The performance SUV defined
It still rankles with some purists that Porsche builds a 4x4. Yet the Cayenne, which shares its platform with the VW Touareg and Audi Q7, is the companys highest-selling vehicle. Its also the only Porsche with a diesel engine.
Considering its price and prestige, youd be surprised by some of the equipment thats only optional on the Cayenne. Even on the Turbo, for example, £84,790 doesnt get you Bluetooth or an iPod socket. Cruise and climate control do come as standard across the range, however, and you wont ever climb into a Cayenne and remark to yourself that it feels sparse. A common theme in the equipment catalogue is that you can have everyday kit or if you want to one-up the Joneses, you can choose an extra-special option instead. Metallic paint, for example, costs about £700, but Carmine Red is almost a grand more on top. Theres also a list of the sort of options only Porsche can pull off. Want your Cayenne with ceramic brakes? Certainly sir, thatll be another five and a half large. You can even have blue seatbelts. If you cant think of anything better to spend £316 on.
The overwhelming bulk of Cayennes sold in the UK are diesels. Which goes to show that though lots of people want a Porsche, most of them want it for the badge rather than the ultimate driving experience. Not that the 3.0-litre diesel is at all slow, with heaps of low-down torque more than making up for its comparative lack of power. And with fuel economy nudging 40mpg in everyday driving, its by far the most affordable way of enjoying the Cayenne experience. If a diesel Porsche just sounds wrong, though, the entry-level model has a 3.6 V6 engine that also has the attraction of being the only one with a manual gearbox option. Theres a smaller V6 in the Hybrid, and then comes the 4.8-litre V8. This appears in the S, GTS and Turbo. All can post 0-62 times of less than six seconds, while the Turbo can make the contents of your rear-view mirror disappear almost as quickly as the contents of your wallet.
The Cayennes interior has an uncluttered firmness of purpose which is probably meant to evoke the purity of the driving experience. Presumably for the same reason, all the switches on the huge centre console look the same. And theres a whole lot of them. The effect is certainly elegant. But when you need to use something one of those buttons controls, its less pure and more overwhelming. Still, a steering wheel with nothing on it but the paddle shifts for the gearbox makes a bold statement. And so do seats that feel ready to hold you in however hard you corner the thing. Another consequence of the cabins single-minded purity is that theres not a lot of places to put your odds and ends. And in the back, the seats fold down to create a load floor thats both sloped and stepped. Legroom in the back is good, though, when youre carrying passengers. But headroom is cramped, and a high waistline makes it feel rather claustrophobic.
So what if its an oil-burner? The Cayanne feels way faster than a diesel ever should, especially a relatively small one. And the engine is tremendously refined, too, whisking you up to speed without a trace of gruffness and cruising on the motorway in whisper-quiet peace. In between times, it handles with the most natural steering feel in the world and a sublime combination of grip and body control. Its brakes are exceptional, too. In normal driving, you dont lose one jot of ride quality to pay for this sort of handling. Its brilliantly damped on rough roads, and pot holes hold no fear. You can even hammer it along a stony gravel track and itll still feel comfortable. You can specify various options to enhance its dynamics still further. But leave it completely standard and it would still take a remarkably demanding driver to want more.
Theres no such thing as a cheap Porsche to own, but this is as close as it gets. The V6 costs less to buy, but the diesel will hold its value far better as well of course as using a lot less fuel. Thatll spare you the wrath of the taxman, to some extent. And faster, more expensive models cost a lot more to insure. As with any Porsche, though, dont be fooled by the ticket price. Once the options list has had its way with you, youll end up paying an average of about 10% more. And you will pay it, too. Because Porsche dealers never, ever give discounts.