed manual transmission or the more popular choice, a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic steering-wheel shifting.
Both V-8s also get power improvements for 2008; a 4.8-liter V-8 in the middle 2008 Porsche Cayenne S model makes 385 horsepower, and the Turbo S model's twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8 makes 500 horsepower and an equally impressive 516 pound-feet of torque. The top Turbo S can accelerate to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds.
With either of the V-8 engines, the 2008 Porsche Cayenne feels much friskier and can take advantage of an exceedingly well-tuned chassis. The Cayenne has very crisp steering response, even if it's a bit artificial-feeling, and it takes long sweeping corners with incredible poise and solidity. Only when you take a particularly tight, sharp corner do you remember that it's a vehicle with a curb weight approaching 5,000 pounds.
Despite the impressive handling ability, the ride in the 2008 Porsche Cayenne is quite absorbent, albeit firm. Front seating is spacious, with sturdy, well-proportioned seats that have especially good back support and promote a nice, upright driving position. The instrument panel is styled much like those in Porsche's sportscars, which is to say that drab, dark plastics dominate. Many will appreciate its simplicity, though; it completely avoids both the clutter of other luxury SUVs and confusing solutions like iDrive. The Cayenne is only adequate in backseat space, there's no third-row seat, and cargo space in back is disappointing, due to the high lift to load items and the downward sloping roofline.
For 2008, the Cayenne gets a slightly different look, with new front and rear styling, including more contoured taillamps, with LED versions to distinguish the turbo. All 2008 Porsche models retain the recognizable smooth Porsche snout and lower air dam in front and prominent dual exhausts in back.
The Cayenne's suspension is tuned for the road, but it does offer off-road capability. That's especially brought out in an optional system in the 2008 Porsche Cayenne called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDDC), which uses hydraulic pressure to quickly firm up the stabilizer bars when needed, but it essentially detaches them when not needed for better ride comfort or off-roading. It can ford up to 19 inches of water and has adequate ground clearance for most trail driving. The full-time all-wheel-drive system sends 62 percent of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving but can send up to 100 percent to either the front or back wheels when needed.
Another option in the 2008 Porsche Cayenne is the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which quickly adjusts suspension firmness specific needs, and includes settings ranging from Comfort to Sport.
There are plenty of luxury features and appointments available, though the bottom-line price really adds up. Examples that spice up the interior of the 2008 Porsche Cayenne are upgraded interior trim ($3,170), wood trim ($1,385), heated seats and steering wheel ($560), a DVD-based navigation system ($3,070) with "breadcrumb" mode to prevent you from getting lost off-road, and a 350-watt Bose surround sound system with 14 speakers ($1,665). There's also an available Panorama Roof, which brings four glass panels (three of which slide open) that extend over the front- and backseats.
The 2008 Porsche Cayenne has not been crash-tested, but it comes with plenty of safety measures, including front-seat side airbags, and side curtain airbags that cover front and rear outward occupants. New Dynamic Curve Lights, which help illuminate into corners, are standard on the Turbo and optional on other models.