Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There’s no such thing as a slow Porsche Cayenne. Even the entry-level version, with its 335bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine, accelerates from 0-62mph in just 6.2sec and pulls strongly from low engine speeds. It begins to feel a little strained at the top of the rev range, though, so we'd step up to the Cayenne S. Its engine may be slightly smaller, at 2.9 litres, but its extra turbo gives it more grunt, making it a second quicker to 60mph, while also making it more flexible and happier to be revved.
The Cayenne E-Hybrid is quicker even than the S – and most hot hatchbacks, for that matter – because it combines the 3.0-litre petrol V6 of the standard Cayenne with the added zip of an electric motor. It's one of the quickest plug-in hybrid SUVs on sale, bettering the pace of premium rivals such as the Volvo XC90 T8 and Range Rover Sport P400e, while managing a real-world electric-only range – on a fully juiced-up battery – of around 18 miles.
Then there’s the GTS, which is kind of a halfway house between the ‘regular’ Cayennes and the frankly bonkers Turbo models. It uses a turbocharged 454bhp 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine. It can still beat most rivals to motorway speeds, though, and you can enjoy its deep, throaty soundtrack.
At the top of the tree, a still more powerful version of the GTS’s V8 engine gives the Cayenne Turbo the kind of performance that would have been the preserve of supercars a few short years ago. There’s enough pace to overtake with ease and you really need to keep an eye on your speed; it'll reach any legal limit far sooner than you might expect. By a small margin, the fastest Cayenne of all is the Turbo S E-Hybrid, which can launch from 0-62mph in a remarkable 3.8sec.
Suspension and ride comfort
The standard Cayenne, E-Hybrid, GTS and S models have steel springs as standard. We wouldn’t go as far as to say it's uncomfortable, but potholes and expansion joints are tackled with a noticeable thump and it lacks the pliancy of the closely related Audi Q7.
We’d recommend ordering the optional air suspension, which is standard on the range-topping Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid. In Comfort mode the ride remains relatively firm but never crashes or bangs like the standard steel set-up does. In fact, you’ll hear the impacts more than you feel them – a common trait of most air suspension set-ups. Any undulations are dealt with quickly and without the excess body movement that you so often find in tall SUVs.
The exception to the above is the Turbo S E-Hybrid. Not only does it initially feel stiffer than other air-sprung Cayennes, it somehow also suffers from some unwanted float in Comfort mode. Overall most Audi Q7s, BMW X5s and Range Rover Sports offer greater comfort than any Cayenne, if comfort's what you’re looking for in an SUV.
We’d avoid the standard steel springs for those in search of handling prowess, too; they allow too much lean and fall short of the excellent body control you get with the optional air suspension. With this fitted, the Cayenne is up at the top of its class for handling. Everything is kept nice and tight with even Comfort mode tying things down and preventing too much roll in corners, and there are sportier modes to choose if the mood takes you.
If you’re looking for the nimblest Cayenne, avoid the hybrid and Turbo models. Both are heavier than our favourite V6 S; that extra weight makes them feel more cumbersome and their steering less sweet. The GTS isn’t as cumbersome a the Turbo, and in fact Porsche says it’s the most performance-oriented model in terms of handling prowess, but we still suspect that the S will be the sweet spot in the range for most buyers.
The optional four-wheel steering helps manoeuvrability – especially handy in tight carparks – and makes it feel keener to turn in when tackling low-speed bends. Air-sprung cars also have the option of active anti-roll bars that virtually eliminate body lean. They’re very effective and are standard on the Turbo S E-Hybrid.
Whichever Cayenne you choose, cornering grip levels are very high. When pushing really hard you’ll feel the nose slip first, you can neutralise this with a bit of added power. If you’re really committed, you can even make the rear tyres slide. All Cayennes should manage most off-roading that’s asked of them, too, but if you’re planning to venture farther off the black stuff, buy a Range Rover Sport instead.
Noise and vibration
All the engines are smooth under normal use, including the creamy 3.0-litre V6 you’ll find in the entry-level model and the E-Hybrid, as well as the 2.9-litre V6 of the S. The S is a little louder, but in an appealingly sporty way, while the V8 GTS and Turbo and its hybrid relative both deliver a menacing rumble, especially if you’ve specced the optional sports exhaust. That rumble settles down to a barely perceptible background hum at motorway speeds, the V8s only opening their throats to shout when you bury the accelerator pedal.
Unsurprisingly, both hybrid models are all but silent when running in electric-only mode. Their brakes, though, feel terrible through the pedal. They stop you efficiently, but the regenerative charging system that harnesses lost energy to recharges the battery makes them horribly grabby in traffic. There are no such issues in the non-hybrid Cayennes, each of which offers a very progressive middle pedal.
All models come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard that glides between ratios and is pretty responsive to manual commands as well. Wind and road noise are well contained, but the rear suspension is surprisingly loud as it soaks up ruts and bumps.
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