Still a handling benchmark, strong and broad engine line-up, build quality
Small common sense cabin niggles, GT package only on the Coupe
What is it?
This is the Cayenne, Porsche’s flagship in size terms. It effectively saved the company when it was introduced back in 2002, and now we’re onto the third generation’s big refresh – one that’ll keep it going for many years yet while the Macan below it goes fully electric. The Cayenne was almost alone on the market when it first came along; now even Aston Martin and Ferrari have SUVs.
The Cayenne has been monstrously successful, though. Since 2002, Porsche has shifted over 1.25 million of the things. Even in 2022, when the model was being readied for this latest upgrade, one in three cars sold by Porsche was a Cayenne. It’s a phenomenon.
So Porsche hasn’t messed much with a winning recipe…
Not on the face of it: this is still a large five-seat family SUV with all-wheel drive as standard. You can have a V6, a V8 or numerous hybrids. There’s a normal SUV body style or you can have a slightly swoopier Cayenne Coupe if you’re the sort of person who hates rear visibility.
But while Porsche hasn’t mucked about with the fundamentals, the 2023 Cayenne has received a thorough update under the bonnet, beneath the bodywork and inside the cabin, to keep it on par with the reborn Range Rover Sport, the perennial BMW X5 (another performance SUV pioneer) and a dozen others. Until 2025, when it’ll be joined – but not replaced – by a fully electric version on an all-new platform.
What versions can I buy in the UK?
The base spec £70k model is simply called the Cayenne, and that’s powered by a turbo V6 good for 348bhp. Spend an extra £14,000 and you’ll graduate to the Cayenne S, which has eschewed V6 propulsion for a new V8 developing 468bhp. That’ll crack 62mph in five seconds.
Recent history suggests the most popular model in the UK will be the 464bhp, £80k Cayenne E-Hybrid, complete with an increase in all-electric range and a faster charging time to supplement its V6 petrol engine. It’s essentially the modern-day successor to the old Cayenne Diesel, which died a long time ago.
It’s not the only hybrid. An £87k Cayenne S E-Hybrid combines the same 130kW electric motor with a boosted V6 for a 512bhp total and 0-62mph in 4.7s. Of more note is its standard adaptive air suspension, a setup very becoming in a bulky SUV.
Much further north is the new Turbo E-Hybrid. Prices start at £130k but you do at least get a colossal power output from its turbo V8 and e-motor – 729bhp and 700lb ft – enough for 0-62mph in 3.7s. Whichever version you choose, Porsche promises around 50 miles of fully electric range if you’ve charged to the brim.
And what about the wild Cayenne Turbo GT?
It’s no longer in Europe, we're afraid: its older iteration of V8 engine can’t meet the latest stringent round of EU emissions regulations, though the Urus and Bentayga fighter lives on in the USA and Middle East.
The spirit of the car, though perhaps not quite the same amount of fun, lives on with the £20k GT package on the 729bhp hybrid, albeit only if you go for the slinkier Cayenne Coupe. It lowers the Cayenne by 10mm, widens its tracks and even sticks some negative camber on the front wheels like it’s a wannabe racecar. Porsche’s engineers have also combed out 100kg by skimming small amounts from the car (as opposed to lopping out the seats like you might when stripping the same from a hot hatch). It still weighs over 2.5 tonnes, mind, thanks to all those battery cells.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Cayenne’s always been a very good car, but it's now more desirable than ever, especially seeing as all the other sporting SUVs that have flooded the market after it have depended on increasingly obnoxious styling. The latest version of the Cayenne almost looks restrained and elegant. You wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen in it like you might in a gopping BMW X6 or lumpen Audi Q8.
Underneath, it’s still at the top of the class to drive. It’s unusually competent off-road, the interior has remained on the right side of minimalism and the perceived quality is high. It’s a deeply complete car, the Cayenne: practical, potent and very clever. The 911 defines Porsche as a company, but it’s the Cayenne that supports the entire operation.