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The Top Gear car review:Porsche Cayenne
For:Monstrously fast and monstrously capable
Against:Monstrous-looking and expensive to run, has a certain image
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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.
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. The Cayenne’s practicality is a big reason why people buy it, and it’s better than ever in this regard.
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.