- 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
The 2015 Porsche Cayenne is no longer the only blasphemous off-roader in the Porsche family; this year, it gets improved powertrains and massaged looks in a familiar package.
The 2015 Porsche Cayenne brings a full refresh to the original off-roader from Zuffenhausen. The styling has been revised to match the latest sports cars in the range, and most of the powertrains have been tweaked or completely upgraded. The success of the Cayenne has also prompted a smaller version, the Macan crossover, which went on sale in late 2014.
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. Supposed brand sacrilege aside, 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, now offering a variety of models to cover most needs and wants. The lineup now includes a diesel (the brand's first-ever in the U.S.), a plug-in hybrid, and various gas models, currently topping out at the super-powerful Turbo.
In this revision of the second-generation model, Porsche is starting out with four Cayenne variants in the U.S. and will build on that over time. The 2015 range begins with the Cayenne Diesel, which has a 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine. 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 horsepower 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 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8. (The Turbo S takes 2015 off, returning for 2016 with more power and other tweaks. It will be joined by a new Cayenne GTS at that time, as well as a new "base" V-6-powered Cayenne.)
In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)
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. But even base Cayennes are relatively quick, getting to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds with the help of a Tiptronic S eight-speed automatic transmission. This refresh spells the end of the manual transmission, however, which used to be offered on the V-6 Cayenne.
Wrap a rather sleek, modern utility-vehicle silhouette in with the rough approximation of the 911's curves, and you get the Cayenne. The shape may be at odds with the more traditional SUV, but there seem to be fewer and fewer of those on the market, with more sport-oriented SUVs taking their place. 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. For 2015, the Cayenne adopts the brand's quad-element headlights and also receives revised front and rear fascia designs.
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 (PASM) 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 four 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.
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. The 2015 Cayenne starts at around $62,000 for a Diesel, while Turbo models start at around $114,000 and can easily top $150k with options.
2015 Porsche Cayenne
Not everyone wants to see a Porsche badge on this body type--but for what it is, the Cayenne is appealing.
The Cayenne's now-famous shape is a blend of rather sleek, modern utility-vehicle silhouette with the rough approximation of the 911's curves. While the shape is at odds with the more traditional SUV look, it is ever closer to the crossover styling norm with each new model year, perhaps in some part due to the Cayenne's own success. For 2015, the Cayenne gets a makeover that arrives at the mid-way point for the second-generation model.
Though the Cayenne is a capable off-roader, there's very little rugged about this design. 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. The 2015 model adopts the quad-element headlights seen on Boxsters, Caymans, 911s, and, well, everything else Porsche makes these days, on up to the 918 Spyder. 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.
Along with the varying powertrains, visuals help set apart the four different Cayenne models. The Turbo model is trimmed in the most aggressive fascias and details, while the Diesel is more laid-back and the least showy. 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.
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 Panamera four-door's interior. 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 touch screen.
Although some of the standard visual variation between models in the lineup can be quite subtle, with wheels and badging being the main differences, the extensive options list allows buyers to make even the most basic model look just how they like.
2015 Porsche Cayenne
Just drive a Cayenne Turbo S and tell us it's not a Porsche.
The biggest change for the 2015 Porsche Cayenne comes in the engine bay. Almost every powertrain is appreciably upgraded, although there are now fewer powertrain options than before. Favorites like the Turbo S will return soon enough, though. No matter which powertrain you choose, all are strong and satisfying. Still, it's worth running through all the options before deciding which one is the best fit.
In this revision of the second-generation model, Porsche is starting out with four Cayenne variants in the U.S. and will build on that over time. The Turbo S takes 2015 off, returning for 2016 with more power and other tweaks. It will be joined by a new Cayenne GTS at that time, as well as a new "base" V-6-powered Cayenne.
The 2015 range begins with the Cayenne Diesel, which has a 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine. The diesel also has a monster torque number of 406 lb-ft, which helps it hit 60 mph in as little as 7.1 seconds (7.2 without the help of the Sport Chrono pack's launch control). Like all but the Cayenne Turbo, the Diesel carries a 7,716-pound tow rating.
Next is the Cayenne S, which gets a new twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 for 2015, which replaces the outgoing S's 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 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8. It rockets to 60, taking just 4.1 seconds to hit that speed when launch control is employed.
The Cayenne also gets help from various optional (or standard, depending on the model) electric aids. The brake-based Torque Vectoring Plus 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 Dynamic Chassis Control further helps to reduce roll while cornering via hydraulically-operated roll bars.
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.
Ride quality is excellent when you opt for the Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management (PASM) air-suspension system and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (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.
All current Cayenne models use an eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic; in the past the base V-6 model, which is not offered this year, could be had with a six-speed manual. All Cayennes have all-wheel drive; S E-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.
You might also be wondering about off-road ability, which remains the cornerstone of utility vehicles. The 2015 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 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.
2015 Porsche Cayenne
Comfort & Quality
Passengers are coddled inside the leather-lined Cayenne, cozier than its weight implies.
These days, Porsche is as much a luxury brand as it is a maker of sporty cars. The 2015 Cayenne is one of the brand's better luxury showcases, although it still represents the dynamic heritage quite well.
All models feature supportive, comfortable sport seats up front. Drivers of all sizes should be able to get well-positioned, with decent visibility and a beltline 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 six 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.
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.
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 seatbacks don't fold completely flat, limiting the usefulness of the space, and actual cubes aside it's a notch smaller than you might expect from a vehicle this size, in part due to the sloping rear hatch. 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.
2015 Porsche Cayenne
Crash-test data is nonexistent, but the Cayenne comes with a raft of advanced safety features.
Although it is likely a safe vehicle in the event of a collision, the Cayenne hasn't been crash-tested by either of the U.S. agencies due to its relatively low sales numbers and high price tag. Yet there are plenty of assurances built into this Porsche's feature list.
Standard safety items of course 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 like Adaptive Cruise Control with Porsche Active Safe, Lane Change Assistant, Lane Departure Warning, and dynamic lighting. The Turbo model gets all-LED headlights, as well. And new for 2015 is an optional surround-view camera system, which uses a quartet of cameras, one on each side, to stitch together what looks like an overhead view of the vehicle for maneuvering in tight spaces.
Whether on- or off-road, the Cayenne's especially capable handling may also prove a safety asset, helping drivers avoid obstacles and accidents. Out on the trail, hill-descent control and speed-set control help keep things safe.
2015 Porsche Cayenne
Prices soar from the almost sensible base Cayenne, to more than $200,000 for some of the rarest versions.
The 2015 Cayenne starts at around $62,000 for a Diesel, while Turbo model pricing begins at around $114,000 and can easily top $150k with options.
Standard features on all Cayennes include HD radio, an power tailgate, a new multifunction 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.
The optional Adaptive Cruise Control system 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.
Perhaps one of the most coveted options, the Sport Chrono package brings with it launch control programming for the eight-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 also adds the Sport Chrono itself, 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 TFT display in the instrument cluster.
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.
2015 Porsche Cayenne
Most Cayennes aren't thirsty; the diesel and plug-in hybrid are standouts.
With a new (and slightly smaller) range of powertrains, the 2015 Cayenne has made improvements to fuel economy in almost every model.
The Cayenne Diesel is again the most efficient variant, with excellent EPA ratings of 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway.
The S E-Hybrid does slightly better in the city, but not as well on the highway cycle, with 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.
With the Cayenne S and its new twin-turbo V-6 engine, the ratings are up to 17/24 mpg from 16/22 with the previous 4.8-liter V-8.
And last but not least, the Turbo's massive 520 horsepower output is by far the thirstiest at 14/21 mpg. Those numbers are actually down from the previous year's 15/22 mpg ratings, likely due to the power increase.