Once considered blasphemous to the Porsche brand, the Cayenne SUV has become a crucial part of Porsche's success. The Cayenne has become so successful that the 2014 Porsche Cayenne is available in no fewer than seven configurations, running the gamut from basic luxury to super high-performance machine. While each model offers varying trim treatments, the most significant difference lies under the hood. Recently added to the Cayenne lineup is the 240-horsepower Cayenne Diesel, which may be the lowest on horsepower, but it has plenty of torque and is also the most fuel efficient -- all while keeping the Porsche-grade performance feel that the Cayenne has become known for.
The Porschephile fringe may still find plenty to moan about with the Zuffenhausen-based manufacturer's entry into the SUV segment, but the Cayenne offers a Porsche-worthy blend of luxurious interiors and real-world performance.
What's New for 2014?
A new Turbo S model is introduced this year, touting 550 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque.
What We Like
Impressive power and handling; high-quality interiors; fuel-efficient hybrid and diesel options; sports car performance in an SUV
What We Don't
Extensive options list quickly escalates already elevated base price; practical, though not as voluminous as other SUV options; punishing fuel economy in gas-powered versions
All Cayennes offer potent levels of performance in comparison to competitors, and their brawn is proportionate to their prices. The base model's 300-hp engine is capable of a respectable but not blazing 0-to-60 miles per hour time of 7.1 seconds with a manual transmission and 7.4 seconds with an automatic 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox. Fuel economy is thirsty, with the Tiptronic version yielding 16 miles per gallon city/23 mpg hwy.
The Cayenne Diesel's 240-hp V6 runs only on diesel fuel. While it's shy on horsepower, it pours on torque to the tune of 406 lb-ft and comes standard with an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. With a 0-to-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds, the Diesel's main advantage over other Cayenne models is its superior fuel economy of 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.
The Cayenne S Hybrid's 380 hp helps it hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, although it's the 428 lb-ft of torque that creates that satisfying, seat-squishing sensation when the right pedal is buried. Expect 20 mpg city/24 mpg hwy from the S Hybrid model.
Opt for the S and its 400-hp engine yields a more impressive 0-to-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds, which puts this bulky sport utility vehicle on par with many performance coupes. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy numbers are 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy, barely showing a penalty compared with the base model. The Turbo model bumps horsepower to 500, while the S pushes output to 550 hp with EPA-estimated 14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
Porsche offers the Cayenne in no less than seven trims: base, Diesel, S, S Hybrid, GTS, Turbo and Turbo S.
The Cayenne ($50,575) comes with Active All-Wheel Drive, a 6-speed manual transmission, 18-inch wheels, electronic parking brake, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, power rear lift gate, 10-speaker audio with 7-in touchscreen display, Bluetooth, fog lights, leather seating surfaces, 8-way power front seats and a refrigerated glove box.
The Cayenne Diesel ($57,575) adds an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and the diesel engine.
The Cayenne S ($67,775) has a more powerful engine but the same features as the above trims.
The Cayenne S Hybrid ($71,875) adds speed-sensitive power steering (optional on other trims).
The Cayenne GTS ($84,275) adds height-adjustable air suspension, performance brakes, 20-in wheels, adaptive HID headlights as well as the enhanced exterior trim from the Turbo model and sport seats and a sport steering wheel.
The Cayenne Turbo ($111,375) brings 14-way power front seats, 14-speaker Bose surround sound audio, heated and power adjustable steering wheel, heated rear seats and 19-in wheels.
The Cayenne Turbo S ($146,975) has the same features as the Turbo only with 50 more horsepower under the hood, 21-in wheels, an active suspension with torque vectoring rear differential, unique interior color and trim choices and the Sport Chrono Package.
Porsche has endowed the Cayenne with virtually every technological goodie available, but those creature comforts come at a price. For example, navigation with an audio interface runs $3,675; a Bose surround-sound system adds $1,690, while a 1,000-watt Burmester setup runs $5,690; voice control costs $595, while a satellite radio receiver requires $750; expect to pay $2,990 for a rear-seat entertainment system.
When it comes to driving aids, the Cayenne can be ordered with adaptive cruise control ($2,690), lane-change assist ($850), active suspension ($1,990), air suspension ($3,980) and dynamic chassis control ($3,510). Torque vectoring will cost you $1,490, while a sport exhaust swells the MSRP by $2,950. And pity your wallet if you have racetrack aspirations, as ceramic brakes add a substantial $8,840 to the sticker price. Front and rear park assist is $1,095, while that in combination with a reverse camera cost $1,750. Packages, which combine several of the aforementioned à la carte options, add $4,540 to $11,670 to the Cayenne's sticker price.
With the rear seats folded, the Cayenne offers 62.9 cu ft of rear storage volume -- less expansive than some, but then again this SUV is more about the S than the U. The Cayenne's seats, for example, strike a solid blend of supportiveness and long-range comfort. Ergonomics are also excellent, though the array of identically sized and shaped buttons on the center stack verges on overkill.
Porsche's Cayenne boasts crash safety engineering that includes a chassis strategically reinforced with high-tensile steel, force limiters on the front seats and rollover detection that triggers seat belt pretensioners and curtain airbags. Additional airbags are in front, passenger and driver knee locations. High-strength crossmembers protect the doors and bumpers.
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the Porsche Cayenne.
Behind the Wheel
Performance varies dramatically from model to model, but the entire 2014 Porsche Cayenne lineup boasts genre-defying performance capabilities. The base and diesel models feel brisk enough when summoned, but the S Hybrid's copious torque makes it the surprise performer of the bunch, especially when the shifter is clicked into S, which sharpens throttle response and puts the transmission into a more aggressive mode of attack. The S Hybrid can also drive on electric-only mode at up to 37 mph, while coasting without engine intervention at even higher speeds.
The S version ups the ante. But for truly awe-inspiring performance, the Turbo and Turbo S are astounding. Start/stop technology makes for serene red-light experiences, but Sport mode in these SUVs transforms them into aggressive, lurching beasts. Similarly, the suspension can transform from floaty to stiff with the touch of a button, and their most aggressive handling modes make them so quick to turn that it becomes easy to forget you're in a hulking animal of an SUV.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi Q7 -- The Audi Q7 is powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine or a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel mill. The Q7 is an adequate performer but not quite on par with the Porsche.
BMW X5 -- BMW's X5 trims range from the xDrive35i's turbocharged 6-cylinder that produces 300 hp to the X5 M's 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 that churns 555 hp. BMW's X5 offerings are more philosophically in line with Porsche's driver-focused Cayenne models than Audi's.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport -- The Range Rover offers luxury and attention to design detail comparable to the Porsche, but its considerably higher curb weight keeps it from competing head-to-head against Porsche in performance.
Get the best of both worlds in the satisfying yet reasonably economical S Hybrid. How many boxes to check off on the options list depends on your bank balance.