Though purists scoffed when Porsche first released its Cayenne mid-size SUV, the luxury 'ute soon became one the of the German automaker's best-selling (and most profitable) models. Now in its second-generation, the Cayenne offers the handling, comfort, and family-friendly size that made the original a hit in a lighter package with greater power and fuel efficiency.
Along with the V6-powered base Cayenne, the SUV is also available as the eight-cylinder Cayenne S, the gas-electric Cayenne S Hybrid, and the 500hp Cayenne Turbo. New additions to the model lineup include the efficient-yet-torquey Cayenne Diesel, the sporty Cayenne GTS, and the new range-topper in the Cayenne Turbo S.
The exterior of the latest Cayenne follows in Porsche's philosophy of evolutionary design, though it does feature a much sleeker appearance than the outgoing model thanks to more organic body lines.
With a redesigned interior packed with cues from the Panamera sedan, the Cayenne sports a long, sloping center console and a plethora of buttons and switches thanks to the lack of an iDrive-style control system. Thanks to the extra 1.6 inches in the wheelbase, cabin dimensions have grown from the old model. Rear-seats now enjoy 6.3 inches of fore-and-aft sliding, as well as an adjustable backrest.
Other interior features include Bluetooth, Bose surround sound and a Burmester high-end surround sound system.
The Cayenne is powered by a Volkswagen-sourced 3.6-liter VR6 that produces 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine can be paired with an eight speed automatic or a traditional six-speed manual, the latter of which is a true rarity in the luxury crossover segment. The Cayenne is capable of a zero-to-60 sprint of 7.1 seconds with the manual transmission, or 7.4 seconds with the automatic. Top speed is limited to 142 mph, regardless of gearbox.
Although fuel economy has never been a strong suit for the Cayenne, Porsche has vastly improved efficiency across the range for the new generation. The base Cayenne now achieves 15/22 mpg with the manual and 16/23 mpg with the automatic.
From a handling standpoint, latest Cayenne comes standard with a steel suspension, but for the first time Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, is available as an option. PASM is an advanced suspension system that provides for infinite damper control for both the front and rear axles, and a choice of three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
All Cayenne models come standard with dual front, side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assist.
Those in the market for a mid-size luxury SUV have a variety of strong options to choose from. Besides the Cayenne, these include the BMW X5, the Acura MDX, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, the Audi Q7 and the Infiniti FX35.