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The Top Gear car review: Porsche Cayenne

£49,576£118,455
7/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Monstrously fast and monstrously capable

Against: 

Monstrous-looking and expensive to run, has a certain image
A lesson in technical brilliance, the Cayenne handles deftly and has a much improved cabin.

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Our choice

Porsche

S E-Hybrid 5dr Tiptronic S

£62,099
N/A
83mpg
5.90s
416bhp
79g/km

What we say: 

Now slightly less unpretty SUV from the team at Porsche. Buy for the driving, not the looks

What is it?

A car we want to hate. Only it’s a bit good and helps pay for more extreme 911s. The Cayenne might finally be growing into its awkward skin, but it’s always been something of an over-achiever. Sure, it can off-road, but its real ability lies on the road, where it drives with quite silly pace and ability for a 4x4. 

It was facelifted last year, with a Macan-style front end and enhancements for all the engines. Big news is plug-in tech for the hybrid, but all are greener.  

Driving

For all its mighty power, the 520bhp Turbo isn’t without some finesse. Porsche’s chassis people are pretty clever, making the Cayenne handle its bulk with athleticism that suggests they’ve made some sort of pact with a higher force. That ability permeates the entire range, even the newly enhanced S E-Hybrid which now has the power and response to match the other variants (the old one was too laggy). The new V6 twin-turbo-powered S with its 420bhp is a good all-round proposition and the V6 diesel is a great all-rounder with a much-needed power boost for 2015. The V8 S Diesel remains too, although the surprise new inter-range challenge from that S E-Hybrid is an interesting one.

SUVs don’t handle? The Cayenne disproves this, with all boasting handling to retain their not-so-easily gained speed, with commendable steering feel and handling precision.

On the inside

Only since the Panamera came along can you say that Porsche has delivered interiors that live up to their sticker prices. The Cayenne benefits from its saloon relative’s layout, with a high central tunnel locating the gearshift as well as a quite baffling array of buttons for the infotainment system and innumerate other controls. The satnav’s a bit Apple iPod rather than iPad, the odd mix of touchsceen and push-button controls not the best out there. Space is good front and rear, and the boot’s generous enough, too.   

Owning

More sporty than a Range Rover Sport – and many sports cars and sports saloons – the Cayenne is a masterclass in Porsche’s technical might in making the impossible possible. That’s not to say it’s peerless, as even refreshed it’s still got a face that only a mother could ever really love. It’s extremely expensive too, even more so in facelifted guise, although it is greener and more economical than before, with petrols getting a much-needed mpg sanity check and diesels almost looking reasonable. The S E-Hybrid delivers a stunning 83.1mpg on paper, but will never do that in real life, although the CO2-based tax benefits remain.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
Turbo S 5dr Tiptronic S
4.1s 267g/km 24.6 570 £118,455
The cheapest
5dr Tiptronic S
7.7s 215g/km 30.7 300 £49,576
The greenest
S E-Hybrid 5dr Tiptronic S
5.9s 79g/km 83.1 416 £62,099

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

7/10

Porsche Panamera

£63,913£131,152
If ugly four-door Porsches are your thing, try the Panamera. It also comes with a diesel for convention-breaking effect