The Car Connection Porsche Cayenne Overview
The Porsche Cayenne is a full-size luxury SUV that set a new direction for the sports car manufacturer. Originally labeled as heresy, the Cayenne's performance and looks changed the way we view Porsche and performance SUVs.
The Porsche Cayenne lineup over time has included base, S, GTS, Turbo, and Turbo S models.
MORE: Read our 2019 Porsche Cayenne review
For the 2019 model year, the lineup now consists of Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo, and Cayenne E-Hybrid versions. In 2020 the Cayenne Coupe joined the lineup, sporting either a turbo V-6 or turbo V-8 engine.
With the Cayenne, Porsche has a rival for a broad cross-section of SUVs and crossovers, from the Audi Q7 to the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class to the BMW X5, and even to the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
The new Porsche Cayenne
Porsche introduced the 2019 Cayenne as a careful evolution of the prior models. It's a formula that works, though it takes a careful spotter to pick out the latest generation.
The new 2019 Cayenne doesn't vary too much from prior versions, though its glassy cabin has better outward vision and its rear fenders a bit more sculpturing. It's the cockpit where big change takes place: Porsche's replaced dozens of buttons and switches with touch panels and voice commands, and it has the effect of calming the cabin and catapulting it forward into a more futuristic realm.
Porsche sells three powertrains with the Cayenne, each teamed with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The base powerplant is a single-turbo 3.0-liter V-6; the Cayenne S sports a twin-turbo version of the same engine. A twin-turbo V-8 tops the lineup. A plug-in hybrid is expected soon. All versions reach 60 mph in less than 6.0 seconds, and top speeds rise above 180 mph.
Most versions of the Cayenne come with adaptive and electronic controls for every major vehicle system: steering, exhaust, suspension, even torque-vectoring across the rear axle. A full air suspension with air dampers can be fitted, as can a rear-wheel-steering system that helps the Cayenne navigate tighter turns at low speeds.
The Cayenne still seats five, but interior space is up, and Porsche's upped the ante with features such as automatic emergency braking and a surround-view camera system. Base models price out from the mid-$60,000s and miss out on little; full-tilt Turbos press near $200,000 and offer panoramic glass roofs, truffle-brown leather with sweet-gum wood, cooled and massaging seats, and bang-on Burmester sound.
The second-generation Porsche Cayenne
The second-generation Cayenne arrived for 2011, wearing new sheet metal in a similar shape, although with more obvious influence from the Panamera hatchback sedan. The interior also took cues from that car, borrowing its spine of a center console, which housed 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.
At the start of this generation, Porsche offered three Cayenne models. The base Cayenne came with an improved V-6 making 300 horsepower; the Cayenne S used a 400-hp, 4.8-liter V-8; and the Turbo model slapped two turbochargers on that engine, for a total of 500 hp. Porsche added the first Cayenne Hybrid to the U.S. lineup for 2011; it was fitted with a 333-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 sourced from Audi and backed by an 8-speed automatic fitted with a 47-hp electric motor.
The 2013 Porsche Cayenne added the brand's first diesel engine, in the Cayenne Diesel; it came with all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic as standard equipment to go with its 240-hp, 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 S model, debuting as a 2014 model, was boosted to 550 hp, yielding a 4.3-second 0-60 time and a top speed of 175 mph.
The Cayenne received a significant refresh for the 2015 model year, including some advanced new powertrains. The 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-hp, 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 range is 14 miles.
The Cayenne S also received a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 engine as a replacement for its previous 4.8-liter V-8. With 420 hp, the Cayenne S hits 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds.
In 2015, parent-company Volkswagen admitted that Porsche's engine for the Cayenne Diesel model didn't meet mandated emissions levels and issued a stop-sale for those cars. The company has worked out a fix for most of those models and will buy back the others.
Porsche beefed up the lineup in 2016. The base model once again uses a naturally aspirated Porsche 3.6-liter V-6, while the GTS has an uprated version of the new twin-turbo V-6 instead of the naturally aspirated V-8. The GTS continues as a Turbo lookalike, aping the model it sits below more than ever inside and out.
Porsche unveiled an updated version of the Cayenne Turbo S for 2016. The engine makes 570 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, thanks to turbos integrated into the exhaust manifold.
Styling changes were mild for 2016, making it look just a bit more like its Macan sibling. Inside, a new multi-function sport steering wheel became standard across the range, with design and features drawn from the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar. The rear seats were redesigned for improved comfort, and seat ventilation became available as an option.
For 2017, all Cayennes got the latest version of the Porsche Communication Management infotainment system. It featured a new 7.0-inch touchscreen, a standard navigation system, and voice activation. The navigation system offered real-time traffic info and integration of Google Earth and Google Streetview. The new PCM absorbed some of the controls previously handled with buttons, and had the ability to respond to handwritten inputs.
Even though Porsche purists initially scoffed at the idea of an SUV wearing the brand's sacred crest, 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 Porsche-philes. Sharing core components as well as its hybrid uni-body/frame construction with the Volkswagen Touareg, the Cayenne entered the market shaped like many of its rivals, but with a sleek Porsche front end and distinct Porsche wheels, taillights, and exhaust pipes. Initially, the 340-hp, 4.5-liter V-8 Cayenne S and 450-hp turbocharged Turbo S were introduced, but following them in 2005 was a Cayenne V-6, powered by a "specially tuned," 247-hp, 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 base Cayenne took about nine seconds to get to 60 mph.
After sitting out the 2007 model year, the 2008 Cayenne received 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 hp, and the Cayenne could now dash to 60 in around eight seconds (still slower than many V-6 minivans, however). Cayenne S versions received a 4.8-liter V-8 making 385 hp; and the Turbo S got a 500-hp version of the same engine. The V-6 model came with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmissions, while the S and Turbo had only the automatic. But a new GTS model, introduced for 2009, slotted between the S and Turbo, and got a 405-hp version of the V-8 along with a 6-speed manual transmission, larger wheels, and a retuned suspension. The GTS also included a Sport setting that controlled its suspension calibration and exhaust note.
Many Porsche enthusiasts were quite surprised to learn that the Cayenne had 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.