The Porsche Cayenne is the brand's best-selling vehicle in North America. It's also Porsche's only SUV.
The exterior of the Porsche Cayenne was slightly updated in 2008, with new front and rear styling, including more contoured taillamps; LED versions distinguish the turbo. The 2009 Porsche Cayenne retains the recognizable smooth Porsche snout and lower air dam in front and prominent dual exhausts in back.
The 2009 Porsche Cayenne is by no means fast with its standard six-cylinder engine. It can reach 60 mph in around 8 seconds with the automatic, which places it behind some vans. Most of that is due to lackluster response off the line; passing power is quite good, whether with the standard six-speed manual transmission or the more popular choice, a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic steering-wheel shifting.
Both available V-8s were improved for 2008 and remain the same for 2009; a 4.8-liter V-8 in the middle 2009 Porsche Cayenne S model makes 385 horsepower, and the Turbo S model's twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8 produces 500 hp and an equally impressive 516 pound-feet of torque. The top Turbo S can accelerate to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds.
The Cayenne has very crisp steering response, even if it feels a bit artificial, and it takes long, sweeping corners with incredible poise and solidity. Only when you navigate a particularly tight, sharp corner do you remember that it's a vehicle with a curb weight approaching 5,000 pounds. With either V-8 engine, the 2009 Porsche Cayenne feels much friskier and can take advantage of an exceedingly well-tuned chassis.
The instrument panel is styled much like those in Porsche's sportscars, which is to say that drab, dark plastics dominate. Many will appreciate its simplicity, though; it completely avoids both the clutter of other luxury SUVs and confusing solutions like iDrive. The Cayenne is only adequate in backseat space, there's no third-row seat, and cargo space in back is disappointing, due to the high lift to load items and the downward sloping roofline. Despite the impressive handling ability, the ride in the 2009 Porsche Cayenne is quite absorbent, albeit firm. Front seating is spacious, with sturdy, well-proportioned seats that have especially good back support and promote a nice, upright driving position.
The Cayenne offers tough off-road capability despite being tuned for good roadholding. It can ford up to 19 inches of water and has adequate ground clearance for most trail driving. The full-time all-wheel-drive system sends 62 percent of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving but can transmit up to 100 percent to either the front or back wheels when needed. An optional system in the 2009 Porsche Cayenne, called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDDC), especially brings out off-road capabilities, using hydraulic pressure to quickly firm up the stabilizer bars when needed, but it essentially detaches them when not needed for better ride comfort or off-roading. Another option in the 2009 Porsche Cayenne is the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which quickly adjusts suspension firmness specific needs and includes settings ranging from Comfort to Sport.
There are plenty of luxury features and appointments available, though the bottom-line price really adds up. For example, there's an available Panorama Roof, which brings four glass panels (three of which slide open) that extend over the front- and backseats. Examples that spice up the interior of the 2009 Porsche Cayenne are upgraded interior trim ($3,170), wood trim ($1,385), heated seats and steering wheel ($560), a DVD-based navigation system ($3,070) with "breadcrumb" mode to prevent you from getting lost off-road, and a 350-watt Bose surround sound system with 14 speakers ($1,665).
New Dynamic Curve Lights, which help illuminate into corners, are standard on the Turbo and optional on other models. The 2009 Porsche Cayenne has not been crash-tested, but it comes with plenty of safety measures, including front-seat side airbags, and side curtain airbags that cover front and rear outward occupants.
The Bottom Line:
The 2009 Porsche Cayenne isn't as practical as other SUVs its size, but it handles like a Porsche.