Porsche introduced its Cayenne sport utility vehicle in early 2003. Like the stimulating pepper of the same name, this luxury midsize SUV ranks as a hot number — especially the Cayenne Turbo, which has a 450-horsepower twin-turbo V-8. A 340-hp Cayenne S and a V-6 base model are also offered.
A standard six-speed-manual transmission went into the V-6 Cayenne for 2005. New options included Sirius or XM Satellite Radio. For 2006, an electronic logbook is optional and a new three-button remote key is included.
All Cayennes have permanent all-wheel drive, an inter-axle differential lock and switch-activated Low-range gearing. The Porsche Stability Management system is standard. Volkswagen markets a related Touareg SUV.
Even though the Cayenne’s styling is distinctive, its front end is reminiscent of the automaker’s 911 sports car. Like the 911, the Cayenne exhibits what Porsche calls “taut lines and tight curves that communicate a feeling of elegance and speed.”
The Cayenne Turbo gets additional front air inlets, power domes on the hood and a quartet of tailpipes. The Turbo’s pneumatic suspension adjusts to six ground-clearance levels, from 6.18 to 10.75 inches. Cayennes are available with 17- , 18- , 19- or 20-inch wheels.
Seating for up to five people on leather seating surfaces is standard; full leather seats are available. Front and rear parking assistance is included. Cargo capacity totals 19.1 cubic feet and expands to 62.5 cubic feet when the backseat is folded.
The Cayenne S and Turbo use 4.5-liter V-8s that team with a six-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a manual-shift provision. The V-8 in the Cayenne S develops 340 hp and 310 pounds-feet of torque. With its bi-turbo setup, the Cayenne Turbo’s V-8 produces 450 hp and 460 pounds-feet of torque. An optional Power Kit for the Turbo ups engine output to 500 hp.
Porsche’s V-6-powered Cayenne elicits 247 hp from its 3.2-liter engine. Either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic can be installed.
Porsche claims the Cayenne Turbo can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. Towing capacity is 7,716 pounds.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are standard.
Both Cayenne V-8 models are refined, civilized and muscular, but their performance personalities differ as much as their prices. Acceleration from a standstill is downright startling in the Cayenne Turbo. Passing and merging response is less consistent — sometimes it’s ferociously fast but it’s occasionally hesitant at lower speeds. Tiptronic shifts are barely noticeable, especially in the upper gears. You may feel a bit of motion transmitted from the road in Sport mode, but control is unaffected.
The Cayenne’s handling could hardly be better. Reactions are quick and confident. The seats are firm, with snug bolstering and long bottoms for superior thigh support.
Performance is strong in the less-flamboyant Cayenne S but not in the same league as the Turbo. The S is about as surefooted and confident as its more costly sibling.