Porsche Cayenne review - Remarkably capable, the Cayenne is still the benchmark SUV

It might be big and ugly, but the Cayenne is amazingly agile and truly involving to drive

The Cayenne certainly hasn’t ruined Porsche’s credibility as loyal fans of the Stuttgart marque predicted it might back in 2002 when the big SUV was first launched. Instead, the Cayenne is now the flagship of the company’s biggest revenue stream, performance 4x4s. Its little brother, the Macan, might be the more wieldy of the two but the Cayenne still sets the benchmark for all other large SUVs to be judged against.

> Read our review of the Porsche Macan here

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Now in its 14th year, the Cayenne is smarter, cleaner and more mind-warpingly capable than ever. The model line-up includes a plug-in hybrid, a brace of diesels as well as turbocharged V6 and V8 petrol engines.

The latest additions – the mighty Turbo S and the driver-focused GTS – endow the hulking 4x4 with ballistic performance and bewilderingly agile handling for an SUV.

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There are better looking, more practical, more economical and cheaper SUVs on the market, but every single model in the Cayenne range is incredibly impressive. The Diesel S is a fabulous thing, the Turbo and Turbo S faster than you ever thought you’d need (until you drive them) and the GTS sharper and more fun than it has any right to be.

Porsche Cayenne in detail

Performance and 0-60 time > Every single Cayenne derivate delivers impressive performance, especially for a car of its size.

Engine and gearbox > Smooth 8-speed gearbox delivers refinement when you want it and response when you fancy pushing the Cayenne harder.

Ride and handling > The Cayenne might be an SUV, but it can still deliver a dynamic driving experience. The GTS in particular being a driving highlight.

MPG and running costs > e-hybrid makes the Cayenne the most economical SUV on the market. The Turbo is less impressive, but still manages decent running costs. Residuals are impressive.

Interior and tech > Porsche's nav and entertainment system isn't the best. Interior fit and finish is as you'd expect for a car in this price bracket.

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Design > Acid green brake calipers on the e-hybrid are a nice touch, but it’s still a controversial car in the looks department. 

Prices, specs and rivals

Prices start at £53,875 for the Cayenne Diesel which makes it comfortably the most affordable model in the range but also puts it in the crosshairs of rivals from the likes of Land Rover, Mercedes and BMW – the usual suspects, Range Rover Sport, GLE, X5 – that appear to offer more on paper. However, none are as composed and capable on the road as the Porsche.

The vastly more muscular V8 S Diesel, at just over £66,767, is even harder to beat. All right, it’s quite a step up in terms of price, and no Cayenne comes particularly well equipped as standard, but the S Diesel’s combination of super-effortless urge and relative parsimony at the pumps immediately puts it in a class of one.

The similarly priced (£65,784) Cayenne S E-Hybrid offers a lot of technology for the money and a promise of running costs far smaller than you’d expect for such a big car. But it is the bulkiest of the Cayennes, and as a consequence its dynamics suffer to a degree.

At just over £64,539 is the petrol-engined twin-turbo V6 Cayenne S. It’s £12k less than the GTS that it shares an engine with, but the more expensive model has a few extra horsepower and is by far the sharper more involving machine. 

> Read our review of the Porsche Cayenne GTS review

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At around £96,193 for the Turbo and £121,550 for the Turbo S, the turbocharged petrol V8 flagship models are priced significantly more. However, not only has this increased their appeal to the financially blessed as emblems of status, their performance makes them attractive to those who appreciate pace.

Standard kit across the Cayenne range includes Porsche Traction Management all-wheel drive, Bi-xenon headlights with four-element LED daytime running lights, multi-function sports steering wheel with paddle-shifters, ParkAssist front and rear, cruise control, automatic climate control, powered tailgate, Sport button, Start/Stop technology with coasting function and a three year warranty. The Turbo adds LED headlights with Porsche Dynamic Lighting System, 19-inch alloy wheels, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with self-leveling air suspension, Porsche Communication Management with satellite navigation and BOSE Surround Sound audio.

> Read our review of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S review

The Turbo S also gets 21-inch alloys and leather sports seats, but a reversing camera, heated windscreen and lane-departure warning are all optional extras. As is a sports exhaust that will set you back nearly £2,000, while the wonderful Burmester stereo costs a little over £2,400.

New to the world of performance SUVs is the Maserati Levante. As much as we didn't want to like it, it has turned out to be quite the performer. Doing a good job of hiding its bulk and still delivering decent driver interaction. However, the UK only gets the Levante with a diesel engine. Not only is the motor unrefined but its lack of oomph means it’s impossible to unlock some of the chassis’ talents. The equivalent diesel Cayenne feels like significantly higher quality product and far more fun to drive.

>Read our Maserati Levante review

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The Range Rover Sport SVR, with its 5-litre supercharged V8, almost matches the Cayenne Turbo for power and performance. However, the Range Rover Sport trades some on-road manners for off-road capability, and so the Porsche is still the more entertaining and involving car of the two.

> Read our BMW X6M review

The Cayenne Turbo is knocked off the top spot by the BMW X6 M, though. Not only is the Bavarian SUV more powerful and faster to 62mph, but thanks to crisper and more direct steering, it’s even more entertaining on the road.

However, it is only the M version of BMW’s off-roader that worries the Cayenne, the rest of the Porsche SUV range reins supreme over all other rivals.

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