2009 Porsche Cayenne Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 28, 2009

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne isn’t as practical as other SUVs its size, but it handles like a Porsche.

TheCarConnection.com has searched the Web to bring you the most useful highlights from road tests and reviews of the 2009 Porsche Cayenne. Editors have also driven all three variants of the Cayenne and include their driving impressions and observations here so that you can make the best possible buying decision.

The Porsche Cayenne is the brand's best-selling vehicle in North America. It's also Porsche's only SUV.

The exterior of the Porsche Cayenne was slightly updated in 2008, with new front and rear styling, including more contoured taillamps; LED versions distinguish the turbo. The 2009 Porsche Cayenne retains the recognizable smooth Porsche snout and lower air dam in front and prominent dual exhausts in back.

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The 2009 Porsche Cayenne is by no means fast with its standard six-cylinder engine. It can reach 60 mph in around 8 seconds with the automatic, which places it behind some vans. Most of that is due to lackluster response off the line; passing power is quite good, whether with the standard six-speed manual transmission or the more popular choice, a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic steering-wheel shifting.

Both available V-8s were improved for 2008 and remain the same for 2009; a 4.8-liter V-8 in the middle 2009 Porsche Cayenne S model makes 385 horsepower, and the Turbo S model's twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8 produces 500 hp and an equally impressive 516 pound-feet of torque. The top Turbo S can accelerate to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds.

The Cayenne has very crisp steering response, even if it feels a bit artificial, and it takes long, sweeping corners with incredible poise and solidity. Only when you navigate a particularly tight, sharp corner do you remember that it's a vehicle with a curb weight approaching 5,000 pounds. With either V-8 engine, the 2009 Porsche Cayenne feels much friskier and can take advantage of an exceedingly well-tuned chassis.

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. Despite the impressive handling ability, the ride in the 2009 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 Cayenne offers tough off-road capability despite being tuned for good roadholding. 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 transmit up to 100 percent to either the front or back wheels when needed. An optional system in the 2009 Porsche Cayenne, called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDDC), especially brings out off-road capabilities, using 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. Another option in the 2009 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. For example, there's an available Panorama Roof, which brings four glass panels (three of which slide open) that extend over the front- and backseats. Examples that spice up the interior of the 2009 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).

New Dynamic Curve Lights, which help illuminate into corners, are standard on the Turbo and optional on other models. The 2009 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.

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2009 Porsche Cayenne

Styling

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne looks good on the outside, but the interior leaves something to be desired.

The Porsche Cayenne received an exterior refresh last year. Editors at TheCarConnection.com report that for 2009, the Cayenne retains the features most buyers want to see.

Kelley Blue Book reviewers note that the 2008 redesign served a "functional sense" as well as a styling one, since the new features bring "an aerodynamic benefit" as "the coefficient of drag has been lowered substantially offering potential fuel economy benefits." The 2009 Porsche Cayenne includes headlights that "are flatter, and the leading edge in front of the hood is more defined than before," according to Cars.com. The Detroit News says, "the subtle changes create a more sophisticated look," thanks to the fact that "the turn signal indicators have been removed from the headlight assembly and lowered onto the grille."

The interior of the 2009 Porsche Cayenne isn't received quite as well as the exterior. Edmunds reviewers say that the Porsche Cayenne's "interior is all Porsche," which, unfortunately, "means that the climate and audio controls are comprised of many small, look-alike buttons that take some getting used to." Motor Trend simply deems the interior of the 2009 Porsche Cayenne "somber," though such strong negative sentiment is rare. For the Porsche Cayenne, ForbesAutos notes that "the Cayenne's interior is identical to the outgoing model's, which is somewhat of a disappointment" because "there are some minor annoyances that could significantly improve" the cabin. On the positive side, ForbesAutos is pleased to find that "Porsche stayed away from any form of multifunction knob-controlled system as seen on virtually every new luxury vehicle from foreign manufacturers," such as BMW's iDrive. Also winning praise are the "large, simple toggles for climate, suspension, [and] transfer-case settings," which ConsumerGuide appreciates.

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2009 Porsche Cayenne

Performance

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne is a powerful vehicle that handles incredibly well. The manual transmission, however, is a dud.

It’s clear that performance was one of the priorities in the engineering of the 2009 Porsche Cayenne—which is something editors at TheCarConnection.com definitely appreciate. However, if you get the V-6, you might not want to challenge anyone at stoplights.

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne lineup offers four engines: one V-6 and three V-8s. Edmunds states that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo "has a twin-turbocharged version of the V8 that makes a mighty 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque." Edmunds also notes that the base Porsche 2009 Cayenne features "a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 290 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque," while "the Cayenne S packs a 4.8-liter V8 with 385 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque," and the Cayenne GTS has the same engine, but it "produces 405 hp." Car and Driver is pleasantly surprised to find that, on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, "the 0-to-60-mph run takes 4.8 seconds." Even on the base Cayenne, The Detroit News determines it "can hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds starting from a stop," which is impressive for a vehicle that weighs more than 5,000 pounds.

Although many reviewers approve of the engines on the Porsche 2009 Cayenne, the manual transmission is another story. Car and Driver adds "it's a lifeless stick that feels even more out of place because the parking brake isn't on the center console." Motor Trend is particularly scathing in their review, grousing "the six-speed is notchy and rubbery, with long throws and an indeterminate gate, characteristics far from helpful in ensuring smooth progress." Fortunately, Edmunds points out that only the base Porsche Cayenne and the 2009 Porsche Cayenne GTS are available with the manual, while the Porsche Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo "have a six-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission," which is optional on the base and GTS. Edmunds adds that the Porsche Cayenne in every trim is "all-wheel drive."

Fuel economy on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne is dismal, as one would expect from a heavy, high-performance SUV. The official EPA estimates for the 2009 Porsche Cayenne are that it will return 14 mpg city and 20 highway with the base V-6, while the GTS offers 13/18 mpg with the automatic transmission and 11/17 mpg with the manual. The Porsche Cayenne S gets an EPA-estimated 13 mpg city and 19 highway, while the Turbo offers 12/19 mpg. Cars.com notes "gas mileage is projected to be 8 to 15 percent better than before" for this year's model, but even that's not saying much.

One area where many reviewers praise the Porsche Cayenne is for its overall handling. Car and Driver reviewers remark that "the adjustable air suspension is very flexible, offering both a terrific, supple, well-controlled ride in the comfort setting and a fair amount of precision in the sport setting." Reviewers unanimously recommend the "optional active Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control," which Kelley Blue Book says "offers advantages in counteracting body roll." The Detroit News attests that when the PDDC system is on, "the body roll typically found in heavy, tall vehicles is gone." In terms of steering feel, Motor Trend contends it is "less corrupted than in other all-wheel-drive SUVs." Edmunds adds that the "brakes are strong and linear." Kelley Blue Book is even impressed by the Porsche Cayenne's off-road capabilities, and they claim that the "Cayenne is a superior off-highway performer, making quick work of imposing grades."

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2009 Porsche Cayenne

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne has some definite good points, but less plastic and more cargo room certainly wouldn't hurt.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com have mixed reactions to comfort and quality in the 2009 Porsche Cayenne. Materials are quite good, but there's something missing in its overall utility.

Up front, ConsumerGuide finds that the Porsche Cayenne features "ample head room," along with "generous seat travel" and "excellent lateral support, though seat bottoms may pinch some physiques." The 2009 Porsche Cayenne features a "five-seat interior," according to Cars.com, while ConsumerGuide mentions that there is "good leg" and "toe space" for rear passengers. However, ConsumerGuide points out that the rear seats are "too firm for some testers," and "passengers need to twist ankles to clear door frames on exit." Edmunds is more critical, grumbling "rear-seat comfort is mediocre."

ConsumerGuide mentions that the Porsche 2009 Cayenne has "adequate cabin storage." Cargo room, however, is tight overall. This rear cargo space is "good," according to ConsumerGuide, but "not expansive for an SUV." Edmunds has harsh words for the 2009 Porsche Cayenne, claiming "cargo capacity, at 62.5 cubic feet, is on the small side for a midsize luxury SUV." That 62.5-cubic-feet figure is the maximum overall cargo capacity with the rear seats folded, but Kelley Blue Book says that "with rear seats up, the Cayenne accommodates a substantial 19 cubic feet of cargo."

Motor Trend laments the "cramped, somber, and plasticky interior" of the 2009 Porsche Cayenne. However, Kelley Blue Book gives the 2009 Porsche Cayenne high marks for having leather that "decorates the steering wheel rim, door handles, grab handles and other areas where many luxury models use simulated coverings." ConsumerGuide says that the cabin materials are "classy, but not opulent for this price level," and though Edmunds crows "materials quality is superb," other reviewers disagreed. Aside from the materials, construction and build quality is superb, and Edmunds proclaims that "fit and finish, especially with the optional wood or metallic accent packages, is excellent."

Also earning high praise on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne is the SUV's noise reduction capability. Detroit News reports that the Porsche Cayenne is capable of exceeding 160 mph, and "even at those speeds, the cabin is quiet enough to hear the gasps from the back seat." In their tests, ConsumerGuide finds that the Porsche Cayenne exhibits "little wind rush below 70 mph" and emits an "appropriate exhaust growl."

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2009 Porsche Cayenne

Safety

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne hasn't been crash tested, but it offers every safety feature one might expect.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com like the safety features on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne—but the vehicle hasn't been crash-tested.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested the Porsche Cayenne, most likely due to the prohibitive costs associated with wrecking an SUV that can cost more than $100,000.

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne comes standard with a wide array of safety features. Kelley Blue Book notes that "Porsche Stability Management (PSM)" is standard; it "guards against rollover and increases the effectiveness of the brakes on loose and slippery surfaces." Edmunds reviewers report "antilock disc brakes are standard" on all Porsche 2009 Cayenne models, "as are front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags." To that list, Cars.com adds "an electronic stability system" comes standard on each and every Porsche Cayenne. The only difference in standard safety features among the trim levels is that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo gets a "front- and rear-obstacle-detection system," according to ConsumerGuide.

As mentioned earlier, an obstacle detection system is standard on the Turbo and available on the other trims to aid overall visibility and driver awareness, and ConsumerGuide mentions it can include a "rearview camera," though this feature "requires [the] navigation system." From the driver's seat of the Porsche 2009 Cayenne, ForbesAutos reviewers are pleased to find "a high seating position with a commanding view of the road."

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2009 Porsche Cayenne

Features

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne offers a great list of features—but some options can be very pricey.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com find that the 2009 Porsche Cayenne includes all the expected luxury features. Add-ons can get pricey, though.

ConsumerGuide explains that the Porsche Cayenne GTS includes a "power tilt/telescopic steering wheel" as a standard feature, while the Porsche 2009 Cayenne Turbo also picks up a "navigation system, heated steering wheel, leather upholster, heated front and rear seats," and a "Bose sound system." USB and iPod capability are new for 2009, and the year also brings upgrades to both the nav system and the Bluetooth interface. Edmunds finds that all Porsche 2009 Cayennes include "automatic climate control, a 12-speaker CD audio system, foglamps, full power accessories," as well as "leather seating, a trip computer and a power liftgate." XM Satellite Radio also debuts on the Cayenne for 2009.

ForbesAutos raises a few complaints, most notably that "the steering-wheel stereo controls still 'seek' up and down through radio stations rather than scrolling through presets," and "the heated steering wheel is connected directly to the heated seat control," which "doesn't let you crank the heat on the wheel when only your fingers are cold while keeping the seat temperature less toasty." They acknowledge "these sound like minor quibbles, but on a vehicle this expensive, everything should be thoroughly thought out."

ConsumerGuide says a "DVD entertainment system" and "extended navigation system," which "includes off-road navigation and reverse-route guide," are available on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne. Also making the options list on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne are "full leather upholstery," "satellite radio," and a "6-disc CD changer," according to ConsumerGuide. For those buying a non-Turbo Porsche Cayenne, Edmunds notes that "many of the Turbo's features are available as options on the lesser trims," while "other options highlights include various wheels" and "a large four-section panoramic moonroof." A new option for 2009 is a brake upgrade to Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes.

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