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 available as the eight-cylinder Cayenne S, the gas-electric Cayenne S Hybrid and the 500-horsepower Cayenne Turbo. The latest addition to the model lineup include the efficient-yet-torquey Cayenne Diesel, the sporty Cayenne GTS, and the range-topping 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 previous model thanks to more organic body lines.
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.
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.
The base Cayenne is powered by a Volkswagen-sourced 3.6-liter VR6 engine 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.
The entry-level Cayenne comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, an electronic parking brake, water repellent front-side windows, a power tailgate, LED daytime running lamps, automatic headlights, eight-way front power seats and a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel.
The Cayenne S packs a 400 horsepower, 369 lb-ft of torque 4.8-liter V8 engine mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic S automated transmission. This combo is good for a zero-to-60 jaunt of only 5.6 seconds, over a second faster than the base Cayenne. Top speed also increases from 142 mph to 160 mph.
Despite the added power, fuel economy nearly matches that of the V6-powered, manual-equipped V6 Cayenne at 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.
Selecting the S model adds model-specific 18-inch alloys and a driver memory package that recalls seat and mirror settings.
Cayenne S Hybrid
Power for the Cayenne S Hybrid comes from Audi's supercharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 333-horsepower, connected to a three-phase synchronous electric motor which receives power from a 38 kW NiMH battery that resides in the spare tire well. The electric motor adds another 47 horsepower.
The Cayenne S Hybrid is capable of traveling up to 40 mph on all electric power, with the system allowing for the complete disengagement of the gas engine from the driveline at speeds up to 97 mph. The disengagement allows for a "coasting" featuring, which reduces drag and improves overall efficiency. The Cayenne S Hybrid achieves 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and still maintains a 6.1-second zero-to-60 time.
The Hybrid offers roughly the same equipment as the S but it offers a specific instrument cluster.
The Cayenne Diesel is motivated by a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine that also sees duty in the Volkswagen Toureg and Audi Q7. In the Cayenne, the engine produces 240 horsepower and an earth-shattering 406 lb-ft of torque. It propels the big crossover from zero to 60 miles per hour in a claimed (and likely conservative) 7.2 seconds.
The diesel mill is bolted to an eight-speed Tiptronis S transmission that drives all four wheels. The automatic start/stop system that is found on other Cayenne models is not available on the diesel. The EPA rates fuel efficiency at 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg - numbers that compare well to the more expensive (though more powerful) Cayenne S Hybrid's 20/24 mpg efficiency figures.
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.
On the outside, the only noticeable difference between a diesel-powered Cayenne and a gas-burning one is a set of discreet "diesel" badges glued to both front fenders. It comes with nearly the same level of equipment as the S.
The Cayenne GTS features a massaged version of the S's 4.8-liter that produces 420 horsepower and 381 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 to boost fuel economy.
Porsche claims that the Cayenne GTS can sprint from zero-to-60 mph in 5.4 seconds on the way to an ungoverned top speed of 162 mph. Aiding in the crossover's accelerative efforts is a 20-percent more aggressive final drive ratio than the S. Mileage is rated at 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.
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, center console, door panels and headliner. The rest of the interior carries over, although that's hardly a bad thing: with a contemporary, Panamera-inspired design and high-quality materials, it's one of the better-executed cabins in the segment.
GTS-specific exterior touches include lower side sills, a power dome hood, wider fenders, a roof spoiler with a twin-wing profile and four black exhaust tips.
The Cayenne GTS comes standard with power-adjustable front sport seats, bi-xenon headlights, stainless steel pedals, a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system, aluminum interior trim and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Cayenne Turbo sits nearly at the top of the Cayenne hierarchy and with a 500 horsepower, 516 lb-ft of torque twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8. Sprinting from a dead stop to 60 mph takes a scant 4.4 seconds. The Cayenne Turbo is 23 percent more fuel efficient than the model it replaces, and now achieves 15 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway.
Like all new Cayenne models, the Turbo features Start/Stop technology, which shuts off the combustion engine while the vehicle is stopped. The Turbo also comes standard with the Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, while the technology is only an option on other models.
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 (for the first time) with Porsche's Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus option.
Turbo models come standard with all of the GTS' features as well as the aforementioned touchscreen-based navigation system and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Cayenne Turbo S
Positioned at the pinnacle of the Cayenne mid-size crossover range, the Cayenne Turbo S is one of the ultimate expressions of Porsche's engineering might. Under the hood, the twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 gets a revised ECU unit and more boost to increase power to 550 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 553 lb-ft of torque from 2,250 to 4,500 rpm - increases of 50 horsepower and 37 lb-ft of torque over the Turbo.
An eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels, and zero-to-60 mph is achieved in 4.3 seconds - impressively rapid given the Turbo S' mass. The all-wheel-drive system is a sport-focused, rear-biased unit that only sends power to the front wheels when rear-wheel slippage is detected.
Helping the Turbo S to handle and ride as well as it accelerates are a bevy of special chassis systems . The standard Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control uses hydraulic stabilizing actuators to achieve an anti-roll effect, keeping the crossover planted in turns, while Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus apportions torque between the two rear wheels to cut out understeer and keep driving dynamics neutral.
Careful observers can tell the Turbo S apart from the standard Turbo by its black gloss exterior trim, 21-inch 911-sourced wheels and uniquely-shaped quad tailpipes. Aside from "Turbo S" badging and a two-tone color scheme, the interior is all but unchanged.
Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, a navigation system with seven-inch high-resolution display, 18-way power adjustable adaptive front sports seats, a 14-speaker Bose surround sound system with AUX and USB inputs, SiriusXM satellite radio and an Alcantara headliner.
In typical Porsche fashion, the options list 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 FX35.
Cayenne GTS buyers should also test drive the BMW X5 M, the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport.