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Long-term review

Porsche Cayenne S - long-term review

£88,100 base / as tested £113,484 / PCM £1,057
Published: 18 Apr 2024

Can you use a Porsche Cayenne as a campervan?

Have you heard of the Tyre Extinguishers? They’re a vigilante group of climate activists going around West London shoving mung beans into SUV tyre valves. Why? Well, they’re fed up with big off-roaders clogging up urban environments. So, these protesters are bleeding tyres in the dead of night to prove a pulse-based point. And they have a point.

SUV sales in the UK have increased by 23 per cent since 2022. In 2022, the number of new SUVs registered stood at 910,000, but that number now stands at 1.12 million units. If this trend continues, SUV registrations could make up 75 per cent of new car registrations by 2027. And how many of these SUVs actually go off-road? Couldn’t find an official figure, though I bet it’s filed under ‘not many’.

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Being a resident of West London and currently driving a hunched over Cayenne S Coupe (yep, the most compromised and car-like SUV, AKA utter catnip for the Tyre Extinguishers) I too wanted to prove a point: that our Porsche doesn’t deserve to have its tyres deflated. How? By going on an adventure and using its oft-forgotten off-road ability. So often forgotten, in fact, Porsche failed to write anything about its off-roader’s off-roadness in the 2024 Cayenne’s official press bumf.

Top Gear Cayenne Longtermer Camping

It does have genuine off-road chops. It’s robust, reliable, and blessed with all-wheel drive, differential locks, various mud-plugging drive modes, a torquey turbocharged V8, plus plenty of ground clearance thanks to dual chamber air-spring suspension that can elevate you from 160mm to 239mm at the touch of a non-existent button.

With all this ability why wouldn’t you use it for expeditions? Good question. There’s no reason. It’s just its luxurious nature and sporty heritage sometimes get in the way and puts people off. Not me. So, the plan (if you could call it that), was to embrace Scotland's Inner Hebrides and a jewel of beauty and tranquillity – the enigmatic Isle of Jura. 15 hours, two ferries and 600-odd miles away this remote destination was the location for an upcoming feature. It’s also where I needed the Cayenne to turn from ‘transport’ to ‘accommodation’ for two days.

Now, I’m not the first person to live in a Cayenne. Values of older cars have started to drop to the point where people are seeing them as viable overlanding vehicles to sate their appetite for escapism – just in a car from Stuttgart. If you’ve been on Instagram recently, you may have seen a bloke called Harrison Schoen who has gathered quite a following having left the Navy to tour the US and live in his £7,000 2017 Cayenne S Diesel. There’s also South African Shane Oosthuizen, who has been driving around Europe and Africa with his fiancée, covering around 100,000km. So, my wee trip to Scotland should be a doddle. Like their Cayennes, I had to make it fit for purpose.

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Top Gear Porsche Cayenne S Longtermer Camping

Unfortunately, a three-inch lift kit, trick tubular upper control arms and tiny wheels with monster off-road tyres was out of the question. I did change the wheels and tyres; losing an inch by opting for the standard 21in rim and then ditching the road-biased Pirelli P-Zeros for the squidgier mud and snow rated Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV. Then we lobbed Porsche’s official Tequipment roof tent on top. If you want to stunt on people with the ultimate lifestyle flex, there’s nothing better. This pop-up two-man tent fits the 911, Macan, Cayenne, Panamera and Taycan. There’s no need for roof rails either (not possible with our big pano roof) as it neatly secures into the door seals. It's not cheap though, at £4,400 you can get a week in the Four Seasons for the same price. On Jura there are no hotels, let alone a Four Seasons – so it’s my only option.

Given our overall consumption for the last few months has struggled to hit 20mpg, setting off I was intrigued (and a little scared) at what loading a boot full of Nemo camping equipment, invaluable Anker 767 Portable Power Station, camera gear, plus a 56kg roof tent-shaped brick on the roof would do to our fuel consumption. The Cayenne settled into its 12-hour cruise up to Scotland with ease.

Noise in the cabin noticeably increases with a giant box on the roof, but having had some aerodynamic sympathy designed into it, there are no horrific whistles. Can get caught in crosswinds, mind. As Pete Rawlins found driving the Cayenne to Scotland recently, it swallows miles with ease and gets into a stride. The new softer rubber and smaller wheel size did make it even simpler as there’s more compliance and comfort to the primary ride, where the Cayenne suffers.

Top Gear Porsche Cayenne S Longtermer Camping

Myself and Mark Riccioni arrived at Kennacraig for the ferry to Islay having averaged 55mph and 21.7mpg, topping up at the last and lonely petrol pump to be gifted a hand-written receipt on a bit of scrap paper. Life up here is a bit slower and simpler. Being the only people to board the open sided ferry to Jura, we quickly realised this is where the adventure would begin as the Cayenne would leave the realm of ‘transportation solution’ and quickly become ‘life support.’

Jura is wild, isolated, and untamed. Hammered by sideways rain, its mist-shrouded mountains meet windswept moors, craggy coastlines, and hefty, chocolate-coloured peat bogs. We had to conquer the lot, heading from the very south to the very north of the island, a place not even accessible to locals, let alone tarmac.

With an anti-clockwise twist of the steering wheel mounted drive mode knob, you get into the Cayenne’s off-road mode, changing the idle, gear shift response, traction management, torque distribution, anti-roll bars, rear-steering and diff settings. And given our car has the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus package (£1,158) we get the benefit of a locking rear-diff. Which gets off-road types very excited.

You can then dive deeper, into further modes, unlocking more potential. For a gravel track or wet grass, there’s “Gravel” mode. For muddy forest tracks or deeply rutted roads, you’ve got the “Mud” setting. There are also modes for sand and a “Rock” option. Annoyingly, they’re not immediately obvious, though once in them, you do get additional displays for the steering angle, transverse gradient, and longitudinal incline. Paired with the Surround View cameras, you have great visibility of what’s going on around you.

Top Gear Porsche Cayenne S Longtermer Camping

Hoiked up in the ‘Off-Road II’ mode, the Cayenne clambered over the sharp rocks, across deep mud and road gravel trails with ease. When things got a bit more technical, you’d assume the Cayenne would have no hope, but it can handle big ascents and descents with ease. You just need to be mindful of its width and weight. Which I found out dropping a wheel into a ditch, leaving us having to get towed out by a farmer. Oops. Even with tame snow and mud tyres (that left a very satisfying herringbone footprint wherever they went), I’d be interested to see where the Cayenne could go with chunkier tyres. And when it was worth a little less money.

Reaching our destination, we set up camp, transforming the rear of the Cayenne to a kitchen thanks to a fridge and induction hob all powered by the Anker battery. After some steaks, I retired to the roof tent. With a few clips to undo and a push of the hidden cantilevered ladder, it pops up and is simple to set up. It’s also sensationally comfortable to sleep in with its built-in double mattress and completely blacked-out water and windproof shell. Exactly what was needed after a monstrously long day.

The next morning, we woke to a glorious sunrise, bright blue skies and recharged to do a typically stupid feature you’ll find out about soon. Suffice to say the drive home was as easy as the one there. And the Cayenne keeps surprising me more and more. So if you see it in West London, Tyre Extinguishers – keep your mung beans away from this mucky SUV: this one is used properly.

Top Gear Porsche Cayenne S Longtermer Camping

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