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Porsche Cayenne SUV

Car Buyer logo Car Buyer 02/01/2019
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While long-time sports-car maker Porsche's decision to launch an SUV was initially controversial, there's no doubt that the Cayenne has been an enormous success. Now in its third generation, the original high-performance SUV has inspired countless premium carmakers to introduce their own luxury off-roaders, including the Bentley Bentayga and Maserati Levante.

The Bentley actually shares its mechanical platform with the Cayenne, as does the Audi Q7 and third-generation Volkswagen Touareg. The Cayenne range is by far the broadest of these – although some models align with its Mercedes GLE, BMW X5 and Audi Q7 rivals, the range-topping Turbo S is more expensive than its Mercedes-AMG GLE 63, Audi SQ7 and BMW X5 M competition.

Of all the petrol SUVs, only the Bentley Bentayga W12 can compete with the range-topping Porsche Cayenne Turbo for performance. A towering 542bhp is provided by a 4.0-litre V8, which is smaller yet more powerful than the 4.8-litre engine of its predecessor. None of this flagship's understudies could be described as slow, though – the entry-level Cayenne has a still-considerable 335bhp at its disposal and the twin-turbocharged Cayenne S has 434bhp.

The latter seems uncomfortably overshadowed by the faster, less expensive Cayenne e-Hybrid plug-in hybrid, which also boasts a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating for company-car users. Unlike previous Cayennes, there's no diesel engine offered in the latest model. However, we don't reckon it's quite as much fun to drive as the petrol models.

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The latest car is easily recognised as a Cayenne and has overtones of the smaller Porsche Macan, a car that looks far more lithe and dynamic than previous Cayennes ever did. While Porsche hasn't taken any big risks with the latest model's looks, it's undeniably handsome and fits in well with other models in the range – not looking uncomfortable in the presence of a Porsche 718 Cayman or Porsche 911 sports car.

The same is true inside, where the look and feel is very much like the Porsche Panamera hatchback or its shooting-brake-styled Panamera Sport Turismo sister. There's plenty of interior space, too, and the boot is at least as generous as rivals'. However, it's on the road that Porsche has taken the most effort to ensure it fits with expectations of the brand.

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A drive in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo is enough to show just how much potential the muscular SUV has on a challenging road – or even off it, if the need arises. Sophisticated chassis technology gives this heavy car an agility that belies its size, making it genuinely fun to drive. There's even more to be unlocked with options like adaptive anti-roll bars and carbon ceramic brakes – as ever, the sky's the limit when it comes to the extras list.

It comes as no surprise that this third generation of Porsche Cayenne is the best yet, but it comes as quite a shock that it should be quite so responsive and involving to drive. Taking the SUV route when choosing a fast, practical family car used to involve compromised driver appeal – even the previous Porsche Cayenne struggled to feel truly agile and fleet-footed. The latest model, though, feels truly worthy of the Porsche crest on its nose.

Porsche models aren't always crash-tested, but the Cayenne's popularity means Euro NCAP has examined its SUV, and given it the top five stars, reassuring customers.

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Porsche describes the Cayenne as its 'sports car for five'. A bold claim, but one that rings true. It's expensive and the usual Porsche running cost caveats apply, but few practical family SUVs are quite so rewarding to drive. 

High performance inevitably means high running costs. The Porsche Cayenne has strong residuals, though.

With huge power and considerable weight, high-performance SUVs typically cost a small fortune to run, and the latest Cayenne is unlikely to be different. Aside from the obvious expense of fuel, regular maintenance and consumable parts will be costly to keep on top of – and most drivers will find it expensive to insure.

However, you're unlikely to find it hard to find a new home for your Cayenne when you're finished with it. Previous models have been sought-after on the used market and the third generation is likely to fare no worse, although the cheaper-to-run entry-level models hold onto a greater proportion of their initial purchase cost after three years.

Porsche Cayenne MPG & CO2

Porsche is one of several companies to have turned their back on diesel. Instead, the Cayenne e-Hybrid plug-in model is the fuel-economy hero of the range; we've reviewed it separately.

Of the pure petrol models, the entry-level, single-turbo 3.0-litre V6 Cayenne is the most economical, with 31.4mpg claimed, while its more powerful 2.9-litre twin-turbo Cayenne S sister trades a little fuel efficiency for its increased power output and just scrapes past 30mpg. In reality, though, you'll struggle to hit more than mid-20s MPG.

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The flagship Cayenne Turbo promises to return just 24.1mpg. If you're lucky enough to run one as a company car, you'll face the maximum 37% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating on all Cayennes bar the e-Hybrid, but with CO2 emissions of 267g/km, the Turbo is by far the most polluting.

Every Cayenne will cost £450 in yearly road tax in years two to six, at which point the annual charge will fall to £140.

Insurance

The most powerful Cayenne Turbo is rated in insurance group 50, with the Cayenne S occupying group 48. The lowest insurance group you can expect is 44, which applies to the entry-level petrol model. As always, we strongly recommend you seek an insurance quote before agreeing a new car purchase.

Servicing

Porsche Cayenne service intervals are relatively straightforward, with a yearly oil service required, a minor service after two years or 20,000 miles and a major service every four years or 40,000 miles. Service costs vary by model, but range from around £450 for a minor service to £600 for a major. There may be further costs, though, if additional parts are found to need replacement.

Bear in mind that other maintenance costs will be steep. Consumable items such as brake discs and pads are pricey to replace, and new tyres won't come cheap, either, especially when the biggest wheels are fitted.

Warranty

Porsche provides UK customers with a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty that includes European breakdown cover. You can also choose to add a Porsche Approved warranty at any time while your original warranty is in place, although you have to pay for a 111-point inspection if you choose the warranty extension outside the first year of ownership. 

The previous Cayenne was typically assessed as having excellent handling and performance characteristics, although the caveat 'for an SUV' always applied. This time, though, the gap between the Cayenne and a sports saloon has narrowed markedly.

Porsche's engineers spent time honing a chassis shared with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga to feel at home under a Porsche – and their efforts have paid off. As well as physical changes, a lot of sophisticated technology has been employed to optimise its behaviour on and off the road.

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Key to this is a '4D chassis control' system that monitors dozens of parameters, feeding back to an electronically controlled air-suspension system to ensure the car is best set up to tackle the prevailing road or terrain conditions. Off-road forays are taken care of by gravel, mud, sand and rock drive modes, with different ride-height options for each.

The five on-road driving modes are more likely to be exploited frequently, and optional electrically operated anti-roll bars and rear-wheel steering allow for even greater control. Even without these, though, the Cayenne far surpasses the handling and roadholding standards of virtually all its rivals. Body lean is virtually non-existent and grip is formidable, although it can be coaxed into a controlled slide in the hands of an experienced driver.

The brakes are also very positive, which is essential as the Cayenne gathers momentum very rapidly and weighs over two tonnes. A carbon-ceramic brake setup can be chosen – it's even more effective but extremely expensive to buy and maintain.

Porsche Cayenne petrol engines

The Porsche Cayenne engine line-up is quite broad and every one of them can rightly be regarded as high-performance.

The entry-level Cayenne uses a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that produces 335bhp, while the Cayenne S engine is slightly smaller at 2.9 litres, but gains an extra turbocharger for 434bhp. The latter is very responsive, with an appealing growl from the exhaust that – thankfully – isn't too intrusive on the motorway. Going from 0-62mph takes 5.2 seconds with this engine.

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The flagship Cayenne Turbo, though, adds a pair more cylinders for a massive 542bhp. All use a slick, responsive, eight-speed automatic gearbox and an 'active' four-wheel-drive system. At 4.0 litres, the latest Cayenne Turbo's V8 is smaller than its 4.8-litre predecessor, but its performance has grown.

Belying the car's considerable 2,175kg weight (65kg lighter than before) the optional Sport Chrono pack with launch control endows the Turbo with a scarcely believable 3.9-second 0-62mph time and you can keep accelerating right up to 177mph, where it's safe and legal to do so. 

Remarkably, the Cayenne balances its impressive performance and handling with a relaxed demeanor when all you want to do is cover miles effortlessly. At motorway speeds, it conceals the noise kicked up by those huge tyres very convincingly and there isn't a racket from wind passing the windscreen and mirrors, either. Thanks to the air suspension, the ride is smooth on most surfaces, too. It's firm rather than floaty, but bumps are absorbed very well, which is surprising given the heavy SUV's cornering agility.

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Porsche Cayenne dashboard

The latest Cayenne has a dashboard that's far more Porsche-like than its predecessor and has a look that Porsche Panamera drivers will find familiar. True to tradition, the driver sits behind a large, central rev counter, but this is flanked with decidedly modern high-definition seven-inch information screens that can be configured with a broad range of settings.

You sit lower than in other SUVs and this contributes to a sporting feel, while the tall central tunnel between driver and front passenger gives the sensation that you're hunkered down in the cockpit. Build and material quality both meet the high standards we have come to expect of Porsche, although the high button count is a little intimidating.

The central infotainment display is a glossy 12.3-inch touchscreen, which is flush-mounted and very attractive. It's not compatible with Android Auto and isn't quite as user-friendly as the systems offered in rival cars from Mercedes and BMW, but Apple CarPlay is supported.

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Equipment

Every Cayenne has a fairly steep price tag, but generous standard equipment goes some way to justifying the expense. The dashboard is dominated by the same excellent 12.3-inch HD touchscreen found in the latest Panamera, while front and rear seats are heated and a surround-sound stereo is included.

The range-topping Turbo comes in just shy of £100,000 and wears a unique style of 21-inch alloy wheel, expressing its flagship position with colour-coded wheelarch extensions and quad exhaust pipes. LED head and tail-lights are standard.

Options

While Cayenne standard equipment is far from lacking, Porsche is renowned for offering lengthy options lists. You could spend around £1,400 on adaptive electric front seats, or around £1,400 on a panoramic sunroof, or around £2,600 on adaptive air suspension and another £2,300 or so on Porsche dynamic chassis control. There are a huge number of options to choose from – and none of them are cheap – so be careful when adding options to your Cayenne. 

Porsche wholeheartedly deserves its reputation as a premium carmaker – its cars are built to exacting standards and use top-class materials inside and out. A real reputation for quality has helped residual values to remain high and owners tend to be confident in their cars.

Porsche Cayenne reliability

Porsche cars have a reputation for very thorough engineering and their reliability isn't really in question – although it's unfair to expect any new car to be entirely immune to niggles.

Unfortunately, too few Porsche owners participated in our 2018 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey for us to accurately gauge how customers regard their Cayennes, but it's rare to hear of a dissatisfied Porsche owner. There is a caveat, though, which is that a Cayenne really needs to be looked after correctly to remain at its best. If maintained according to Porsche schedules, a Cayenne should be a generally trouble-free proposition.

Safety

Sharing its mechanical basis with the Audi Q7 and third-generation Volkswagen Touareg means the latest Cayenne can offer the same excellent crash-avoidance technology as its stablemates. As a result, autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control and lane-keeping assistance systems are all available.

Euro NCAP hasn't tested the Cayenne SUV before due to its relative exclusivity, but the latest version has undergone its rigorous battery of evaluation. The results are sure to satisfy owners, because the Porsche managed to score the full five stars, along with an impressive 95% for adult occupant crash protection. 

The Cayenne has always been by far the most practical Porsche and the latest model only polishes that reputation. It's also remarkably maneuverable in tight urban spaces, particularly when the optional rear-wheel-steering system is chosen

Porsche Cayenne interior space & storage

Once you've stepped up (a Cayenne wouldn't look right with running boards), you'll find interior space more than adequate unless you're extremely tall. The sports seats – power-adjustable 18 ways in the Turbo – allow the driving position to be tailored to most tastes.

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In the back, the rear seatbacks recline, too, and the bench can also be slid forwards and backwards to increase legroom or boot space, depending on your needs.

Boot space

Cayenne boot space is impressive: even the Cayenne Turbo – with the smallest boot in the range – offers 741 litres of luggage capacity. This compares to the 650-litre boot of the BMW X5. That car does offer a seven-seat option, though – something the Cayenne lacks.

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