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May 06, 2019
Driving Dynamics
?? absolutely love mine
2005 Porsche 1144 Cayenne 13783 268209
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Expert Reviews

J.P. Vettraino
powered by New Car Test Drive
Nearly three years after its introduction, the Porsche Cayenne no longer seems like such an incongruous idea. Porsche's sport-utility vehicle has quickly become part of the automotive landscape. The car-buying public has demonstrated its appreciation of the Porsche brand beyond the company's familiar sports cars, and Porsche dealerships are pleased by all the SUVs moving off their lots.

Longtime Porsche enthusiasts may have had the most difficult adjustment. For five decades before the Cayenne, their favorite car company carved its niche among automotive giants with quick, agile sports cars built on values diametrically opposed to those represented by big, strapping SUVs. It speaks to our changing automotive tastes, if not the changing car business, that Porsche was compelled to invest in an SUV and a new factory to build it.

With time and exposure, most fans of Porsche sports cars have come to appreciate the Cayenne as a true Porsche. The company's SUV is technically slick and remarkably fast, as Porsches are supposed to be, with on-road handling that belies (though does not defy) its mass. The Cayenne also delivers what most SUV buyers demand, starting with more cargo space than the typical sedan, more than enough capability for light off-highway use and impressive towing capacity. For style, pure performance and a balance of sport-utility virtues, the Porsche Cayenne is tough to beat.

Porsche hasn't been sitting still since Cayenne's launch in 2003. In 2004, Porsche introduced a V6 model that opened Cayenne to a much larger group of buyers. For 2005, it has added useful standard equipment and introduced new option packages. Most significantly, it offers Cayenne for the first time with something loyalists insist every Porsche needs: a 6-speed manual transmission.

But like many Porsches, the Porsche of SUVs can still be very expensive. The price spread across the Cayenne line is more than $50,000. A loaded Cayenne Turbo can crack the $100,000 barrier, and that alone will knock it off most shopping lists. Yet even the well heeled can be value conscious. Many buyers who can afford a Cayenne will find much of the performance and all the satisfaction of use or ownership for half that $100,000 price. The Cayenne will be truly appreciated by a relative handful of SUV buyers with exacting demands or unshakable brand loyalty. We might call them connoisseurs. In that respect, too, the Cayenne is a lot like most Porsches before it.

Model Lineup
The Cayenne model line now spans four variants. Base prices span $48,200 from the least expensive to the most expensive, and with options the spread approaches $60,000.

In 2004, Porsche introduced a V6 model known simply as Cayenne. For 2005, the Cayenne ($41,100) comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission for the first time, lowering its price $1800 compared to 2004. The V6 model prices Cayenne in the thick of its luxury sport-utility competitors.

Cayenne is powered by a narrow-angle, single-cylinder-head V6 producing 247 horsepower, and comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive with a high- and low-range. The price includes leather seating with 12-way power adjustment, charcoal and micro-particle cabin filtration, heated retractable exterior mirrors, multi-function trip computer, a 72-watt 12-speaker stereo with CD, and insulated laminated privacy glass. New standard features for 2005 include a built-in Homelink transmitter to open garage doors or turn on lights and an electronically latching tailgate that sucks itself shut once it's lowered to the latch.

Cayenne Tiptronic ($44,100) is identical to the base Cayenne, except that it's equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission with Porsche's Tiptronic manual shift mode. Cayenne and Cayenne Tiptronic both come standard with sophisticated traction management and skid-control electronics.

In addition to slick electronics and the latest-generation antilock brakes, all Cayennes get luxury-grade passive safety features, starting with six airbags: dual-stage front and side-impact airbags for front passengers, and curtain-style head protection airbags on both sides of the cabin. All five seating positions have three-point belts with pretensioners to instantly tighten them and limit stretching on impact. The front belts also have automatic force limiters, reducing potential for belt-related injuries.

The other two models are built around Porsche's 4.5-liter dohc V8 engine. The Cayenne S ($56,300) comes standard with the Tiptronic automatic, and retails anywhere from $14,000 to $2,000 more than these luxury-class SUVs: Acura MDX, BMW X5 3.0, Cadillac Escalade, Hummer H2, Infiniti FX45, Lexus GX470, Mercedes ML500 or Volvo XC90 T6, not to mention that standard Cayenne. The normally aspirated Cayenne S delivers 340 horsepower (more than most of the SUVs noted above) and adds several items to the standard Cayenne equipment list, including automatic climate control with dual front-passenger settings and a 350-watt, 14-speaker Bose stereo.

Porsche raises the ante considerably for the Cayenne Turbo ($89,300). The Turbo costs more than just about any SUV on the planet, but with a twin-turbocharged version of the V8 and a whopping 450 horsepower, the Cayenne Turbo also delivers more power than any other SUV. The Turbo also adds adjustable air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), a variable dampening system that uses five accelerometers and electronically controlled adjustable shocks to manage body weight transfer both on and off road. The Turbo includes upgrades such as heated front and rear seats, electric steering wheel adjustment and park-assist radar warning front and rear. It's equipped with Porsche Communications Management (PCM), a GPS navigation system with integrated telephone and audio controls. Finally, the Cayenne Turbo has bi-xenon headlights that turn, Tucker-style, with the steering wheel.

Most everything on the Turbo (except the turbocharger) is offered as an option on Cayenne and Cayenne S. We've tested all models, but the most recent was the Cayenne Tiptronic with these extras: Porsche Communications Management system ($3,070); driver memory package ($360); heated front seats and steering wheel ($520); power glass sunroof ($1,100); high-gloss light wood package ($990); Olive wood steering wheel ($290); 19-inch Cayenne Design wheels ($2,390); six-CD changer ($650); and Prosecco metallic paint ($495). With destination charge ($765), that totals a substantial $54,730 for a "base," V6-powered Cayenne, or almost as much as the Cayenne S V8.

As with Porsche cars, options are plentiful. Other popular choices include the air suspension ($2,990), a dark Burr walnut wood package ($990), front and rear park assist ($990), tire-pressure monitor ($590), a trailer hitch and ball ($590) and 20-inch wheels ($3,500). There are seat upgrades and a full Smooth Leather package that covers everything from grab handles to the center console in hide ($2,990). Porsche Entry and Drive ($1,960) allows a driver to unlock and start the Cayenne by pulling the door handle and touching the shift lever, while leaving the keys in his pocket or her purse. Moreover, there are new options for 2005. Cayenne offers factory installed satellite radio for the first time, with a choice between the XM or Sirius systems, and there are now SportDesign and Black Monochrome Exterior packages.

Not enough? Owners can customize their SUV with Porsche's Tequipment line of dealer-installed accessories, from stowage systems to running boards to stainless-steel brush guards. Finally, there is Porsche's Exclusive factory customization program. This is where sheiks go to have their Cayenne painted the color of their finest stallion, or where superstar ball players get upholstery fashioned to match the worn leather of their first baseball mitt.

What makes a Porsche a Porsche? The company insists styling is a crucial element, and it's easy to see Porsche in the Cayenne. The family resemblance is obvious in the Cayenne's headlights and grille work, which closely resemble those on the 911 and Boxster sports cars. As it is with the 911 Turbo, the Cayenne Turbo is easy to distinguish from its lesser siblings, thanks to larger grilles that increase the amount of air flowing through the engine bay.

The designers believe they've transferred all the emotion of a Porsche sports car to the Cayenne, but we'll leave that call to you. Tastes in styling are subjective. Many who examined the Cayenne during our test drives loved it. More than one observer said it resembles a frog. Either way, the designer's handiwork has produced a 0.39 coefficient of drag, impressive for a big SUV, and good for limiting wind noise at high speed.

Cayenne is not a small vehicle. Measuring 188.3 inches in length, with a wheelbase of 112.4 inches, it's longer than the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class and a few hundred pounds heavier than either. Conversely, at 4785 pounds in its lightest specification, Cayenne weighs 550 pounds less than a Lincoln Navigator, which is two feet longer. An inspection underneath this SUV suggests that it's well engineered, perhaps over-engineered, compared to many mass-market sport-utilities. Apparently Porsche engineers preferred not to take chances with their first SUV, in the event that some owners actually drive it aggressively off road.

In size, Cayenne most closely matches Volkswagen's Touareg, which is no surprise, given that the two vehicles were developed jointly by Porsche and VW. As a result of this cooperation, Cayenne and Touareg bodies are built at the same plant in Bratislava, Czech Republic. Engines and other Cayenne components are built by Porsche in Zuffenhausen, Germany, and mated to the Cayenne shells at a new assembly plant in Leipzig, constructed exclusively for Cayenne with its own pavement and off-road test tracks.

These days ground-up vehicle development runs in the $1 billion range and that puts a small company like Porsche (which sells 55,000 cars in a great year) at a distinct disadvantage, especially if it's venturing into new territory. Porsche had little choice but to find a partner in developing Cayenne, and it chose the Volkswagen-Audi Group, a company that has previously worked with Porsche on cars such as the 914 and 924. As a result, both Cayenne and Touareg were created from the same basic blueprint. The standard Cayenne even shares its V6 engine with the Touareg.

Porsche was the project leader in the Cayenne/Touareg joint venture, and much of the work done on Volkswagen's dime was conducted by Porsche's contract engineering division, which accounts for a third of the company's business. Joint development was limited to the basic floor pan and some drivetrain components. Engine and suspension tuning, styling and all the finish work were the separate responsibility of each manufacturer.

This auto-industry backgrounder is relevant to any consumer preparing to part with a substantial amount of money for a high-end SUV, because if two vehicles share a foundation, they're likely to share a basic quality, or lack thereof. Porsche insists that Cayenne is uniquely Porsche, and as reviewers we can vouch for that. We can also tell you a loaded VW Touareg sells for about 40 percent of the price of a high-end Cayenne, and the choice is worth considering.

In Porsche's view, the Touareg is more utilitarian than Cayenne, and built for comfort. Cayenne has Porsche emotion, and it's built for speed. Porsche executives note that Cayenne has Porsche-tuned or -built engines, all six-speed transmissions and a unique all-wheel-drive system with a power bias toward the rear wheels. We'd agree that Cayenne and Touareg have different character, regardless of which is better or worse. After more than two years of Cayenne production a sufficient number of buyers seem to agree.

This brings us back to styling, because the Cayenne's design does more than create a Porsche family resemblance. Porsche's sport-utility has near optimal front/rear weight distribution of 52/48 percent, for outstanding handling balance in all circumstances (the weight in most unladen SUVs is more heavily biased toward the front). At least as important, in Porsche's view, is the Cayenne's optimal aerodynamic balance. Aerodynamic downforce on the rear wheels increases with speed, delivering the high-speed stability that has become a Porsche trademark.

The Cayenne's amphibian look has grown on us, to be sure, and for 2005 the exterior paint scheme has been enhanced. The lower side sills and front and rear aprons on the Cayenne and Cayenne S are now painted to match the body color, as they have been since the beginning on the Cayenne Turbo, rather than finished in matte black. The painted sills are the classy choice.

We prefer the monster (though expensive) 20-inch wheels, too. And if money were no object we'd choose both of the new appearance packages: The SportDesign Package adds more prominent, aero-tweaked side sills and a larger rear spoiler, and it gives the Cayenne a more powerful, aggressive appearance. The Black Monochrome Exterior Package finishes the roof pillars, window trim and molding in black, giving the windows a dark, monolithic look.

Anyone who has spent time in one of Porsche's sports cars will get a familiar feeling in the Cayenne driver's seat. The cues are pure Porsche: the shape and feel of the gear selector or the thick, grippy, steering wheel; the three-spoke hub design, with a brand crest and multiple controls for audio, trip computer and climate adjustments; the ignition switch to the left of the steering column or the contour of the seats.

Cayenne's instrument cluster is tucked under a single, prominent arch, with two big gauges (tachometer left, speedo right) on either side of a central multifunction display. This display presents information on audio and trip functions, mechanical operations and ambient conditions. Automatic speed and wiper controls are located on stalks on either side of the steering column. The bulk of the switches, including primary audio and climate controls are racked in the center of the dash above the center console. These are replaced with a CRT monitor on Cayennes equipped with Porsche Communications Management. A dozen vents throughout the cabin distribute warm or cool air evenly.

The Cayenne is not as richly appointed as a similarly priced Range Rover, but it's not supposed to be. The emphasis here is sporting flair, rather than traditional luxury. With the exception of a cheesy looking headliner and oddly designed armrests in the doors, the materials and finish are acceptable for a vehicle of this ilk. One of our test vehicles was equipped with the Light Wood package. It's polished to a gloss and expensive looking, but almost blonde. Some of us at love light woods. My tastes lean toward the dark Burr.

The standard leather upholstery is high grade, while the standard metal trim has a brushed finish. The front seats stand out for their balance of support, comfort and adjustment range, and the navigation display screen is one of the largest we've encountered.

The navigation system calculates routes and makes adjustments more quickly than just about any we've used. This GPS system has been further improved for 2005, with DVD rather than CD data disks. This allows maps for the entire United States on a single disk, rather than several that must be changed from region to region.

Cayenne transports five adults in reasonable comfort. The rear seat is well countered, with excellent headroom and decent legroom, even when the front seats are well back in their travel range. Seating for five is something we haven't seen previously in a Porsche, but don't expect the interior volume of a Lincoln Navigator, and don't look for a third-row seat.

A few other things we've never seen in Porsche before Cayenne: The rear seatback folds forward in a 60/40 split, and it includes a pass-though slot with a ski sack, allowing Cayenne to haul longer, narrow items inside without flattening (or messing up) the rear seat. There's a standard cargo net to keep grocery bags and other items from sliding around during travel and a retractable shade-type cover that opens and closes over the cargo hold.

The Cayenne boasts 19 cubic feet of stowage space with the rear seat in place and 62.5 cubic feet with the seat folded. That gives the Porsche more cargo space than the BMW X5, slightly less than the Mercedes M-Class. The tailgate is two-stage, so either the glass or entire gate can be opened upward, and there's a new electronic latch for 2005. Simply lower the gate to the latch, and an electric mechanism pulls it shut.

The dimensions of the tailgate opening and load floor allow Cayenne to haul small appliances such as a bar-size refrigerator or a large TV set. Moreover, with an impressive payload of 1600 pounds, a Cayenne owner should be able to haul just about anything that can be crammed inside and on top without worrying about exceeding recommended weights.

Driving Impressions
The Porsche of SUVs is what those familiar with the brand probably expect from a Porsche. If you pay close attention, you can feel most of the mechanical components working, each doing its own job, yet it all blends together in a smooth, synchronous whole. The Cayenne is fast, satisfying and, even in the things it does least efficiently, utterly competent. It stops with more energy and precision that any SUV you can name. Even the V6 is a solid performer, although it's the V8 engines that begin to separate Cayenne from others in the SUV pack.

Want Porsche? Sit still in the Cayenne's driver seat and gently blip the accelerator pedal (just like the guy in the commercial). These are not the sounds emanating from the typical SUV. The Cayenne's exhaust rumbles a bit louder, maybe, but certainly deeper. Even at idle, the burble of low-restriction mufflers, the cams and the suck of intake air remind us of the late, great Porsche 928, a V8-powered GT that swallowed chunks of pavement at an alarming rate. Yet this is the Porsche SUV, and the thought can be difficult for longtime Porsche enthusiasts to get their arms around. Perhaps Cayenne more appropriately invokes images of the Porsche 959s that won the grueling Paris-Dakar Rally through North Africa, skimming over giant dunes in the Sahara at 140 mph.

The Sahara we couldn't arrange, but we have mucked the Cayenne through a muddy off-road course in the south of Spain. This was not a bolder-laden wilderness trail like the Rubicon, but it included axle-deep mud and steep, low-grip 50-yard grades. Up, down and across, the Cayenne performed flawlessly with little sweat for the driver. In most cases the onboard electronics did the heavy lifting, and the driver had to simply, lightly, modulate the throttle or brake in low range. When introduced, Cayenne's back country performance impressed even the jaded, and it supported Porsche's assertion that it has more off-road capability than the BMW X5 or Mercedes M-Class, which we've tested in similar circumstances. Cayenne has maximum ground clearance 8.54 inches, or 10.75 inches with the optional air suspension, and a fording depth of 21.9 inches. There's even an Advanced Offroad Package that adds skid plates to protect the underbody and a locking rear differential.

At one point during our off-road adventure, we crept the Cayenne through a succession of holes a couple of feet in diameter and 10 inches deep, dropping a wheel on one side into one of the holes and then another wheel on the opposite side into another hole, so that the vehicle repeatedly bobbed left-right like a pack camel dipping its legs to be loaded. This is what SUVs are supposed to do, regardless of whether Cayenne's off-road capability actually amounts to a huge sales point. Porsche salespeople joke that few 911 owners will even take their cars out in the rain. If that's true, then there's not much reason to think Cayenne owners will allow their SUV to be blasted with gravel or painted with mud. Still, the hole-crabbing was instructive as to the overall stiffness of the Cayenne's body/frame, and to its rattle-free operation on pavement. It flexed just in bit in situations that might bend lesser SUVs in half.

We also got some lessons off road in the operation of Cayenne's permanent all-wheel-drive system, and how it might effect performance on pavement, where most owners are more likely to drive. This system, with its variable-rate center differential managed by multiple clutch plates, is similar to that used on all-wheel-drive versions of the Porsche 911, with two Cayenne enhancements: the standard low range for real off-roading and a lock for the center differential. It's managed by Porsche's latest stability- and traction-control electronics.

Like similar systems, Cayenne's AWD can vary the amount of engine power distributed to the front and rear wheels, sending more or less power in one direction depending on available traction and other conditions. Yet in many luxury SUVs, the default torque distribution is as much as 70-percent front wheels, 30-percent rear. In normal circumstances, this can make them drive a lot like a front-drive minivan. The Cayenne has a default power split of 38-percent front, 62-percent rear, so the rear wheels clearly rule. This more closely replicates the rear-drive characteristics of a sports car.

On a muddy flat in the off-road course, we tried to evaluate Cayenne's anti-skid electronics and discovered something we don't expect in the typical SUV. The electronics are programmed relatively loosely, allowing either the front or rear of the Cayenne to slide a bit before the brakes apply themselves or the engine throttles back. In the mud the Cayenne's standard 32/68-torque bias showed itself in easy dirt-tracking power slides, with the steering wheel turned slightly in opposite lock and the rear-end hung out in a fishtail-type skid with a bit of accelerator modulation. In other words, it's a lot of fun.

On the road, the Cayenne handles crisply, but it isn't a Porsche 911. Its 4800-pound curb weight ensures that, rearing its head in transient maneuvers. It performs these maneuvers better than an SUV, but there's no getting around the physics of all that mass when pushed hard in tight cornering situations. That said, it offers excellent grip in steady state corners, which can be taken quite quickly.

The standard Cayenne's narrow-angle 3.2-liter V6 engine was developed by Volkswagen. Porsche did its own finish work for its version of the V6, which features variable timing for both the intake and exhaust valves for an impressive combination of smooth idling, good low-end torque and free-revving high-end horsepower. Theoretically, at least, the V6 Cayenne should offer a mileage advantage over the V8s; unfortunately, the Cayenne's weight negates most of that potential gain. With EPA ratings of 15 mpg city and 19 highway, the Cayenne does only one mpg better then the V8-powered Cayenne S. That may or may not prove significant in real driving.

However, with 247-horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque over a wide range of engine speeds, the Cayenne V6 is no slouch. And it's aided by something Porsche loyalists have waited nearly three years for: a standard six-speed manual transmission. Until 2005, the Cayenne was the only Porsche ever built without a manual gearbox (the Tiptronic automatic remains an option). The manual is also equipped with an off-road feature called Porsche Drive-Off Assistant, which allows a driver to easily set the Cayenne in motion on steep grades; the system automatically maintains brake pressure when the brake pedal is released, then releases the brakes once the driver begins let out the clutch pedal.

The manual's shift action is Porsche sweet, and the V6 Cayenne is anything but underpowered. Porsche reports 0-60 mph times of 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 133 mph; 10 years ago, those numbers were good for a sports car, and they remain competitive among SUVs. Further, the V6 is as pleasant to operate as the V8s, if not as exhilarating. Its wide power band gets the Cayenne up to speed in convincing fashion, and the V6 Cayenne actually feels, lighter, perhaps better than the V8s, for mundane chores like commuting or shop-hopping.

Yet the V6 also demonstrates what we might call the conundrum of Cayenne. It's perfectly suited for the typical SUV buyer's driving tasks and it's priced competitively with the VW Touareg and SUVs from Japan's luxury car makers. Yet for roughly the same price as the standard Cayenne, the Touareg offers a 310-horsepower V8 and a bit more standard equipment. A V6 Touareg sells for thousands less. And Cayenne is a Porsche, for crying out loud, with the acceleration and exhilaration that goes with that. But if you want Cayenne with acceleration that begins to separate it from the mundane pack, you'll have to ante up another $14,000 for the Cayenne S.

The Cayenne's V8 engines are pure Porsche, developed in the same workshops that produced some of history's most successful racing engines. These 4.5-liter V8s have all the latest high-tech systems and materials, including a unique dry-sump lubrication system that allows uninterrupted oiling at extreme angles of operation, either off road or at high lateral gs on pavement. To account for higher operating pressures, the intercooled, twin-turbocharged version in the Cayenne Turbo has durability enhancements such as forged pistons and more oiling jets. The normally aspirated 4.5-liter engine makes 340 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 310 pound-feet of torque between 2500 and 5500 rpm, which puts it near the top of the SUV class. The Turbo generates a mighty 450 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 457 pound-feet of torque between 2250 and 4750 rpm.

There's more than rumbling exhaust to suggest that Cayenne's V8 isn't the typical SUV engine. There's a ton of power here. Even in the Cayenne S, the reserve of torque is better than ample. At any speed, the standard six-speed automatic kicks down quickly with a jab at the gas pedal and the Cayenne S accelerates like a jumbo jet approaching rotation speed. We're not sure why anyone needs more get-up in a big SUV than the Cayenne S offers, but those who do might try the Turbo. Judging by the seat of our pants, the Cayenne Turbo is easily the fastest SUV available.

Beyond sheer acceleration, there's engineering you don't see in Cayenne that gives it Porsche character. The standard Cayenne suspension uses coil-over struts with an extra set of conical springs to control lateral movement. That's not typical SUV fare. Even more sophisticated, the upgrade air suspension automatically adjusts ride height according to speed, with a range of nearly five inches. The air suspension also automatically (or manually) adjusts shock dampening rates for the preferred balance of ride quality and body-roll control.

The subtle things can make a difference. The Cayenne's steering rack, for example, is supplied by ZF, a company that also builds the steering components for the 911 sports car. Cayenne was the first SUV with Y-rated tires (certified for operation up to 186 mph) and the first with a six-speed transmission of any sort. Its brakes are truly impressive: 13.5-inch discs, with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston rear. Moreover, Porsche claims the Cayenne brakes were developed to meet the same rigid anti-fade standards as those on a 911.

These components, with what we learned off-road about Cayenne's body stiffness, torque bias and skid-management programming, become part of that smooth, synchronous whole on the open road. On pavement, the Cayenne is smooth, fast, and big.

It's not just acceleration or the V8s' reported 165-mph top speed that impressed us most, but the high speeds the Cayenne comfortably carries in most circumstances. The steering isn't as quick as that in 911, but its weight and response have a familiar feel. The Cayenne's air suspension keeps it on the stiff side, though it can be manually softened if the driver chooses. New programming for 2005 softens the Comfort setting, reducing some of the chop in Cayenne's ride. Either way, this SUV is impressively precise and responsive. Its 2.5-ton mass is masked by impressive stability and agility.

The Cayenne drives lighter than any big SUV on the market, including the X5 or M-Class, and speed creep is a constant issue. The brakes allow it to shed speed like a good sedan, and almost without realizing it you can be traveling 120 on roads posted 65. Speeds we'd never even consider in a Chevy Tahoe or some equally hefty truck-based SUV, except in a carefully controlled experiment, feel mundane in the Cayenne. It can be unnerving, almost otherworldly, based on conventional SUV sensibilities.

If one maintains a respectful awareness of the laws of physics, none of the Cayenne's performance comes at any particular cost, except perhaps in the size of the parking space it requires or its thirst for gasoline (14 mpg city, 18 highway for Cayenne S, 13/18 for the Turbo). As an SUV, the Cayenne is not subject to a gas-guzzler tax, and we suspect Cayenne shoppers won't be overly concerned about fuel costs anyway. Assuming that Porsche dealerships have adjusted their service schedules to the idea of daily-driven Porsches, Cayenne drivers will have no difficulty with the concept. Cayenne isn't the least bit finicky, or hard starting or rough. Nothing during our test runs suggested that you couldn't or wouldn't want to drive it every day, even for the most mundane chores.

Speaking of chores, this hot-rod SUV is no pretender when it comes to towing capacity. All Cayennes, including the V6, can pull 7700 pounds. You can't get a similar tow rating short of a heavy-duty pickup or pickup-based SUV.

Impossible to imagine ten years ago, but true: The Porsche Cayenne is a 165-mph high-performance machine that will fit a family of five, haul a small washing machine, tow a large boat and get you carefully through the woods when there's no road. It's a 5000-pound speed-sled that can handle rugged trails.

Porsche performance, design and engineering values come at a premium price, however. The Volkswagen Touareg V8 has German engineering and similar horsepower, equipment, luxury and utility for about $15,000 less than the Cayenne S. Yes, the Cayenne has unique Porsche character, but it shares its basic floor plan with Touareg, and both are very good SUVs.

Do rapid acceleration, excellent brakes and the right sounds add up to a Porsche, or just a nice SUV that goes faster than the rest and costs more than most? We can't imagine that many buyers need the extreme mix of attributes offered by the Cayenne Turbo. But then, how many buyers actually need an SUV? Often, need isn't the issue or even the primary motivation in purchasing an automobile. Having built smallish, specialized, really fun sports cars for more than 50 years, Porsche knows that better than most.

Mitch McCullough contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Model as tested
Porsche Cayenne Tiptronic ($44,100)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Leipzig, Germany
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Porsche Communications Management system with GPS navigation and integrated telephone/audio controls ($3,070); driver memory package ($360); heated front seats and steering wheel ($520); power glass sunroof ($1,100); high-gloss light wood package ($990); Olive wood steering wheel ($290); 19-inch Cayenne Design wheels ($2,390); six-CD changer ($650); Prosecco metallic paint ($495)
Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Porsche Cayenne ($41,100); Cayenne Tiptronic ($44,100); Cayenne S ($56,300); Cayenne Turbo ($89,300)
Safety equipment (standard)
antilock brakes; Porsche Traction Management; Porsche Stability Management anti-skid electronics; seatbelt pretensioners and force-limiters; dual-stage front airbags; front occupant side airbags; curtain-style head protection airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
3.2-liter ohc 24-valve narrow-angle V6 with variable valve timing
6-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift
Specifications as Tested
all-wheel drive with two-speed transfer case; leather seating with 12-way power adjustment; charcoal and microparticle cabin filtration; heated retractable exterior mirrors; multi-function trip computer; 72-watt 12-speaker stereo with CD; power windows with one-touch operation; insulated laminated privacy glass; cruise control; central locking with remote; Homelink remote garage door and lighting operation
Engine & Transmission
3.2-liter ohc 24-valve narrow-angle V6 with variable valve timing
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
247 @ 6000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS
Suspension, front
independent, aluminum double wishbone
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link
Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.68 /NA/40.63
Head/hip/leg room, rear
Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight
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