Porsche's Cayenne is a five-seat luxury SUV that comes in a variety of mechanical configurations. Since it was introduced in 2003 with a choice of two powerful V8 engines, the lineup has expanded to include an affordable V6-powered base model and a roaring Turbo S V8 model that pumps out 550 hp and rivals Porsche's own sportscars for acceleration prowess.
The Cayenne's design favors on-road performance, offering exciting acceleration and top cornering performance, as expected by Porsche's discriminating customers.
Four engines are available in seven models of the Cayenne (MSRP $45,500). The lineup starts with a 290-hp 3.6-liter V6 with a standard six-speed manual standard or an optional six-speed automatic with a manual shifting function. The Cayenne S gets a 385-hp 4.8-liter V8 and the automatic transmission standard. This combination is gutsy, and the V8 has a broad power band that's ready to accelerate the Cayenne in any gear. The GTS uses the same 4.8-liter V8, yet it's tuned for more output, 405 hp, and uses a six-speed manual for top driver control. The GTS uses monstrous 21-inch wheels and tires, and its ride height is lowered via an electronically variable air suspension. Purist sportscar drivers who prefer to do all the work themselves will like the GTS better than any SUV out there. The Cayenne GTS Tiptronic uses the high-output 4.8-liter V8 with the six-speed automatic, as well as the air suspension. This suspension is calibrated to react quicker when the transmission is in Sport mode.
Finally, the Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S, available only with the automatic, use two turbocharged versions of the 4.8-liter V8 engine with outputs of 500 hp and a stunning 550 hp – the more powerful of which will propel the Cayenne Turbo S to 174 mph. Both Turbo models use the actively managed air suspension, and that makes them the easiest to drive quickly on challenging roads. Steering is brilliantly sharp in the Cayenne, and the brakes are oversized and inspire confidence.
All Cayennes use a standard two-range four-wheel drive system, which can be used in any off-road situation. Because most drivers spend a majority of time on pavement, the Cayenne's tires are biased toward top handling more than dirt scrambling. Still, the hardware is there. To optimize off-road ability, an optional Off-road Package adds a locking rear differential and the ability to disconnect the large anti-rollbars via hydraulic links. While anti-rollbars are an integral part of tuning a suspension for best highway manners, they limit articulation in steep, rocky off-road driving conditions. Skid plates to protect the undercarriage from rock damage are also included with this package.
Even though the Cayenne is based on the same basic platform as Audi's seven-passenger Q7 and Volkswagen's five-seat Touareg, it is powered, tuned and meant for top sport driving and that message is translated inside. For one, the ignition key, like all Porsches, is on the left side of the steering wheel, a throwback to far-gone endurance racing days when drivers would have to start their cars and shift into first gear at the same time.
The Cayenne's supportive and coddling front seats give a long view in traffic, and a large tachometer in the center of the instrument panel reminds drivers that the engine is the heart of the Cayenne. The taut but sumptuous leather trim in the Turbo models looks both elegant and purposeful. When any of the engines are idling, they are silent. Even at high speeds, the Cayenne models are muted enough that conversation is not strained.
The completely refined 2010 Porsche Cayenne features top-level SUV performance in so many areas that it stretches the expectations of a do-everything vehicle to include sporty driving.