The array of 2014 Porsche Cayenne models—each offering a somewhat different level of performance—can be positively bewildering. But keep in mind that all of them—even the base model and the Diesel—are strong and satisfying. Although it's worth running through all the levels before deciding which one is the best fit.
The base Cayenne V-6 has more power and less weight compared to the last-generation Cayenne, and its 300-horsepower 3.6-liter (VR6) V-6 engine is sharp enough to execute quick passes—and relatively fuel-efficient—but do keep in mind that at 7.1 seconds to 60 mph it's not all that much quicker than any number of V-6 crossovers or minivans.
Above the base model is the Cayenne S, which performs considerably better and packs a 400-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine. Zero-to-60 mph times are shortened to 5.6 seconds, top speed is 160 mph, and the brawnier powertrain is a more appropriate fit for the look and feel of this performance SUV.
The Cayenne Diesel slots just above the base model. While the diesel is rated at just 245 horsepower, from its 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine, it's the substantial 406 pound-feet of torque--37 lb-ft more than the Cayenne S and 111 lb-ft more than the base Cayenne--that really matters. The Diesel can get to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds--faster than the automatic version of the Cayenne V-6, with a top speed of 135 mph. And like the rest of the Cayenne lineup, it carries a 7,716-pound tow rating.
The Cayenne Turbo remains oriented toward those who want the most performance, and performance that's more on par with Porsche's sports cars; it gets a 4.4-second 0-60 time from a 500-horsepower turbocharged 4.8-liter engine and a top speed of 172 mph.
Yet another model new for this year is the Turbo S. It gains 50 horsepower over the Turbo's 500 hp, plus an extra 37 pound-feet of torque (554 pound-feet in all)--plus a Dynamic Chassis Control system and Torque Vectoring Plus, to help get all that power to the pavement.
Additionally, Turbo S gets the regular Cayenne Turbo’s impressive Porsche Active Suspension Management dampening control and air suspension, but it adds Dynamic Chassis Control which further helps to reduce roll while cornering via hydraulically-operated roll bars. There’s also Porsche’s Torque Vectoring Plus system, which can vary torque between the rear wheels. 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.
Meanwhile, a new Cayenne GTS model slots in between the Cayenne S and the Turbo; it gets 20 horsepower more than the Cayenne S, as well as a lowered (20 mm) suspension, lower final-drive ratio, and other appearance upgrades. Performance for the GTS slots in between, as you might guess, at 5.4 seconds and 162 mph.
Rounding out the lineup, and appealing to those who want to be a little greener but not give up the engaging driving experience, is the Cayenne S Hybrid. With its hybrid system, combining an electric motor system and a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine, it makes 380 horsepower, with a top speed of 150 mph.
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 and Cayenne Turbo versions.
You might also be wondering about off-road ability, which remains the cornerstone of utility vehicles. The 2014 Cayenne hasn't completely abandoned it, but there's no dual-range transfer case. Making up for that is an electronic Porsche Traction Management system, which offers three 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.
A six-speed manual is only offered on the base Cayenne, while Cayenne S, Turbo, and Hybrid models all get the eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic. All Cayennes have all-wheel drive, but Hybrid and Diesel models come 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 put to use.