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.
For the latest model year, the Cayenne gets a minor facelift and a slew of new engines that deliver improved performance and better gas mileage.
With a posh interior inspired by 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. A longer wheelbase means that rear-seat passengers now enjoy 6.3 inches of fore-and-aft sliding as well as an adjustable backrest. Porsche has improved trunk space, too, and the Cayenne offers 23.6 cubic feet with five occupants on board or 62.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.
The dashboard features a 7-inch color touch screen that runs a high-tech infotainment system called Porsche Communications Manager (PCM). PCM groups the car's audio, navigation (if equipped) and communication functions into a single easy-to-use interface that packs a 40 GB hard drive, a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity.
In navigation mode, PCM can show routes in either 2D or 3D in order to give the driver an idea of what terrain variation he or she will encounter during the trip. The system also has a split-screen mode, making it access to get a map and a list of directions at the same time. All of PCM's functions can be controlled by buttons and knobs. A voice recognition software is available at an extra cost on most models.
Porsche offers the Cayenne in six flavors: base, Diesel, S, S E-Hybrid, GTS and Turbo.
The base Cayenne is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 300 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 295 lb-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm. Linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission controlled by shift paddles, the six-cylinder sends the Cayenne from zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 142 mph.
The Cayenne comes standard with a steel suspension, but Porsche's Active Suspension Management (PASM) is available as an option. Other standard features include a start-stop system, black brake calipers, an electric parking brake, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, halogen fog lights, LED tail lamps, a 4.8-inch color display in the instrument cluster, eight-way power-adjustable front seats and a power liftgate.
The Cayenne Diesel uses a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine that makes 240 horsepower from 3,500 to 4,000 rpm and a healthy 406 lb-ft. of torque from 1,750 to 2,500 rpm. The oil-burning Cayenne sprints from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and reaches a top speed of 135 mph.
An eight-speed automatic transmission helps the Diesel return 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The torque generated by the V6 helps the Cayenne Diesel tow up to 7,716 pounds when properly equipped.
To help reduce harmful NOx emissions, the Cayenne Diesel is equipped with Porsche's selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology. The SCR system sends AdBlue fluid from a tank mounted in the spare tire well to the catalytic converter.
The list of standard equipment includes automatic bi-xenon headlights, heated door mirrors, five 12-volt outlets, water-repellent front windows, 18-inch alloy wheels, an integrated pollen filter, a climate-controlled glove compartment and a multi-function sport steering wheel.
The next model in the Cayenne hierarchy is the S, which boasts a 3.6-liter V6 engine that generates 420 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 406 lb-ft. of torque from 1,350 to 4,500 rpm. An eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels, allowing the Cayenne S to reach 62 mph from a stop in 5.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 161 mph. Gas mileage checks in at 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
The Cayenne S builds on the previous two trim levels with features like 19-inch alloy wheels, time-programmable courtesy lights, LED daytime running lights, parking sensors on both ends and power front seats with a memory function.
Cayenne S E-Hybrid
New for the latest model year, the S E-Hybrid model stands out as the mileage champ of the Cayenne lineup. It is powered by a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain consisting of a 333-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that works jointly with a 95-horsepower electric motor that is linked to a lithium-ion battery pack.
Together, the two power sources generate 416 horsepower and 435 lb-ft. of torque, enough to send the Cayenne from zero to 62 mph in 5.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 151 mph. Gas mileage checks in at 47 MPGe, and the plug-in Cayenne can drive on electricity alone for short distances at speeds of up to 78 mph. The compact battery pack can be recharged while driving, or it can be plugged into a regular household outlet and left to charge overnight.
Buyers who prioritize space should be warned the hybrid drivetrain reduces cargo capacity to 20.5 cubic feet with five occupants on board and 59.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.
In addition to the features that come standard on the S, the hybrid offers a carrying back for the power cable and a hybrid-specific infotainment system.
The Cayenne GTS features a massaged version of the S' 3.6-liter that produces 440 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the first-generation GTS, which was available with a unique-for-the-segment six-speed manual transmission, the current model is available exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission with an integrated stop-start system that boosts fuel economy.
The GTS sprints from zero-to-60 mph in 4.9 seconds on the way to an ungoverned top speed of 163 mph.
Not content with merely adding more power, Porsche also modified the Cayenne GTS's suspension, lowering it by 0.8 inches compared with the S and adding stiffer dampers. An option on most other Cayenne models, Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, is standard equipment of the GTS. This advanced suspension system provides infinite damper control for both the front and rear axles, and a choice of three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
Inside, the Cayenne GTS benefits from Alcantara finish on the seat centers, the center console, the door panels and the headliner. It also packs power-adjustable front sport seats, stainless steel pedals and brushed aluminum trim.
GTS-specific exterior touches include lower side sills, a power dome hood, wider fenders, a roof spoiler with a twin-wing profile, 20-inch alloy wheels and four black exhaust tips.
The range-topping Cayenne Turbo boasts a 4.8-liter V8 engine that pumps out 520 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 553 lb-ft. of torque from 2,250 to 4,000 rpm. Sprinting from a dead stop to 60 mph takes a scant 4.2 seconds and maximum velocity is reached at an Autobahn-worthy 173 mph. The Cayenne Turbo achieves 14 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway.
Also contributing to handling is an active all-wheel drive system with an electronically controlled multiple-plate clutch. This system reduces weight, and it can also be paired with Porsche's Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus option.
Turbo models come standard with all of the GTS' features plus extra features like a Bose Surround Sound stereo with a subwoofer and 14 speakers, a three-month trial subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio, LED headlights, 18-way power front seats with a memory function and a heated steering wheel.
In typical Porsche fashion, the list of options is longer than Infinite Jest. Highlights include carbon ceramic brake, an off-road underbody protection kit and a 1000+ watt, 16-speaker Burmester sound system.
Other options include roof rails, adaptive cruise control, lane change assist, lane departure warning, ventilated seats, an electric sunblind for the rear passengers, a ski bag, a rear-seat entertainment package, a dash-mounted compass and a WLAN router installed in the glove box that provides in-car wifi.
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, a tire pressure monitoring system 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 QX70.
Cayenne GTS buyers should also test drive the BMW X5 M, the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport.