Porsche’s Cayenne was the German company’s first foray into the lucrative SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) market, and it all began in 2003.
Over a decade later, the Cayenne is Porsche’s bestselling vehicle, and just like all of its products it comes in a variety of different flavours. Capable on and off-road, the Cayenne is now arguably the most important car Porsche makes – even more so than its revered sports cars.
The Cayenne is a Porsche, and so it aims to mix soulful sports car heritage with capable on and off-road performance – and it does it very well indeed. Performance varies a lot because there are such a variety of engines on offer - from a more basic six-cylinder diesel, all the way up to a turbocharged V8 petrol.
By far and away the most sensible option is the entry level V6 diesel, which provides perfectly adequate performance alongside the best economy figures possible for the Cayenne.
Drive sensibly and it’s feasible to get 40mpg from this engine, with a low VED tax rate – for a Cayenne – of £205 a year. Keep in mind that some cars in the Cayenne range – turbo V8 engines - will cost you the full £500 a year to tax, and you’d be lucky to see fuel returns of anything close to 20mpg.
The automatic gearbox is a joy, providing smooth and rapid changes between gears and complimenting the luxury feel that Porsche wants to give off in the Cayenne. Aside from its excellent performance, it’s also worth having an auto because your Cayenne will be worth more money than one with a manual gearbox when it’s time to sell again.
Ride and handling
Obviously, a large, heavy SUV is never going to handle like one of Porsche’s famous sports cars. However, the Cayenne handles just about as well as any other motor of this type on the road.
It communicates with the driver well in corners by providing lots of feel through the seat and the steering wheel, but this doesn’t mean that it rides too firmly. The Cayenne somehow manages to pull off the perfect balance between performance and comfort.
Body roll in corners is limited and the brakes and grip available are exceptional, yet it always remains comfortable no matter what you seem to throw at it. The Cayenne is also a highly underrated off-roader, being able to deal with some really rather tricky conditions away from the usual tarmac that it feels so at home on.
It’s nice to know that the Cayenne can cope with more demanding terrain if it needs to.
Porsche is a real luxury brand and its interiors are always well designed and beautifully executed. If you’re not used to the modern design of Porsche cabins, it can be a little confusing at first, as there is a vast array of buttons in the centre of the car.
It’s easy to get used to where everything is. The fit and finish is top notch. Porsche is infamous for offering a lot of expensive options to buyers when ordering, and for this reason many used Cayenne’s will vary greatly in interior colours and equipment.
Even the dials and seat belts can be changed when ordering. Whichever Cayenne you go for, though, you’ll always find luxuries such as climate control, cruise control, and parking sensors.
For a luxury SUV, it’s also very practical. The boot has 670 litres of load space with the rear seats up and 1,780 with the seats folded down. So if you need to transport your family and all of your goods and equipment in comfort, the Cayenne, almost certainly, has the space for you.
What to know before you buy
There are some golden rules to buying a Porsche – any Porsche. Always make sure your potential model has a full service history from Porsche itself, and avoid any car fitted with tacky aftermarket accessories like the plague.
Porsche builds reliable, high-quality machines, but they absolutely must be maintained properly, otherwise they can cost a fortune to repair. Just about every part of a Porsche is expensive if it needs replacing.
Customers new to the brand should be aware that consumable parts, such as brakes and tyres, are pricier than those on most other makes of car. Porsche servicing is also very steep.
Audi’s Q7 is absolutely gigantic and the roomiest and most laidback alternative to the Cayenne. The BMW X6 divides opinion with its looks, but it’s more reserved X5 stablemate may be the answer to this particular problem.
It’s the second best car to drive in this sector of the market and will, at least, be slightly cheaper to maintain than a Cayenne – but not by much. Go for the Range Rover Sport if you want something with a little more ‘oomph’, but be prepared to pay the extra cost of a larger, thirstier engine.
When it comes to performance and handling, there’s no better SUV on the road than the Porsche Cayenne. It contains that little piece of Porsche sports car spirit, while providing the comfort, space, and refinement of a modern SUV.
If you can handle the expensive running costs and servicing, then the Cayenne makes an awesome second-hand motor.