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Long-term review

Porsche Cayenne S - long-term review

£88,100 base / as tested £113,484 / PCM £1,057
Published: 21 May 2024
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Would you rather live with a Range Rover Sport or Porsche Cayenne S?

Top Gear's Porsche Cayenne S and Range Rover Sport are both red, cost around £110k, and are staunch rivals vying for SUV supremacy on the hard tarmac of city centres and the softer grass verges of suburban school runs. But which is best? Rowan and Ben swapped keys for a few weeks to find out.

RH: I’ve been led to believe that all cars are turning into homogeneous blobs of batteries and big screens; this has proved that's not the case.

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BP: Well, yours does have three screens slathered across the dash, and the RRS has two stapled into the back of the headrests. 

RH: Have you not found it to be a proper, old school twin test? Two cars that fundamentally do the same thing but go about it in two very different ways. I've found it fascinating. And walked away with a winner I wasn't expecting. 

BP: It’s amazing these two are so different. And it’s equally amazing that in 2024 Porsche sells a V8 SUV that averages fuel consumption in the teens. It does rather encourage you to use all that power though, yet at low revs it’s also more refined than the Range Sport’s diesel. Best of both – until you get to the forecourt. 

RH: Initially, your Range Sport feels so much more luxurious than the Porsche. You climb up into a bed of cushioned leather, soft touch leathers and there's more light coming into the cabin from the panoramic sunroof, amplifying the feeling of space.

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BP: My first impressions had to wait until I’d transferred my children’s car seats across. It was nice to do that without two rear-mounted screens jabbing me in the shoulders though. I wasn’t expecting the interior from an old Macan though. It doesn’t feel six figures’ worth; the touchscreens are too small and set too low, and it’s a tad cramped with that transmission tunnel-mounted grab handle right up against you.

RH: Well, kids aren't something I've got to worry about. I've just got to protect my street cred, and rolling on big, black 23in rims, I've felt like a cover star of DUBs magazine.

BP: With a suitable layer of countryside grime you can hide that vibe. Once back in Hampshire I immediately drove your Porsche down the dirtiest single track lane I could find. Until that point, I felt I was peacocking around in a big car with a small boot.

RH: The Range Sport exudes a far more commanding presence on the road. But when you start moving, things start to go a bit wrong. And bong.

BP: Yours bongs too. Good to know we've both got steering wheel shortcuts to shut them up though. Isn’t it funny that in the future it won't be worn steering wheels or collapsed seat bolsters that give away a high mileage car, but a worn out safety button?

RH: How'd you find that upscaled, Germanic V8?

BP: Odd, at first. It was eerily quiet crawling out of London, but kept shouting into life in stop/start traffic. Then I was just hammering it everywhere. It’s the exact engine you’d have in America. And yet, because the Porsche doesn’t have the overall refinement of the Rangie, you get more wind and tyre roar on the motorway. Score draw there.

Porsche Cayenne S / Range Rover Sport

RH: What instant, smooth, and torquey electrified drivetrains have really done is magnify the faults of diesels. The D350, despite 347bhp and 516lb ft from 1,500-3,000rpm, feels strained and grumbly. But then it’s also lugging around a heffalump of a thing. What did the Range Sport weigh in at again?

BP: Too much. Hundreds of kilos more than the Cayenne. Call it three tonnes with a family onboard…

RH: I've taken the Cayenne's ride for granted. Hitting a speed bump in the Range Sport clacks your spine together like an accordion in comparison. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but given it’s on air suspension, I was expecting pillowy pliancy and a Rangie ride where you can plough through sleeping policemen. You can’t. The suspension feels rather stilted and brittle, a little cheap as the car is easily deflected and shudders down UK backroads and lacks control - not helped by slow, vague steering with a dead spot in the middle of the rack. 

BP: On smooth surfaces it’s better than the Porsche. Though those are few and far between. The Porsche patters more at low speed, but that’s as bad as it gets. It absorbs just about anything, and feels like it doesn’t roll at all in comparison to the Rangie. Like I said, I drove it way harder than the Sport. Which might have something to do with the crappy fuel consumption…

RH: Cornering is not the Range Sport's strong point. In fact, there was a point while driving it that I had to brace myself against the passenger seat because it rolled so much and the seat lacked support. You can see why they've fitted the active ride to the sportier 'SV'. Dynamic mode tightens things up but then makes the engine and gearbox overexcited for day-to-day driving. There needs to be a middle ground.

BP: They’re so far apart when you’d expect the opposite: one is the de facto sporty SUV benchmark (short of the silliness of the Urus and DBX) and the other has Sport in its name and purports to be its nearest rival. Coming out of the office car park I nearly put your Porsche into the kerb, it turns so sharply compared to the Range Sport. That quickly I knew the Porsche was dynamically miles ahead.

Porsche Cayenne S / Range Rover Sport

RH: The Range Sport is a car for cruising – that's where it excels. With massage seats, a chiller under your elbow, and a psychotically satisfying near 700-mile range on the dash, you just want to mile munch. Or sit in London traffic.

BP: Which is what I do. School commute. School commute. Then a random 300-mile round trip. If only the stereo was better in the Range Sport. Your Bose system rather exposed its shortcomings.

RH: Ah, yes. The Meridian system in the Rangie sucks. It lacks depth, clarity, and punch. Destroying my DUBs magazine cover star dreams.

BP: I’ll happily have it back. It has a proper boot, rather than your silly one (and why is it that the angle of the boot exactly matches the angle of the front bumper?). The Rangie is a big car, but it also feels bigger inside and you sit imperiously high. The Cayenne sights you lower, but what’s the point if you’ve bought an SUV? We went to Center Parcs two days after we swapped back and the Range Sport was the better car for that.

RH: This has been a really useful exercise. It's made me appreciate the engineering and subtle sporty Porsche-ness of the Cayenne. I've got to be honest, I've really wanted to get back into it. I haven't felt that before. It's a car I started lukewarm on but has been growing on me massively. I've even started coming around to preferring the Coupe silhouette rather than an SUV. Am I going mad?

BP: Yes. The V8 is too thirsty, the boot isn’t big enough, and therefore what’s the point? Have some kids, then we’ll revisit. 

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