Porsche Cayenne is First Produced

The Porsche Cayenne is a five-seat mid-size luxury sport utility vehicle manufactured by the German automaker Porsche since 2002, with North American sales beginning in 2003.

Its platform was developed by Porsche and is shared with the Volkswagen Touareg. It is the first V8-engined vehicle built by Porsche since 1995, when the Porsche 928 was discontinued. Since 2008, all engines have featured direct injection technology.

The Cayenne's frame and doors are sourced from Volkswagen, who uses the frames and doors for the Volkswagen Touareg model. All other aspects of vehicle design, tuning, production are done in house at Porsche.

Cayenne (base model)

The base model is powered by a 3.2-liter VR6 engine producing 250 hp (190 kW); modifications in the exhaust manifold allow power to peak at 6700 rpm. A Turbo Diesel engine is also available. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph (97 km) is 7.5 seconds with manual transmission and 8.1 seconds with the Tiptronic S. Notably, independent testing has produced a time of 9.2 seconds for the Tiptronic diesel.

Porsche raised the public's collective eyebrow when it decided to enter the sport-utility vehicle business in 2003 with its bulbous Cayenne. However, in spite of its rather ungainly styling, this midsize luxury SUV has proven itself worthy of the vaunted Porsche name.

With a lineup that stretches from the low $40Ks to six-digit territory and engines that range from a V6 to a 500-horsepower twin-turbo V8, the Porsche Cayenne isn't your typical midsize SUV. Nor is it the most practical or family-friendly. Indeed, the Cayenne's relatively small cargo area, high load floor and lack of a third-row seat option limit its real-world functionality.

But in terms of spirited driving, there are few better. Thanks to its stellar dual-range all-wheel-drive system, razor-sharp steering and superb brakes, the Porsche Cayenne demonstrates surprising dexterity both on-road and off. Several engines are offered, and we recommend springing for one of the V8 models, as they are the only ones truly up to the task of getting the heavy Cayenne moving with the alacrity befitting a Porsche. The GTS model in particular is the true athlete of the bunch.

Current Porsche Cayenne

The Cayenne comes in one size with just two rows of seats, for a maximum head count of five passengers. Though its styling attempts to translate the design vocabulary that works so well on Porsche's small, lightweight sports cars, there's no hiding the truck's formidable mass.

The Porsche Cayenne is available in four styles, each with its own engine. The base Cayenne is the most economical but also the weakest, with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 290 hp. Its standard equipment list offers little more than the luxury SUV staples, but interestingly, it's the only Cayenne available with a manual transmission. All others feature a standard six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted manual shift controls known as Tiptronic.

Brisker acceleration is available in the Cayenne S, which has a 385-hp V8 as well as more standard features. Next up is the sport-tuned Cayenne GTS, featuring a 405-hp version of the S model's V8 along with a six-speed manual transmission, 21-inch wheels, an active air suspension and a lower ride height. From there you can step up to the quick and lavishly equipped Cayenne Turbo, which provides a 500-hp turbocharged V8, albeit at twice the price of the base Cayenne. Even higher is the Cayenne Turbo S, which squeezes 550 hp from the same engine.

A sophisticated, proactive all-wheel-drive system is standard on all Porsche Cayennes and provides both high- and low-range gearing. Off-pavement capability is greatly enhanced by the optional off-road package, which adds a locking rear differential, hydraulically disconnecting stabilizer bars and skid plates.

Inside, the driver sits high above traffic in comfortable bucket seats and faces a three-spoke steering wheel and a center-mounted tachometer that pays homage to Porsche's sports cars. The ignition is even mounted on the left side of the dash. Materials quality is superb throughout the cabin; even the pricey Turbo model looks and feels appropriately elegant.

In general, our editors have enjoyed the Cayenne's driving characteristics while issuing mild criticisms for fussy ergonomics, weak acceleration with the V6, tight rear-seat legroom and limited cargo space. Additionally, in spite of its impressive list of off-road hardware, the Cayenne is not as capable a rock-crawler as many of its competitors. Most of the blame goes to its street-biased, low-profile tires.

Used Porsche Cayenne Models

The Porsche Cayenne was introduced for 2003 in Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo styles. The S model's 4.5-liter V8 produced 340 hp, while the turbocharged version of the same engine pumped out 450 horses. Only minor changes were made between its first year and the significant midlife freshening for '08, but additional models gradually debuted.

The 247-hp 3.2-liter V6 base model arrived in 2004, while its standard transmission became a six-speed manual for 2005. That year also saw the addition of a few options, such as a panoramic sunroof and a special Turbo Power Kit that boosted output to 500 hp and upgraded the brakes. For 2006, the range-topping Cayenne Turbo S debuted, producing a monstrous 520 hp that was said to bring the Cayenne to 60 mph as quickly as the contemporary 911.

The Cayenne was not produced for model year 2007. The following year saw major changes made to Porsche's SUV. Every engine gained more power and the styling was given a welcome face-lift. The Cayenne GTS model also arrived for '08, while the Turbo S made its return the following year.