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2015 Porsche Cayenne: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader December 2014

Although many Porsche loyalists swore that they'd never accept an SUV wearing the legendary nameplate, it seems that most have warmed to the idea. The 2015 Porsche Cayenne lives up to its performance heritage and sets the standard by which all other luxury performance SUVs are judged. A simplified lineup this year sees only four models offered, and while each model offers varying trim treatments, the most significant difference lies under the hood. Performance clearly gets preference here, with the base V6 model sent packing in favor of a more powerful twin-turbo V6.

What's New for 2015?

For 2015, the Cayenne lineup is reduced to just four trims: Cayenne Diesel, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo and the industry's first plug-in hybrid luxury SUV, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid. All models feature more power and better fuel efficiency than last year, while new features such as a 360-degree Surround View camera and cooling rear seats are added to the options list. The Sport Chrono package offers a performance start feature, and all trims get revised suspension tuning plus slight exterior styling changes.

What We Like

Impressive power and handling; high-quality interiors; fuel-efficient plug-in 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

How Much?

$62,695-$200,000

Fuel Economy

All Cayenne models offer potent levels of performance in comparison to competitors, and their brawn is proportionate to their prices. An 8-speed Tiptronic automatic is standard on all models this year. The Cayenne S features a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 good for 420 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates for the S are 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The Diesel uses a 3.0-liter turbodiesel that pumps out 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque with an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.

The Cayenne S E-Hybrid's 416 hp helps it hit 60 miles per hour in 5.4 seconds, although it's the 435 lb-ft of torque that creates that satisfying, seat-squishing sensation when the right pedal is buried. Expect 22 mpg combined and 47 mpge in hybrid electric mode.

The Turbo model's twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 bumps hp to 520 and 553 lb-ft of torque, with fuel economy estimates of 14 mpg city/21 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

Porsche offers the Cayenne in four trims: Diesel, S, S E-Hybrid and Turbo.

The Cayenne Diesel ($62,695) comes with active all-wheel drive, an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power rear lift gate, 10-speaker audio with a 7-in touchscreen display, Bluetooth, fog lights, leather seating surfaces, 8-way power front seats and a refrigerated glove box.

The Cayenne S ($75,095) has a more powerful engine, plus 19-in wheels, a power sunroof, and front and rear parking assist.

The Cayenne S E-Hybrid ($77,395) adds speed-sensitive power steering, Porsche Car Connect with a smartphone app, an adaptive suspension, an onboard charger and a hybrid readout display screen.

The Cayenne Turbo ($114,595) brings 14-way power front seats, LED headlights, air suspension, a 14-speaker Bose surround sound audio, a heated and power adjustable steering wheel, heated rear seats and 19-in wheels.

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; and 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, lane-change assist, active air suspension and dynamic chassis control. Ceramic brakes add nearly $9,000 to the sticker price.

With the rear seats folded, the Cayenne offers 62.9 cu ft. of rear-storage volume, which is less expansive than some models in this segment, but then again, this SUV is more about the S than the U.

Safety

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 2015 Porsche Cayenne lineup boasts genre-defying performance capabilities. The diesel model feels brisk enough when summoned, but the S E-Hybrid's copious torque makes it the surprise performer of the bunch, especially when the shifter is clicked into S, sharpening throttle response and putting the transmission into a more aggressive mode of attack. The S E-Hybrid can also drive on electric-only mode at speeds up to 78 mph.

The S version ups the ante, but for truly awe-inspiring performance, the Turbo is the model of choice. Start/stop technology makes for serene red-light experiences, but Sport mode in this SUV transforms it into an aggressive, lurching beast. Similarly, the suspension can transform from floaty to stiff with the touch of a button, and its most aggressive handling modes make it so quick to turn that it becomes easy to forget you're in a hulking animal of an SUV.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW X5 -- BMW's X5 trims range from the xDrive35i's turbocharged 6-cylinder to the X5 M's 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 that churns 567 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.

Used Porsche Cayenne Turbo S -- A 2011-2013 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S will give all of the performance and features of a new Turbo but, due to its lackluster resale value, will cost a lot less.

AutoTrader's Advice

Get the best of both worlds in the satisfying, yet reasonably economical, plug-in S E-Hybrid. The number of boxes to check off on the options list depends on your bank balance.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Porsche Cayenne: New Car Review - Autotrader