The 2016 Cayenne brings the attitude, and many of the visual cues, of Porsche’s sports cars to a very family-friendly, sport-utility format.
Before you go and pronounce the Cayenne the outlier of the German automaker’s lineup, it’s worth taking stock: With the introduction of the smaller Macan last year—a vehicle that largely draws its inspiration from the Cayenne—Porsche now builds more sport-utility vehicles than it does sports cars. While a handful of aging Porsche purists may still begrudge the existence of crossovers in the lineup, most will concede that as the brand’s top-seller, the Cayenne has become the benefactor of the lineup—creating a budget for things like the new Cayman GT4 and myriad 911 variants and upgrades.
Last year the Cayenne was given a pretty significant refresh, with its styling nipped and tucked to match the latest sports cars in the range. Performance was also better all around, as its powertrains were tweaked or completely upgraded.
It’s a sleek, modern utility-vehicle at the core, but its silhouette manages to crib in just a few of the 911’s curves. There’s very little rugged about this design—even though it’s still deft off-pavement. Inside, the Cayenne is even less typical, with a coupe-like cockpit up front, with curved surfaces, upscale materials, and even an analog clock. Last year, the Cayenne adopted the brand’s quad-element headlights and also received revised front and rear fascia designs.
Put aside any preconceptions of what the brand should or shouldn’t be, and you’ll find the Cayenne to stand perfectly well on its own, as a highly practical family vehicle that also provides much of the driving personality of lower, leaner two-seat Porsche models. And over more than a decade, the Cayenne lineup has expanded to include a diesel (possibly gone all this model year), a plug-in hybrid, and various gasoline models—all now turbocharged.
With an extensive mid-cycle revision to the current generation of the Cayenne, last year, Porsche pared back its offerings to just a few: The Cayenne S is rated at 420 horsepower from a new twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid, which now sports plug-in capability, is good for 416 horsepower from its combination of an electric motor and a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. And the Cayenne Turbo, the current speed demon of the group, makes 520 hp from its twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8.
The Cayenne GTS sits between the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo, but raises the output from the twin-turbo V-6 to 440 horsepower and 445 lb-ft. Porsche says this model can rocket from 62 mph from rest in just 5.2 seconds, or just 5.1 seconds when equipped with the available Sport Chrono package; and top speed is 162 mph. For the Turbo, the key stats are a 4.1-second 0–60-mph time with launch control equipped and engaged, and a top speed of 173 mph. This refresh, by the way, has spelled the end of the manual transmission, however, which used to be offered on the V-6 Cayenne.
You can still get a base Cayenne, however, with a 300-horsepower V-6 engine capable of getting this SUV to 60 mph in well under eight seconds. Is it a Porsche? You decide.
In addition to its potent engine, the Cayenne GTS also benefits from a sports exhaust system, performance-tuned air suspension and dampers (the ride height is 20 millimeters lower than in regular Cayenne models), brakes borrowed from the Cayenne Turbo, and a front bumper with enlarged intakes also borrowed from the Cayenne Turbo.
Across the lineup, seating is comfortable and supportive, and the materials and fit and finish are all top-notch. Ride quality can be a bit stiff, however, particularly in the sportier models. The Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management (PASM) air-suspension system is a recommended option, as it improves handling while also allowing the driver to dial in better ride quality most of the time.
Each of the current flavors of the Cayenne [all spicy, right?]offer its own set of design and features as part of the package, wrapping its five-passenger interior in slightly different trims, though each offers an almost impossibly multi-faceted list of upgrades and customizations.
Go with the base model, and there’s really no sacrifice in features versus a BMW or Mercedes-Benz product in the same price range. Bluetooth, iPod/USB, and more are all standard. Navigation, a panoramic sunroof, and a heated windshield are among many, many options. Sound systems include Bose or audiophile-grade Burmester sound systems, and your budget is really the limit on a wide range of upholstery, trim, paint, and wheel upgrades. With options, the Cayenne can easily top $150k.