Released in 2003, the Porsche Cayenne represented a landmark for the renowned German automotive manufacturer in that it was the first Porsche vehicle to move beyond its line of sports cars and into the arena of the sports utility vehicle. Sharing its uni-body Volkswagen PL71 platform with the VW Touareg, every other aspect of the Cayenne was designed and produced in-house by Porsche. Indeed, the Cayenne is a much more luxurious, more expensive vehicle.
Upon introduction, the Cayenne was available in two forms: as the Cayenne S and the Cayenne Turbo, both of which came with a 4.5L V8 engine and automatic gearboxes, yet the Turbo version had significantly more power output and torque.
A version produced with a manual gearbox was introduced in 2004, followed by the addition of a V6 engine in 2007, as well as 4.8L variants released the same year. Initially all versions came with petrol engines designed to run on premium unleaded, but a 3.0L diesel version was released in 2009.
The second-generation models were released in 2010 and were not only shorter and more muscular-looking than earlier models, but now came complete with 8-speed gearboxes and a completely different interior, based on that of the Porsche Panamera. A hybrid variant is also part of the second-generation range.
While there are clearly differences in terms of engine size, fuel economy, and gearboxes between different Cayenne models, there are still a few things that one can be sure of with any Cayenne. These 4x4 crossover vehicles are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they are built for high performance, by a company renowned for its engineering prowess, making the Cayenne an attractive and effective off-road vehicle.
The base Cayenne S used a 4.5L engine that had a power output of 250kW at 6000rpm and a torque of 420Nm at 2500 rpm, producing an acceleration time of 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds. The Cayenne Turbo model also used a 4.5L engine but was significantly more powerful, with a power output of 331kW at 6000 rpm and a torque of 620Nm at 2250 rpm, giving this model the ability to reach 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds.
In terms of fuel economy, the base model used 20.9L/100 km in an urban environment and 11.2L/100km in an extra urban environment, and it had a combined fuel economy of 14.9L/100km. This compared favourably to the Turbo variant which used a combined 15.9L/100km.
The second-generation 2010 Hybrid model had less power output than both of these models, emitting 245kW at 5500-6500 rpm and a torque of 440Nm at 3000 rpm, which is slightly more than the 2003 Cayenne S, but quite a lot less then the 2003 Turbo model. In terms of fuel economy, the Hybrid model predictably compares favourably to both of the models mentioned previously, using a combined 8.2L/100km.
A diesel variant from 2011 is the least powerful of all models, with a power output of 180kW at 4000 rpm; however, it maintains a very reasonable amount of torque at 550Nm at 2000 rpm.
In terms of the ride provided by the Cayenne, things can get a little bumpy on rough road surfaces, jostling occupants uncomfortably on occasion due to extra taut suspension. On smooth road surfaces, the Cayenne is composed and responsive, and the steering is precise, though there is some under-steer evident on corners taken at speed. Off-road, the Cayenne has a comfortably indirect low range, which enables steep hill climbing. Overall, the Cayenne is fun to drive off road, taking all manner of bumps and holes with ease.
The anti-lock braking systems on all Cayenne models are very powerful and progressive, which is no bad thing considering the weight of the vehicle. The engines are remarkably quiet and smooth. Although the gearboxes can emit a quiet whine occasionally, noise levels remain civilised.
Leather trim and 18-inch wheels come as standard, as do anti-lock brakes and dual airbags in the front and first row rear seats. Air-conditioning with climate control, alarm with motion sensor, electronic stability control, traction control, engine immobiliser, and GPS also come as standard on all models. Second-generation models add inputs for mp3 players, a USB socket, Bluetooth, and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution.
Occupants of the front seats are given ample headroom and legroom, and lateral support is exemplary, while rear headroom and legroom are more than adequate.
Options include the choice of changing the 18-inch inch wheels for 19- or 20-inch examples, as well as air suspension, heated rear seats, roof racks, sunroofs, and metallic paint.
The main rival in the high-performance 4x4 category would arguably be the BMW X5, which arguably performs better on rough road surfaces and is equally well engineered. However, the turbo Porsche Cayenne models are noticeably faster, have more cargo room, are often more fun to drive, and arguably win the contest in terms of overall luxury and panache.