Car reviews - Porsche - Cayenne
Interior design, ride comfort, straight-line performance, hushed cabin, high quality materials
Room for improvement
Sensitive brakes, complex touchscreen system, expensive options, tacky wheels
Porsche’s entry-level Cayenne offers great performance but skimps on some features
25 Jan 2019
AS A performance-focused SUV from a sportscar brand, the Porsche Cayenne was a relatively new proposition when it was launched in 2003.
Since then, a number of sporty brands have released go-fast high-riders, including Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Lamborghini, while the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz now offer seriously quick versions of their respective large SUVs.
Now in its third generation, Porsche is keen to remind people that it was the original, but it also offers an entry-level variant for those that can’t quite stretch to the tarmac-munching flagship versions.
We test the base Cayenne AWD to see how it fares against other more sedate large SUV offerings.
Price and equipment
Porsche has priced the Cayenne from $115,900 plus on-road costs, which is on par with the freshly launched BMW X5 xDrive40i ($115,990), but higher than a number of entry-level petrol or diesel-powered rivals.
The base petrol Range Rover Sport kicks off from $97,100, the Volvo XC90 T6 Momentum starts at $96,600, and comparable diesel variants such as the Audi Q7 200kW and Mercedes-Benz GLE350d start at $106,900 and $110,300 respectively.
However, the Porsche undercuts the opening gambit of Maserati’s petrol Levante that is priced from $125,000. Note that the Cayenne will not be offered in diesel guise this time around.
Standard equipment includes dusk-sensing LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, front foglights, LED tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, a power-operated tailgate, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED ambient lighting, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, a 150W 10-speaker sound system, 14-way power-adjustable front comfort seats with memory functionality, power-folding and heated side mirrors and 19-inch alloy wheels.
In terms of connectivity, it is offered with a 12.3-inch PCM touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay support, satellite navigation, digital radio, voice control, a Wi-Fi hotspot, dual multi-information displays, keyless start, USB and Bluetooth.
Safety wise it gains forward collision warning, partial autonomous emergency braking, multi-collision brake, blind-spot monitoring, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control and a speed limiter.
However, our test car was fitted with a number of options including a panoramic sunroof ($4490), Sport Chrono pack ($2690), keyless entry and start ($2490), a Bose surround sound system ($2470), metallic paint ($2190), aluminium roof rails ($1390), heated front seats ($990), 18-way adaptive sports seats with memory package ($850) and power steering plus ($650).
This added more than $18,000 to the final pricetag, bringing it to a touch over $134K, which is very close to the price of the hi-tech Cayenne E-Hybrid ($135,600).
If you avoid some of these options then the value equation is stronger, but items such as heated front seats should be standard.
With the introduction of the second-generation Panamera sedan back in early 2017, Porsche ushered in a fresh interior design with super modern features that have since rolled out to other models, including the Cayenne.
Gone are the unique aeroplane cockpit-themed switches of the previous Cayenne, replaced by gloss black panels that hide digital functions and a big 12.3-inch screen that houses loads of controls.
When the car is switched off, the centre console looks dark and minimalist, but flick the ignition and it lights up, revealing the various functions on either side of the gear shifter.
The huge screen has excellent resolution, but it is a touch laggy on start up and fingerprints don’t take long to show up.
Some functions are buried in a sub menu, which can be time consuming when you’re on the move, while the climate controls are found on the console and in the screen menu. It’s a bit confusing, but like many digital automotive systems, it takes a while to learn where everything is housed.
The Cayenne has an excellent driving position and you feel ensconced in it. It’s like you’re sitting in a low-slung sportscar, not a large SUV.
The optional sports seats are ultra supportive and a tad on the firm side, but they cost $850 so may not be required.
We tested this with a massive load of computer bits, six big boxes of magazines and a large printer and it all fit perfectly. The cleverly positioned space-saver spare tyre does not impact space there at all.
Engine and transmission
The Cayenne is powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine that produces 250kW of power from 5300 to 6400rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1340rpm to 5300rpm. This is 30kW and 50Nm more than the old model.
There’s a hint of turbo lag on take off from a standing start, but it is clearly a strong performer in a straight line.
It can still sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.2 seconds – impressive in anyone’s books – but with the optional Sports Chrono pack as fitted to our test car, that drops to 5.9s.
So the base Cayenne is no slouch, but if you want even more performance, then just turn the dial on the steering wheel to Sport mode and you get better response from the transmission and a bit more kick.
The eight-speed ZF automatic transmission holds gears when pushed in Normal mode, but is snappy in Sport. The Cayenne’s transmission is super quick to respond to a flick of the paddle shifters in manual mode.
The next step up in the Cayenne line-up is the S AWD that pumps out 324kW/550Nm from a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6, but it is also about $40,000 dearer.
While it is also a hoot to drive, buyers shouldn’t feel like they are missing out on too much performance by choosing the entry variant.
Ride and handling
The circa-two-tonne Cayenne is a surprisingly good handler. It would want to be with that Porsche badge on the bonnet.
It still feels like a large car on the road but it sticks to the blacktop beautifully and the all-wheel-drive traction means it would take a lot for the Cayenne to come unstuck.
The ride quality too is impressive. While Porsche did not conduct engineering testing on Australian roads, the Cayenne feels really well matched with our sometimes questionable road surfaces.
The 19-inch wheel and tyre package seems to aid this, as they are definitely not low profile.
Unfortunately, the wheels don’t look anywhere near premium enough to be on a $115K Porsche. They have a bit of a Ford AU Falcon XR8 vibe about them. We would definitely recommend looking at Porsche’s wheel options.
Steering is quite heavily weighted, but direct. It does not require many inputs to point the Cayenne in the desired direction.
However, the brakes may be a touch too sensitive around town. They are jolty if you press even slightly too hard. Interestingly, the impressive Cayenne E-Hybrid we also sampled did not suffer the same quirk.
While the official fuel consumption figure is 9.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, we recorded 11.9L/100km after a week of mostly urban driving.
Safety and servicing
Forward collision warning, partial autonomous emergency braking, multi-collision brake, blind-spot monitoring, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control and a speed limiter are all standard on the Cayenne.
Porsche offers the SUV with a three-year warranty with service intervals of 15,000km or one year.
In entry-level guise, the Porsche Cayenne is pricier than many of its direct rivals. It could be argued, however, that the Porsche brand is more exclusive than other premium German and British car-makers.
The $18K slug for extras in the test car is a lot, and buyers are urged to exercise caution when perusing the options list at the dealership.
But there is something special about the Cayenne that elevates it above its rivals. There’s a uniqueness about it that ensures it stands out. And that is quite appealing.
The ride and handling, sprightly performance from what is the base powertrain, and the high levels of tech and comfort in the beautifully presented cabin are also super impressive.
Porsche has kicked another goal with the Cayenne. And the entry variant proves you don’t have to spend an obscene amount of money to get one of the best offerings in the segment.
BMW X5 xDrive40i from $115,990 plus on-road costs
BMW’s just-launched new-gen X5 is impressive and the pricing of the 40i is bang on the base Cayenne’s. A worthy rival.
Range Rover Sport Si4 S from $97,100 plus on-road costs
The Rangie is a hoot to drive and it is cheaper than the Porsche too. It is off the pace of the Cayenne in terms of performance.
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