1. What’s new for 2016?
After a modest model-year 2015 freshening, the lineup expands to include new entry-level and sporty models. This peppery people-hauler is a five-passenger midsize premium crossover with standard all-wheel drive (AWD). It borrows elements of its basic design from the Touareg, produced by Porsche parent Volkswagen. Cayenne flavors range from mild in base guise to wild in the high-performance Turbo S. These editions are new for 2016, along with the Cayenne GTS. They join the established Diesel, S, Turbo, and plug-in S E-Hybrid. Each is available with myriad options that let you build a Cayenne almost to your personal specifications…for a price. Speaking of which…
2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?
The new-for-2016 base trim level, called simply Cayenne, starts at $59,295 (all base prices here include Porsche’s $995 destination fee). So far so good. That starting price is higher than that of the competition but not too far out of the ballpark. Then you get to the options sheet, where permutations and combinations are pretty much limited only by your imagination.
There are enough extra-cost features – $8,520 ceramic brakes, anyone? – to send even the base sticker price near $150,000. And that breadth of options is available across the entire lineup, including the top-line Turbo S, which starts at $158,295 and can top out around $230,000.
Don’t expect much of a discount, either. Specifics on 2016 transaction prices were unavailable in time for this review, pricing service TrueCar.com shows them trending only about $1,500 below manufacturer’s suggested retail for the ’15 model. You might find a lease deal here and there, but this is virtually a bespoke vehicle. Your “average” Cayenne buyer knows exactly what they want and pays what’s necessary to get it.
3. When will the next big change be?
Today’s second-generation Cayenne bowed for model-year 2011. It received styling and drivetrain tweaks for ‘15. Porsche could continue to roll out additional trim levels, but a full-on redesign isn’t likely until 2018.
4. What options or trim level is best for me?
Each of the seven models is worth considering. Which is “best” depends on what you’re interested in getting out of it.
Families looking to get into the Porsche brand but find the compact-class Macan too small will get plenty of enjoyment out of the base and S versions. The Diesel and S E-Hybrid are perfect for those who don’t mind spending a lot of money on a vehicle but do mind spending a lot for fuel. Performance junkies will relish the GTS, Turbo, and Turbo S.
There are far too many options to list here, but a couple things worth noting: Porsche charges extra for items that are standard on most luxury crossovers, such as full leather upholstery, heated seats, in-car infotainment and telematics, and even satellite radio. Many bits of the interior can be customized with leather, Alcantara faux suede, aluminum, and/or carbon fiber. You can even get custom-color seatbelts and air vent slats. These options aren’t cheap, but there’s enough here to satisfy even the most discerning shopper.
Audiophiles will want to pony up the extra cash for the Burmester “High-End Surround Sound System.” With 16 speakers outputting more than 1,000 Watts, a 300-Watt active subwoofer, and other goodies, this is one of the best in-car audio systems available.
5. What engine do you recommend?
Any of them. Seriously, they’re all good. All but the Turbo and Turbo S have a V-6 with outputs ranging from 240 horsepower in the Diesel to 440 in the GTS. The S E-Hybrid has a unique supercharged V-6 that, when combined with the electric motor, produces 416 horsepower. The Turbo and Turbo S use a turbocharged 4.8-liter V-8 with 520 and 570 horsepower, respectively. The only transmission is an eight-speed automatic.
Every Cayenne is capable of running from 0-60 mph in less than 7.5 seconds; the Turbo S can do it in 3.8 and achieve a top speed of 176 mph. Not too shabby for a vehicle that tips the scales at nearly 5,000 pounds.
6. How is the fuel economy?
EPA city/highway combined fuel-economy estimates for the 2016 base, S, and GTS are 21, 20, and 19 mpg, respectively. Other ’16 versions were not rated in time for this review but expect them to repeat at 23 mpg combined for the Diesel and 17 for the Turbo.
The S E-Hybrid is a plug-in vehicle that rates 22 mpg combined for the gasoline engine and 47 “MPGe” (miles per gallon equivalent) for the electric motor. The hybrid is capable of traveling for up to 14 miles purely on electricity.
All Cayennes, save for the Diesel, use a fuel-saving engine-idle stop/start system that shuts down the engine at a stop and instantly restarts it when the driver releases their foot from the brake pedal. Premium-grade fuel (91 octane or higher) is required on all gasoline models.
7. How does it handle?
Aside from Porsche’s own Macan, this is arguably the world’s best handling SUV. The feeling of control is not unlike that you get from behind the wheel of one of the German automaker’s sports cars — but with the ability to carry five adult humans and their gear comfortably.
Steering response is instantaneous. Even the standard brakes have vice-like grip. The performance-calibrated AWD system provides reassuring traction in all road conditions. It can be further enhanced with addition of Porsche’s torque-vectoring system, which automatically regulates wheel speed while cornering.
8. Are the controls easy to use?
Among luxury brands, Porsche’s navigation/infotainment system is among the easier to interact with. The combination of touchscreen, pushbutton, and jog-dial inputs isn’t overwhelming, though the method by which you pair your cell phone via Bluetooth could be a bit more intuitive. A small LCD screen next to the tachometer can display a variety of data, including a mirror of the navigation system’s map, which is handy. The Cayenne is available with a number of exhaust and suspension upgrades, the controls for which are located around the transmission shift lever.
9. Is it comfortable?
For an SUV that emphasizes “sport,” it’s plenty accommodating. Headroom and legroom are ample both front and rear. Full-leather upholstery is not standard on all trims, and selecting it can be a pricey upgrade. The suede-like Alcantara steering wheel feels exceptionally luxurious to grip. Ride quality varies depending on suspension and tires, with the standard setup being the most comfortable. The engines are loud, but in a good way, especially during acceleration. Wind and other noises are about on par with other luxury-class crossovers.
10. What about safety?
Cayenne has not been crash tested under the government’s 5-Star Safety Ratings system or by the insurance-industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The structurally related Touareg, though, earns the IIHS’s top rating for occupant protection in side impact and for roof strength, as well as in the moderate overlap front crash test that measures the affects of two vehicles colliding front-corner to front-corner.
Standard safety features include front- and rear-torso side airbags. Disappointingly, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot alert, and lane-departure warning are optional, even on the pricey Turbo and Turbo S.
11. How’s the reliability and resale value?
While Porsche’s sports cars (911, Boxster, Cayman) consistently score top marks in these categories, the Cayenne is a bit of a mixed bag. Consumers surveyed by research firm J.D. Power consistently rank it at the top of the class for initial quality and for performance and design, and peg reliability as above average.
Resale values are similarly mixed. Base and Diesel models retain 39-40 percent of their values after five years of ownership, according to residual-tracking firm ALG. S and GTS models retain 32-33 percent while Turbo and Turbo S bring up the rear at just 26-27 percent, says ALG. Intellichoice, which projects depreciation, maintenance and other factors, rates this SUV as “average” in its class, based on a projected five-year total cost of ownership.
12. Is it better than the competition?
Guarding their sports-car tradition, Porsche purists wailed when this SUV debuted for model-year 2003. Luxury-crossover shoppers had no such qualms and Cayenne fast became the brand’s best selling and most profitable vehicle. Without it, Porsche might not have survived 2008’s global economic collapse. But it’s still here, so is Cayenne, and both are a good thing. To restate an earlier point, however, on some models, options can match or exceed the base price. If that doesn’t bother you, it’s hard to find anything this practical that’s as rewarding to drive.