2016 Porsche Cayenne Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 21, 2016

The 2016 Porsche Cayenne offers more than enough on-the-road (or on-the-track) performance to satisfy enthusiast cravings, and it's likely to surprise and delight with its versatility and ruggedness.

The 2016 Cayenne brings the attitude, and many of the visual cues, of Porsche's sports cars to a very family-friendly, sport-utility format.

Before you go and pronounce the Cayenne the outlier of the German automaker's lineup, it's worth taking stock: With the introduction of the smaller Macan last year—a vehicle that largely draws its inspiration from the Cayenne—Porsche now builds more sport-utility vehicles than it does sports cars. While a handful of aging Porsche purists may still begrudge the existence of crossovers in the lineup, most will concede that as the brand's top-seller, the Cayenne has become the benefactor of the lineup—creating a budget for things like the new Cayman GT4 and myriad 911 variants and upgrades.

Last year the Cayenne was given a significant refresh, with its styling nipped and tucked to match the latest sports cars in the range. Performance was also better all around, as its powertrains were tweaked or completely upgraded.

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It's a sleek, modern utility-vehicle at the core, but its silhouette manages to crib in just a few of the 911's curves. There's very little rugged about this design—even though it's still 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. Last year, the Cayenne adopted the brand's quad-element headlights and also received revised front and rear fascia designs.

Put aside any preconceptions of what the brand should or shouldn't be, and you'll find the Cayenne to stand perfectly well on its own, as a highly practical family vehicle that also provides much of the driving personality of lower, leaner two-seat Porsche models. And over more than a decade, the Cayenne lineup has expanded to include a diesel (possibly gone all this model year), a plug-in hybrid, and various gasoline models—mostly turbocharged.

With an extensive mid-cycle revision to the current generation of the Cayenne, last year, Porsche pared back its offerings to just a few: The Cayenne S is rated at 420 horsepower from a new twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid, which now sports plug-in capability, is good for 416 hp from its combination of an electric motor and a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. And the Cayenne Turbo, the current speed demon of the group, makes 520 hp from its twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8.

The Cayenne GTS sits between the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo, but raises the output from the twin-turbo V-6 to 440 hp and 445 lb-ft. Porsche says this model can rocket from 62 mph from rest in just 5.2 seconds, or just 5.1 seconds when equipped with the available Sport Chrono package; and top speed is 162 mph. For the Turbo, the key stats are a 4.1-second 0-60-mph time with launch control equipped and engaged, and a top speed of 173 mph. This refresh, by the way, has spelled the end of the manual transmission, which used to be offered on the V-6 Cayenne.

You can still get a base Cayenne, however, with a 300-hp V-6 engine capable of getting this SUV to 60 mph in well under eight seconds. Is it a Porsche? You decide.

In addition to its potent engine, the Cayenne GTS also benefits from a sports exhaust system, performance-tuned air suspension and dampers (the ride height is 20 millimeters lower than in regular Cayenne models), brakes borrowed from the Cayenne Turbo, and a front bumper with enlarged intakes also borrowed from the Cayenne Turbo.

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 Management air-suspension system is a recommended option, as it improves handling while also allowing the driver to dial in better ride quality most of the time.

Each of the current flavors of the Cayenne (all spicy, right?) offer 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 customization.

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. With options, the Cayenne can easily top $150,000.

In base V-6 configuration, the Cayenne manages 19 mpg city, 24 highway, 21 combined. With the Cayenne S and its new twin-turbo V-6 engine, the ratings are up to 17/24/20 mpg from 16/22 with the previous 4.8-liter V-8.

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2016 Porsche Cayenne

Styling

The Cayenne is a familiar SUV form by now—making its own svelte statement but blending in a few sports-car cues here and there.

The Cayenne may have been a rolling contradiction a decade ago, but it fits right into today's market remarkably well—and stands with Porsche's stunning sports-car designs as a solid design inspiration.

Today the 2016 Cayenne stands as a sleek, modern utility-vehicle at the core, but its silhouette manages to crib in just a few of the 911's curves. There's very little rugged about this design—even though it's still deft off-pavement.

Because of its size and necessary shape, it's also a far cry from the design of Porsche's legendary sports cars, like the iconic 911, but it does have just enough of those models' style and panache. You'll notice that the hood is a bit longer than on some other crossover models. In recent years, there has been more of a styling synergy between Porsche's SUVs and sports cars, if only in the grille and front fascia.

Visuals help set apart the different Cayenne models—some subtle, others not so much. The Turbo model is trimmed in the most aggressive fascias and details, while the S E-Hybrid has the neon-green trim that is now standard for Porsche's electrified fleet, coating the brake calipers and badging in the hard-to-miss hue.

Last year the Cayenne adopted the quad-element headlight design seen on Boxsters, Caymans, 911s, and, well, everything else Porsche makes these days, on up to the 918 Spyder. And in back, there's only a gentle hat-tip to Porsche's sports cars, with subtle hatch spoilers and an upright-yet-aerodynamic look that flows all the way to the back. 

Inside, the Cayenne is even less typical, with a coupe-like cockpit up front, with curved surfaces, upscale materials, and even an analog clock.

The cabin is characterized by a sweeping instrument-panel arrangement, with plenty of curved surfaces, sculpted vertical vents, a sloped center console, and upscale materials—borrowing here and there from the stunning, swoopy four-door Panamera. Matte-metallic brightwork cheers it up from the drab appointments of Cayenne models past, while there's generally a coupe-like feel from the driver's seat.

A spine of buttons runs along the center console to adjust whatever is adjustable on that particular model, as Porsche likes to provide tactile widgets instead of burying settings three menus deep in a touchscreen.

When it comes down to it, wheels and badging are one of the main differences between trims; the extensive options list allows buyers to make even the most basic model look just how they like.

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2016 Porsche Cayenne

Performance

The Cayenne Turbo S makes a strong argument for fitting right into the Porsche lineup.

With last year's refresh to the Cayenne lineup, nearly every powertrain has been upgraded. No matter which powertrain you choose, all are strong and satisfying—well, maybe all but the base version, which has returned. Yet it's worth running through all the options before deciding which one is the best fit. 

The Cayenne Diesel is potentially sitting it out for the rest of 2016; yet there's still the base model, with its 300-horsepower V-6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. It earned EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 24 highway, 20 combined and is the only one in the lineup that may not live up to the performance expectations of the enthusiasts who buy Porsche sports cars. 

For those people, it starts with the Cayenne S, which now has a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6, last year replacing the normally aspirated V-8. The new engine puts out 420 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds, or 5.2 without launch control.

The Cayenne S E-Hybrid, which now sports plug-in capability, is good for 416 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque from its combination of an electric motor and a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. The 60-mph mark comes up in 5.4 seconds, and the E-Hybrid is able to run electric-only at speeds up to 78 mph. The previous Cayenne S Hybrid was not a plug-in.

And the Cayenne Turbo, the current speed demon of the group, makes 520 hp from its twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8. It rockets to 60 mph, taking just 4.1 seconds to hit that speed when launch control is employed.

Beyond that, there's the Turbo S, which ups the output to 570 hp and 590 lb-ft, with pretty much all the dynamic aids and chassis systems that are available on the other models included as standard.

Among those are a brake-based Torque Vectoring Plus system that helps get all that power to the pavement. This works in conjunction with an electronically controlled differential lock offered with the Porsche’s Sport Chrono package, which comes standard on the latest addition to the automaker's lineup. The impressive Porsche Active Suspension Management damping control and air suspension smooth out the ride and can firm up when things get fun, while Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) further helps to reduce roll while cornering via hydraulically operated roll bars.

In any of the 2016 Cayenne models, compared to virtually any other tall utility, handling is exemplary. Plus, you get excellent steering feel (relative to other SUVs), surprisingly little body roll, and immense cornering traction—especially from the huge wheels and tires that you get in the Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo, and Turbo S versions.

Ride quality is excellent when you opt for the air-suspension system and PDCC. With them, the suspension can adapt to driving conditions or driving style, and you can dial in Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes, which affect the suspension and powertrain responses together.

You might also be wondering about off-road ability, which remains the cornerstone of utility vehicles. The 2016 Cayenne hasn't completely abandoned it, but there's no dual-range transfer case available like in Range Rovers. Making up for that is an electronic Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system, which offers modes for loose sand/snow, wet surfaces and mud, or rocky terrain. In complex ways, PTM helps you out no matter what the situation, so unless you're looking for serious wheel articulation and bouldering capability, the Cayenne probably has plenty of ruggedness for the need.

All current Cayenne models use an 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic. In the past, the base V-6 model could be had with a 6-speed manual, but that has been scrubbed. All Cayennes have all-wheel drive; the S E-Hybrid comes with a permanent all-wheel-drive system while the rest of the model line has an active system that can send more torque to the wheels where it's best used.

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2016 Porsche Cayenne

Comfort & Quality

The plush, leather-lined Cayenne is comfortable and versatile, if a bit cozier than its size and heft suggest.

Porsche remains a sports-car market by reputation, but in reality it's as much, if not more, a luxury brand. And the Cayenne remains one of the brand's better luxury showcases—even though in any of its higher-performance forms it's no slouch.

You'll find supportive, comfortable sport seats up front. Drivers of all sizes should be able to get well-positioned, with decent visibility and a window line that isn't too high. Porsche offers several front-seat upgrades including more adjustability and ventilation.

Rear passengers are able to slide their bench fore and aft, more than 6 inches if you're willing to give up some cargo space; and the rear seatback angle adjusts. The seating surfaces can also be upgraded with leather as well as Alcantara inserts.

If folding down the back seats and hauling larger pieces of cargo are part of your normal routine, you might want to double-check the space available in the Cayenne. The rear seat backs don't fold completely flat, which limits the usefulness of the cargo space. The cabin can feel just a bit smaller than you might expect from the exterior dimensions—in part due to the sloping rear hatch—but as long as you're not trying to fit a third person in back it's generally a happy place.

Hybrids tend to give up some cargo space, typically, but that isn't the case here as Porsche has packaged the battery down below, where the spare tire would otherwise go.

Porsche's button-focused control scheme might seem busy at first, but we wager you'll warm up to it, as it escapes the complexity of screen-based, joystick-controlled systems like BMW's iDrive and Audi's MMI. You can tell if a function is activated with a glance at its physical button, instead of having to dig through menus, which can be time-consuming and distracting.

Throughout the Cayenne's cabin you'll find materials, fit, and finish to all be up to par with what's offered in rival Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, and Lexus models. About the only issue some might find is that the Cayenne sacrifices some cargo space in order to prioritize the passenger space.

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2016 Porsche Cayenne

Safety

There's a raft of advanced safety features here—just no true crash-test ratings.

The 2016 Porsche Cayenne is a stout, well-constructed SUV with a full suite of safety features. Yet it hasn't been crash-tested by either of the U.S. agencies due to its relatively low sales and its high price tag.

That said, there are plenty of assurances—including a solid set of safety features—that this model is fully up to snuff on safety, security, and occupant protection.

Standard items include anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and a full complement of airbags.

Pay a little more and you can get active-safety options such as adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, lane departure warnings, lane-keep assist, and dynamic lighting. Last year, Porsche added an optional surround-view camera system, which uses four cameras, one on each side, to stitch together what looks like an overhead view, for maneuvering in tight spaces. 

Out on the trail, hill-descent control and speed-set control help keep it safe and slow—pretty much the opposite of on the road, where the electronics allow you to go faster, safer.

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2016 Porsche Cayenne

Features

The base Cayenne may come close to making value sense, but the flamboyant Turbo S models optioned up toward the $200,000 mark are true luxury goods through and through.

Standard features on all Cayennes include HD radio, an power tailgate, a new multi-function sport steering wheel with shift paddles that was lifted from the 918 Spyder, stainless steel door sills, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and an audio interface with USB and auxiliary inputs.

Available options, some of which are standard on the top-end Cayenne Turbo, include ParkAssist with front and rear sensors and the surround-view camera, an electric slide/tilt moonroof, a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system, and both Bose and Burmester audio systems. The Burmester in particular is an auditory feast.

Perhaps one of the most coveted options, the Sport Chrono package brings with it launch control programming for the 8-speed automatic transmission; this launch-control function is not available on the E-Hybrid model, as it uses a slightly different version of the transmission. The package adds the Sport Chrono system, an analog and digital timer located at the center of the dash, keeping the driver updated with information such as the total driving time, lap distance covered so far and individual lap times. It can show latitudinal and longitudinal acceleration via the instrument-cluster display.

The optional adaptive cruise control can maintain following distances at speeds between 20 and 100 mph, and it will prime the braking system when needed and even stop completely in traffic. A quick press of the accelerator will reactivate the system. It is now packaged with Porsche Active Safe, which monitors traffic ahead even when active cruise is switched off and will warn the driver and help slow the vehicle in the event of an impending collision.

Beyond that, there is a wealth of customization and appearance options available to make each car unique and send the price as high as you like.

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2016 Porsche Cayenne

Fuel Economy

The plug-in hybrid is the frugal highlight of this lineup, which probably isn't as thirsty as you might guess.

The Porsche Cayenne made some significant improvement in fuel efficiency with the mid-cycle refresh given to the lineup this past year.

When it was on sale, the Cayenne Diesel was the most fuel-efficient model in the range. In November, Porsche admitted that the 3.0-liter diesel engine in the Cayenne Diesel illegally cheated through emissions tests and the automaker pulled that model from sale in the States as part of the larger Volkswagen Group diesel scandal. Porsche hasn't yet announced a fix for those engines.

The next best—and really the better one for city driving—is the S E-Hybrid. It has ratings of 21 mpg city, 24 highway. E-Hybrid models are rated for 14 miles of electric-only driving with a 47 MPGe combined rating, which blends the electric, hybrid, and gas-only capabilities.

In base V-6 configuration, the Cayenne manages 19/24/21 mpg.

With the Cayenne S and its new twin-turbo V-6 engine, the ratings are up to 17/24/20 mpg from 16/22/19 mpg with the previous 4.8-liter V-8. The mid-range GTS manages 16/23/19 mpg.

And last but not least, the Turbo's massive 520 horsepower output is by far the thirstiest at 14/21/17 mpg. The Turbo S, with its 570-hp output, manages the same mileage.

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February 10, 2017
2016 Porsche Cayenne AWD 4-Door Diesel

Great styling, performance and handling as expected in a Porsche!

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You must own one to truely appreciate all aspects of this beautifully crafted machine!
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May 3, 2016
2016 Porsche Cayenne AWD 4-Door GTS

The best SUV in the world!!

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Power, handling,comfort and style are second to none. Handles like a sport car, power of a super car and beautiful to look at- interior and exterior!
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August 9, 2015
2016 Porsche Cayenne AWD 4-Door GTS

It’s a very good car, the bad is in the options

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It’s a very good car, the bad is in the options, when buying a new car you have to remember or go through all options to chose the good and the silly ones, as there are some options that some of the cheapest... + More »
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