The Cayenne is one of few sport utilities that actually lives up to the first initial in SUV, whether zipping around in its most basic trim or leaving super sedans in a wake of dust in a Turbo S, and fortunately you don’t have to spend exotic supercar money to own such a supremely capable near exotic super SUV.
The Cayenne GTS, Turbo and Turbo S models that live up to such accolades start at $110,100, $131,500 and $180,700 respectively, and the still impressive base model is available for a very approachable $68,900, while this just above base Cayenne Platinum Edition delivers spirited performance and loads of luxury for just $75,100, whereas the Cayenne S E-Hybrid Platinum Edition can be had for $92,100.
In case you haven’t been following Porsche’s rise into electrification, the brand’s ultra-efficient lithium battery-powered S E-Hybrid plug-in variant joined the more conventional 3.6-litre V6 two years ago for a strong combination of fuel-efficient performance, the base engine capable of 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque that when combined with its standard eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drivetrain results in an energetic 7.6-second run to 100km/h before attaining a top track speed of 230 km/h, whereas the 416 horsepower S E-Hybrid Platinum scurries to 100km/h in a mere 5.9 seconds before topping out at 243 km/h.
Platinum is the top trim level available with these two powertrains, its standard features list containing dynamic cornering HID headlights, exclusive satin platinum finished 20-inch RS Spyder alloys housed in wider body-colour wheel arches, high-gloss black window surrounds and roof rails, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, metal doorsill treadplates with the “Platinum Edition” logo, eight-way powered sport seats with suede-like Alcantara inserts and embossed Porsche crests on the headrests, a gorgeous aluminum-trimmed multifunction sport steering wheel with very high quality buttons, knurled metal scrolling switches and aluminum paddles, a sensational sounding 665-watt Bose surround audio system, the latter connecting through brand’s latest Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system with standard navigation and Connect Plus, a module that adds Apple CarPlay, LTE telephony, Porsche Car Connect and the Porsche Connect app, as well as speed-sensing Power Steering Plus that firms up for more precise response at higher speeds while also allowing for easier rotation during low-speed manoeuvres including parking.
Along with platinum, Porsche paid tribute to earth’s second rarest metal by naming my tester’s $910 optional metallic silver paint Rhodium in its honour, while other options fitted to my test model included the $3,870 Premium package that adds LED mirror courtesy lighting, a powered steering column, 14-way powered sport seats with perforated leather inserts featuring power-adjustable squab length and forced ventilation (that I dubbed “absolutely perfect” in my notes), memory for the seats, steering column and side mirrors, a reverse camera, reverse-dipping mirrors, and a powered glass sunroof, although Porsche improved upon the package by upgraded that sunroof to panoramic proportions for another $760; the $880 Sport Chrono package with its analog and digital stopwatch, upgraded PCM display, Sport Plus button on the lower centre console, plus sportier throttle response, Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and Porsche Traction Management (PTM) tuning; $2,280 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) that gives you electronic damping plus three selectable modes including On-Road, default and Off-Road; and more.
Of course the sky is the limit with Porsche options, so don’t believe for a second this was a fully loaded Cayenne Platinum Edition, its as-tested $85k asking price (including Porsche’s low $1,200 freight charge) still a reasonable sum for such a well-made mid-size family hauler. As you might expect from Porsche, the quality of materials suits the premium experience even when the dash, door uppers, grab handles and more aren’t covered in optional soft stitched leather, the trim bits aren’t carbon fibre, and features like four-zone climate control, 16-speaker 1,000-watt-plus Burmester audio, rear seat heating, ventilation and entertainment aren’t included, although available proximity keyless access with pushbutton start, adaptive cruise control, and some of the many other optional active safety features would be worthwhile additions to add.
While the front seats were beyond just comfortable, those in the rear were also better than average thanks to bucket-style outboard designs. It was roomy back there too, with my five-foot-eight frame still having about eight inches ahead of my knees, plenty of space from side to side, and another four or so above my head. With two in back a comfortable armrest folded from the centre position to expose twin cupholders, or alternatively you could lower the entire centre section for loading in long items such as skis.
The cargo area is finished nicer than most in this category, with a carpeted load floor, sidewalls and seatbacks, side netting, chromed tie-down hooks, and a polished metal sill guard, while a retractable cover is housed within an extremely sturdy cross member. With the folding centre section pushed back into place, the rear seatbacks lower 60/40 to expand the already sizeable 670-litre cargo hold up to 1,705 litres, while the exacting way the seats click into place when lowered is impressive.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most interested in purchasing a Cayenne with its base engine are probably focused more on its practical aspects and luxury attributes than outright performance, or they’d opt for an S or the aforementioned S E-Hybrid, GTS, Turbo, or even quicker Turbo S, but the way Porsche has set up the eight-speed auto’s gearing and massaged the suspension make for a really enjoyable SUV to drive.
Response to throttle input is strong compared to most competitive base powertrains, the eight-speed running through the gears quickly in nice, precise increments whether flicking the paddles or letting it do its own thing with either Sport or Sport Plus mode engaged, while traction at takeoff is superb no matter the state of the road below. The same goes for tackling corners where the Cayenne still reigns supreme in the mid-size SUV class, the lighter weight of the V6 resulting in quicker turn-in and a more agile feel, those big 20-inch alloys I mentioned earlier no doubt helping in this respect too. The Cayenne also tracks beautifully at highway speeds, as one would expect, while the ride is firm but far from harsh.
I especially appreciated the Cayenne’s compliant ride quality while off-roading during this model’s launch program. It’s always been an impressive 4x4, not even losing a inch of rock-crawling, mudslinging, or water fording capability (up to 550 mm inches deep without a snorkel for the latter) after adapting to the nearly 250-kilo lighter aluminum and magnesium intensive second-generation PL72 platform architecture back in 2010, which also made the Cayenne feel more car-like and therefore more capable on the road.
Yes, the Cayenne might just be as capable off-road as it is on, not to mention ultra-thrifty for either application. Most fuel-efficient is the S E-Hybrid with a rating of 11.3 L/100km city and 9.8 highway, while the base engine’s mileage is still very good at 12.9 city and 9.8 highway. It should be noted, however, that the S E-Hybrid is the fuel economy king when regularly charged thanks to a combined electricity-plus-gasoline rating of 5.0 Le/100km.
Fortunately Porsche gives Cayenne buyers more ways to personalize their rides than most rivals, from the drivetrain that powers them to the suspension that underpins all of its superb performance and luxury details. The permutations for customization are near limitless, or at least in the hundreds of thousands, from wheels, paints, and trims, to interior colours, materials, trims, and features, while even an off-the-rack Platinum Edition isn’t a family hauler you’re likely to pull up beside very often, the Cayenne still endowed with a level of exclusivity that sets it apart from most luxury-badged challengers despite its strong sales success.
If you like what you see take note the Platinum Edition is available for a limited time, and while Porsche hasn’t specified how long that might be it’s probably not a good idea to wait around to find out as its sporty combination of exterior styling enhancements and impressive interior upgrades make for an especially handsome and value packed proposition.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.