- Quick acceleration
- Comfortable, sporty cabin
- Capable handling
- A potent, fun-to-drive Hybrid
- Lots of room for individualization
- Interior isn't so space-efficient
- No third-row seating; smallish second row
- Some may find V-6 underwhelming
Yes, Porsche does make a family car, and this is it; the 2014 Cayenne runs the gamut from sporty errand mule to track-worthy sports SUV, with some interesting green options in between.
The 2014 Porsche Cayenne is no longer an outlier in the Porsche lineup of sports and sporty cars and, increasingly, crossover utility vehicles. With the compact Macan crossover joining it in showrooms, the Cayenne actually provides a large portion of the profits that permit Porsche to persist in designing and selling some of the best-performing and handling sports cars in the world. Lots of Cayennes sold subsidizes excellent sports cars, not that they're not pricey themselves.
While a handful of aging Porsche purists may still begrudge the Cayenne, most will concede that as the brand's top-seller, it has become the benefactor of the lineup—freeing up the budget for a generation of new Boxster and 911 models. It's been hugely successful, too: It's a highly practical family vehicle that also provides much of the personality of lower, leaner two-seat Porsches. The Cayenne line has expanded correspondingly: Last year produced a Cayenne Diesel (the brand's first-ever in the U.S.) and 2014 adds a Cayenne Turbo S, with 50 horsepower more than the mere Cayenne Turbo.
There are now a seemingly dizzying seven different variants in the Cayenne range, including the base model, powered by a 300-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine; the Cayenne Diesel, all-new for 2013, with a 245-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine; the Cayenne S, rated at 400 horsepower from a 4.8-liter V-8; the Cayenne S Hybrid, good for 380 horsepower from its combination of electric motor and a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6; and the Cayenne Turbo, the speed demon of the group, rated at 500 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8. New for 2014 is the 550-hp Turbo S.
For the new Turbo S, the key numbers are 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 176 mph; but even base Cayennes are relatively quick, getting to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds with the Tiptronic S automatic transmission, or 7.1 seconds with the six-speed manual. Base models remain the only ones offered with a six-speed manual gearbox; otherwise you're leaving the shifting to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic (with manual control, of course).
Wrap a rather sleek, modern utility-vehicle silhouette in with the rough approximation of the 911's curves, and you get the Cayenne—which is at odds with the more traditional SUV. There's very little rugged about this design—even though it's deft off-pavement. Inside, the Cayenne is even less typical, with a coupe-like cockpit up front, with curved surfaces, upscale materials, and even an analog clock.
Across the lineup, seating is comfortable and supportive, and the materials and fit and finish are all top-notch. Ride quality can be a bit stiff, however, particularly in the sportier models. The Porsche Adaptive Suspension Mangement (PASM) air-suspension system is a recommended option, as it improves handling while also dialing in better ride quality most of the time.
Each of the five flavors also offers its own set of design and features as part of the package, wrapping its five-passenger interior in slightly different trims, though each offers an almost impossibly multi-faceted list of upgrades and customizations.
The 2014 Cayenne starts at around $50,000, but Turbo models can easily top $150k with options, and the top Turbo S starts at $146,975. Go with the base model, and there's really no sacrifice in features versus a BMW or Mercedes-Benz product in the same price range. Bluetooth, iPod/USB, and more are all standard. Navigation, a panoramic sunroof, and a heated windshield are among many, many options. Sound systems include Bose or audiophile-grade Burmester sound systems, and your budget is really the limit on a wide range of upholstery, trim, paint, and wheel upgrades.