Porsche's big SUV has had a refresh in the wake of the launch of the smaller Macan. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
The Porsche Cayenne has been given a thorough makeover with efficiency improvements across the board, a sharper look, a better quality interior and a revised equipment list. The most interesting addition is the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, with plug-in capability to really hammer down fuel bills.
Here's something to consider. There are cars that are inept yet are inexplicably loved. Then there are cars like Porsche's Cayenne; technically brilliant yet which seem to act as flypaper for unwarranted criticism. Even if you don't buy into the view that after some tough years the Cayenne was the car that saved Porsche, it's hard to begrudge the fact that it's earned its place in the line up alongside more traditional fare like the 911, the Boxster and the Cayman.
With the 2014 launch of the smaller Macan SUV, the Cayenne was in danger of being upstaged. Buyers were walking into Porsche dealers and wondering why they needed to spend more on something that was nowhere near as efficient and didn't even seem as special inside. Well that's changed with the launch of a comprehensively refreshed Cayenne range. Here's what to look out for.
The Cayenne range consists of five different powerplants so you ought to be able to find something to suit. The entry-level Cayenne Diesel campaigns with a three-litre V6 engine good for 262PS , enough to get it from rest to 62 mph in just 7.3 seconds and from there on to 137 mph. You can also opt for a 4.2-litre V8 Cayenne S Diesel which produces 385PS and awe-inspiring torque of 850 Newton metres from 2,000 to 2,750 rpm. It'll demolish the sprint in just 5.4 seconds so it's no mere lugger. For a combination of smoothness and economy, look no further than the revised Cayenne S E-Hybrid, the first plug-in hybrid in the premium SUV segment. It gets a lithium-ion traction battery with an energy capacity of 10.9 kWh, which enables an all-electric driving range of 18 to 36 km. The power of the electric motor is more than doubled from 47PS to 95PS compared to the old Cayenne Hybrid, and the 333PS three-litre V6 supercharged engine chimes in to produce a combined system power of 416PS. This enables driving performance at the level of a sports coupe: zero to 62 mph in 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 151 mph. The top speed in all-electric driving is 77 mph.
The few looking for a purely petrol-powered Cayenne get a choice of either the Cayenne S, the Cayenne GTS or the Cayenne Turbo. The S now sports a 3.6-litre V6 bi-turbo engine cranking out 420PS - or 440PS in the GTS variant. Go Turbo and you're propelled up the road by a 4.8-litre V8 aided by two turbochargers helping peak power of 520PS and torque to 750Nm. This lets the Cayenne Turbo accelerate to 62 mph in just 4.5 seconds and on to a dizzying 173mph. Just as before, the Cayenne is actually surprisingly adept off road. A spare set of off-road wheels and tyres might prevent some costly refurbishment work to the standard alloys though.
Design and Build
Porsche has followed a design trend that can clearly be seen through the evolution of the Cayenne's design, each generation getting a bit sleeker and more chiselled. Now we get an even sharper design with precise lines and purposefully-placed angles intended to catch the light. The front wheel arches and the bonnet are cleaner and there are now 'airblades' in the nose; not hand dryers but air fins designed to funnel air to the intercoolers. The bi-Xenon headlights are standard on Cayenne and S models, with characteristic four-point LED daytime running lights. The Cayenne Turbo gets a full LED headlight setup with the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) fitted as standard.
Move to the back and there are three-dimensional effect rear light clusters and the brake lights carry over the design of the front LED daytime running lights with four distinctive elements. The number plate recess, boot handle and lights are now integrated more elegantly into the tailgate. The designers also re-shaped the car's horizontal lines, giving the vehicle an even more planted stance on the road. Inside, the designers devoted much of their effort to the cockpit with the fitment of a 918 Spyder-style multi-function sports steering wheel with gear shift paddles as standard. The rear seats have also been made more comfortable, and seat ventilation can now be ordered as an option..
Market and Model
Prices open at just under £50,000 for the Cayenne Diesel, and it's then quite a big step up to the more powerful S Diesel version which is pitched at just over £61,000. The identically-priced Cayenne S E-Hybrid looks strong value, although some will find it hard to ignore the sheer punch of the petrol-engined Cayenne S which retails at just over £60,000, around £12,000 less than the only slightly faster GTS model. The Turbo flagship model is one of those cars that can almost name its price, as many very high net worth individuals are drawn to this hugely rapid and composed powerhouse and the asking price of almost £94,000 is unlikely to prove a significant deterrent.
As ever, the Cayenne must face down a number of very accomplished rivals. The Range Rover Sport, the Mercedes M-Class and the BMW X5 all provide stern challenges. Standard equipment on all Cayenne models includes Porsche Traction Management all-wheel drive, Bi-xenon headlights with four point LED daytime running lights, multi-function sports steering wheel with paddle-shifts, 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" alloy wheels, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with self-levelling air suspension, Porsche Communication Management with satellite navigation and BOSE Surround Sound audio.
Cost of Ownership
The big ticket item on the Cayenne has long been depreciation, but then that's not an issue exclusive to Porsche. Show us one large SUV that retains its value well. The pace of change has been dizzying in this sector and older SUVs date rapidly due to advances in engine efficiency. Look at the prices or early petrol-engined Cayennes for evidence of this.
Porsche has made big strides in improving fuel economy and driving down emissions with this model. The diesel models are clearly going to be popular, the entry-level car recording 42.8mpg and 173g/km while the S Diesel manages 35.3mpg and 209g/km. Neither can match the efficiency of the 83mpg S E-Hybrid but that figure is a bit of a misnomer as the car's battery can be charged from the electric power grid. The petrol-engine cars are predictably a bit thirstier, but still turn in creditable numbers for such large and powerful vehicles. The V6 powerplant in the Cayenne S gets 29.7mpg and 223g/km which is a 2mpg improvement on the old V8 despite packing more punch. The Turbo claims 25.2mpg and 261g/km, but we would imagine 'real world' consumption is likely to be a good deal scarier.
The Porsche Cayenne has always been a class act. It's great on the road and has more off-road chops than many even begin to understand. It's never tried to do the seven-seat thing, Porsche instead understanding that this is something best delivered by other products in the Volkswagen empire. The latest version does exactly what is needed to be done. The styling needed a little tweak to keep it looking contemporary and the engines needed to improve to deliver the sort of performance and economy combination that the best of its rivals could produce.
Porsche actually went a lot further than we expected on that latter score. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid moves the game on significantly in offering plug-in capability in a luxury SUV while the diesel models will be justifiably popular with their tarmac-corrugating torque. The Turbo might well figure on the wishlists of Euromillions players the length and breadth of the country but for the lucky few that can actually afford to buy and run one, they're getting one of the most magnificent pieces of automotive engineering available at any price. The Cayenne has matured. We suspect the views of the public at large towards this excellent vehicle have done likewise.