June Neary checks out Porsche's improved Cayenne luxury 4x4
Will It Suit Me?
Nobody actually needs a car like Porsche's Cayenne luxury SUV - but lots of us would like to own one. You can't move for luxury 4x4s like this one on the county school run but I couldn't really see the point until I tried one. Having done so, I'm a little more converted. I love the high driving position, the versatility and the feeling of safety. The improved styling of the latest version has also helped.
Porsche have thankfully resisted the temptation to attempt to cram seven seats into the Cayenne body and as a result the interior is pleasantly spacious with more luggage space than its direct rivals and plenty of leg and headroom for five passengers. The quality of fit and finish is superior to anything Porsche has produced to date, with a beautifully designed, if surprisingly conservative, fascia. And out back? Well raising the electrically operated tailgate reveals a boot that's one of the very largest in the class, the 670-litre capacity giving you a massive 181-litres more space than you'd find in a comparable Range Rover Sport and, more surprisingly, 90-litres more capacity than you'd get in a Volkswagen Touareg. In fact, there's so much room here that you wonder why Porsche doesn't offer an optional third row pair of fold-out chairs. Evidently, though, MPV-ness is still a step too far for the brand just at present: expect that to change in the future. Should you need more room, then across the range, the rear backrest is split 40:20:40 so that, if necessary, you can push through long items like skis between two rear-seated occupants. If you've specified air suspension, you can also more easily take really heavy items too, courtesy of this useful cargo wall button that can lower down the loading lip by 48mm. Completely flattening the rear bench (a process that as an option can be electrically powered) frees up as much as 1,780-litres of fresh air in a conventional Cayenne model or 1690-litres in this 'S E-Hybrid' variant. Either way, it's more than you'd get from a large Executive segment estate like BMW's 5 Series Touring or Audi's A6 Avant.
Behind the Wheel
Since the beginning, the Cayenne has appealed to buyers looking for a sharper, more sporting drive from their 4x4. Despite this, it's always been extremely good off road, as long as you don't mind exposing those big alloy wheels to a bit of a pranging. The Cayenne continues to set the benchmark when it comes to driving satisfaction in a large luxury SUV. Drive one on a racetrack and it'll steer with a directness that no other car in this class can match, with an optional active anti-roll system on hand to make it corner like one too. At full chat, the petrol engines even sound suitably red-blooded. All that weight has to tell somewhere of course - and you certainly feel it under braking - but by and large, like it or not, this car represents an astonishing engineering achievement. Especially as the on-demand 4WD system combines with optional air suspension to create impressive off road prowess. This improved MK2 model offers mainstream Cayenne S and Cayenne GTS petrol buyers a 3.6-litre bi-turbo V6 to replace the previous 4.8-litre V8, this more modern unit delivering extra efficiency and more power: there's either 420 or 440bhp, depending on the variant you choose. The old V8 lives on in the 520bhp Turbo and 570bhp Turbo S petrol models at the top of the range. Most Cayenne buyers though, choose a diesel, either a 262bhp 3.0-litre V6 unit or the potent 385bhp 4.2-litre V8 of the top S Diesel. As an alternative to that car, there's the petrol/electric 'S E-Hybrid' model I tried, a car that delivers low running costs but still can make 62mph in under 5s.
Value For Money
Asking figures for Cayenne ownership sit mainly in the £50,000 to £62,000 bracket, that entry-level figure enough to buy you the base petrol or Diesel 3.0-litre V6 variants. At the top of that price bracket, you've a choice in performance-minded frugality, with the 385bhp S Diesel model and the 416bhp 'S E-Hybrid' petrol/electric variant almost identically priced. It all comes down to just how green-minded you want to be. As you might expect, you'll have to pay quite a bit more if you want one of the high performance petrol versions. The 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 Cayenne GTS will probably set you back around £75,000 once you've added a few well-chosen extras, while the same approach on the 4.8-litre V8 Turbo model will require a £95,000 budget. As for the Turbo S, well here you can expect a bottom line of around £120,000. You wouldn't... would you? You won't expect it to be cheap to run - and it isn't. Or at least conventional petrol versions aren't. The petrol/electric 'S E-Hybrid' model I tried is different though. It can return over 83mpg, emit just 79g/km of carbon dioxide and cover around 20 miles on electric power alone.
Could I Live With One?
I wouldn't say I'm a convert, either to the Porsche Cayenne or to luxury 4x4s in general. However, I'm not target market. For those who are, this Cayenne makes an even more appealing - and in entry-level form, surprisingly affordable - choice.