When the original Cayenne was launched in 2002, most people were horrified by the thought of a Porsche SUV. Fast forward to 2014, and the trend for sporty 4x4s shows no signs of slowing, and the Cayenne is Porsche's best selling model by some margin.
To keep those sales coming in, Porsche has face-lifted the Cayenne for 2014. There are changes to the Cayenne's exterior looks, interior comfort and suspension tweaks for better handling and comfort. Most notably, every model in the range is now quicker, yet also cleaner and more frugal.
Diesel power starts with the same 3.0-litre V6 diesel, but the powerful 4.2-litre V8 S diesel is still an option. The entry-level petrol S has been downsized to a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6, but the mighty 4.8-litre V8 in the flagship Turbo model remains.
The last variant – also revised – is the S E-Hybrid, which uses a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine and an electric motor with plug-in technology to manage range-best official fuel economy of 83mpg and CO2 emissions of 79g/km - its petrol-electric gubbins largely borrowed from the Panamera S E-Hybrid.
What’s the 2014 Porsche Cayenne like to drive?
The Cayenne remains the best large SUV to drive when it comes to performance and handling – it is the dynamic benchmark by which the rest of the class is judged.
We're yet to try the entry-level diesel, but our time spent with the V8 S diesel would suggest it's still our pick of the range. There's a monumental amount of torque available even from low revs, and that pull just keeps on coming over a wide band. The Cayenne cracks the sprint from standstill to 62mph in just 5.4 seconds and if that wasn't impressive enough, it's also officially capable of 35.3mpg.
The entry-level petrol S is no longer fitted with a V8 engine, but its new twin-turbo V6, while smaller, actually helps it accelerate more quickly than before. There isn't the low down pull of the V8 diesel from a rolling start in gear, but keep the revs high and there's enough power to ensure rapid progress.
At the top of the range sits the Turbo, and for good reason. It's devastatingly quick in a straight line, and despite there being a slightly longer pause for its turbos to spool up than in the S model, you'll never tire of keeping the revs high to exploit the explosive mid-range performance.
Every Cayenne comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox which gives smooth, precise changes when left in auto mode, and feels just as urgent in manual mode, where gears are selected using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
All the Cayennes we tried were fitted with optional (£518) Sport Chrono Pack, giving you the chance to choose between 'Normal', 'Sport', and 'Sport Plus' settings to sharpen the responses of the gearbox and throttle. The differences between each mode are instantly recognisable, giving the Cayenne an even greater sense of purpose, especially when preparing for and exiting tight corners.
A big part of this feeling of agility comes from the Cayenne's steering. It's hydraulic set-up is nicely weighted, very accurate and gives you plenty of confidence. There really is nothing else in this class that feels quite so competent, although the Range Rover Sport comes closest.
The only suspension set-up we had a chance to try was the air springs, a standard feature on the Turbo, but a £2379 option on lower models. It comes with three settings, and helps the Cayenne feel beautifully supple in its most relaxed setting, and on the smaller 20-inch wheels we tried. The sportier the setting, the firmer it becomes, picking up more bumps in the road and transferring them to the cabin. This characteristic is more prominent on cars fitted with larger 21-inch wheels.
Refinement remains a bit of the problem, because none of the engines manages to completely settle at a steady motorway cruise, and you feel a bit of vibration coming back through the pedals and wheel, particularly on the V8 diesel. Wind noise is worse than you'd hear in a Range Rover Sport or BMW X5, too, while the bigger wheels cause more road noise in the cabin.
What’s the 2014 Porsche Cayenne like inside?
Aside from a new standard multifunction steering wheel with attached paddles borrowed from the smaller Macan SUV, the Cayenne's interior is unchanged from the previous model's.
That means finding a comfortable driving position is simple, because eight-way electrically adjustable seats are standard and there's plenty of room for a couple of tall adults to stretch out in the front.
The rear of the cabin is similarly spacious. There's slightly more head- and legroom than you'd find in a BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport, but really, the rear seats are better suited to three children than three adults. The middle passenger also has a narrow seat and a high floor to contend with.
Boot space lags behind the BMW's and Range Rover's though, and the Cayenne's load bay is also shorter than these rivals'. Its boot is wider, though, and in truth, you won't be left wanting for space. Its rear seats split 40/20/40 and fold almost flat should you need to open up the cabin, and models with air suspension can be lowered at the rear by 52mm to help with lugging heavy items inside.
The dash remains beautifully made, but frustrating to use. The materials used are high-quality and everything is extremely well constructed, but there's seemingly a button for every single function, which makes it difficult to pick out and press your desired one on the move.
A seven-inch colour touch-screen is standard, through which you control the stereo (disappointingly Bluetooth and sat-nav still cost an extra £2841). It's responsive enough, but some of the on-screen graphics look dated next to the class's best systems, such as BMW's iDrive.
Every Cayenne now comes with more kit though, because 18-inch alloys, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, cruise- and climate control, plus a powered tailgate are all included as standard.
Turbo models now add LED headlights, larger 19" alloy wheels, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with self-levelling air suspension, sat-nav and a BOSE sound system.
Should I buy one?
If you're reluctantly trading in the keys to your two-seat sports car in search of something more family-friendly, but hate the idea of foregoing fun behind the wheel, the Cayenne is for you. It out-performs and out-handles all its main rivals, while providing decent space and practicality for a family of four within a high-quality cabin.
The V8 Diesel S is a solid four star car, but the rest of the range doesn't stack up quite as well against the competition, especially the Range Rover Sport. The focus in this class is on ride comfort and refinement, not performance and handling, and the Cayenne simply isn't as supple or quiet on the move as the Range Rover.
The Cayenne also doesn't offer the option of a third row of seats to cater for larger families, either. Porsche have been disappointingly stingy with equipment, too: you have to spend extra to get features such as DAB, sat-nav, and Bluetooth, things that come as standard elsewhere in the class.
It's still a compelling, if expensive package, but we'd need to try the two entry-level models (which are cheaper to buy and run) before giving it the nod over more practical and refined alternatives.
What Car? says…
Cayenne S Diesel
Engine size 4.2-litre diesel
Price from £61,474
Torque 627lb ft
0-62mph 5.4 seconds
Top speed 157mph
Fuel economy 35.3mpg
Engine size 3.6-litre petrol
Price from £60,218
Torque 406lb ft
0-62mph 5.5 seconds
Top speed 161mph
Fuel economy 29.7mpg
Engine size 4.8-litre petrol
Price from £93,763
Torque 553lb ft
0-62mph 4.5 seconds
Top speed 173mph
Fuel economy 25.2mpg