The Porsche Cayenne is undoubtedly one of the best luxury SUVs out there, boasting both impressive performance and an unwavering commitment to luxury, style, and the endless possibilities of customization. While the likes of the BMW X5 and Land Rover Range Rover are similarly priced and offer a number of impressive features, not even the Bavarian can drive or handle the way that Stuttgart's most successful offering can. And now, for the 2021 model year, the Cayenne lineup sees the return of the exciting GTS variant with 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, making it all the more attractive. Now in its third generation after a remodel for the 2019 model year, has Porsche done enough to keep the Cayenne at the top of its game?
The new Porsche Cayenne is a car largely unchanged from the model we got for the 2020 model year, but there is a significant change: the return of the blisteringly quick GTS variant. This variant has a detuned version of the same engine found in the Cayenne Turbo (reviewed separately). This GTS version is treated to additional standard features like adaptive air suspension and is capable of reaching a top speed of 167 mph.
See trim levels and configurations:
The exterior of the new Cayenne has evolved over the years to become a rather handsome body with proportional styling, although the original model was rather less appealing. These days, you get LED headlights and taillights, 19-inch wheels, and dual exhaust exits on the base model. The mid-range S adds a panoramic sunroof at no charge, along with quad exhaust tips finished in silver, while the top GTS trim boasts a bevy of gloss and satin black accents, including the badges and exhaust tips. This model also gets clear taillights and a special SportDesign body kit, while standard 21-inch wheels hint at this variant's sporty nature. On the E-Hybrid model, Acid Green brake calipers and badge accents are the only clues to differentiate it from the base model.
As we mentioned above, the dimensions of the Cayenne are well-proportioned for a typical midsize luxury SUV, with length measuring 193.7 inches and a wheelbase of 114 inches. Width is calculated at 78.1 inches while the height of the SUV is 66.8 inches. These measurements apply to the two "lesser" Cayennes in the range - the base model and the Cayenne S. The GTS sits a little lower with a height of 65.5 inches while its length is slightly greater at 194 inches on the dot. Curb weight on the base Cayenne is rated at 4,582 pounds, while the Cayenne S weighs in at 4,740 lbs, and the GTS tips the scales at 4,954 lbs. The E-Hybrid is the heaviest though, with this model coming in at a lofty 5,164 lbs. If you intend to take your Cayenne off-roading, you'll be pleased to know that the standard steel suspension offers 8.2 inches of ground clearance while the available air setup can vary between 7.4 and 9.6 inches. On the physically lower GTS trim, ground clearance is rated between seven and 9.2 inches. Approach and departure angles with steel suspension are 25.2 and 22.1 degrees respectively while break-over is rated at 18.7 inches. Air suspension offers 27.5, 24.4, and 21.3 degrees respectively. On the GTS, these values are again altered, to 26.9, 23.7, and 20.5 degrees.
As is customary on all Porsche products, you get a lot of options when it comes to color choices. The base model only gets access to two no-cost options though: White and Black. Metallic colors offered here are charged at $800 each and include Quartzite Grey, Mahogany, Moonlight Blue, Dolomite Silver, Jet Black, and Carrara White. If those options aren't flamboyant enough for you, special colors like Carmine Red, Chalk, Lava Orange, and Cashmere Beige Metallic are available for $3,150 each. As standard, the base Cayenne wears black brake calipers. The Cayenne S gets the same color options at the same pricing, but the calipers are finished in Titanium Grey here. On the GTS, red brake calipers are standard.
This may be an SUV, but it's also a Porsche, and an AWD one at that. As a result, performance is spectacular for an SUV, and not just in a straight line. This is especially true on the top GTS trim, where you'll find a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood that develops 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque while adaptive air suspension and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus makes it far more agile than you'd expect for a vehicle of this size. Despite its lardy curb weight, the GTS can do the 0-60 mph sprint in just 4.5 seconds in standard guise and 4.2 seconds when equipped with the Sport Chrono package and its accompanying launch control function. Top speed here is 167 mph, while the lesser S model with its 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 tops out a little earlier at 164 mph. This model manages the benchmark sprint in 4.9 and 4.6 seconds, respectively. The base model, despite being motivated by the weakest engine in the range (a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 developing 335 hp), can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.9 and 5.6 seconds, respectively, while top speed is 152 mph. Interestingly, the hybrid variant is a little faster at 157 mph, but 0-60 with the Sport Chrono package is dispatched in 4.7 seconds. Despite all this focus on performance, all versions of the Cayenne can tow up to 7,700 lbs.
The Cayenne in any guise is respectable in terms of performance and output, but those who care little for acceleration times and top speed ability will likely be best suited to steering the base model. This variant gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 producing 335 hp and 332 lb-ft. Although it is the least powerful version in the range, it has no problem accelerating from a standstill and can overtake with ease, although its weight does make it feel less than visceral. Speaking of heavy models, the E-Hybrid model uses the same powertrain as the base model but with an electric motor called E-Machine that produces 134 hp and 295 lb-ft. In total, output is rated at 455 horses and 516 lb-ft of twist.
For a bit more oomph without electric assistance, the Cayenne S houses a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 with a big jump in power over the base model to 434 hp and 405 lb-ft. This model feels truly quick, and it is. There's no need to downshift on the freeway unless you truly want to blow the doors off slower traffic, but of course, even this model pales in comparison to the brilliant GTS variant. This Cayenne steals the Turbo model's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, albeit with a little less power. Here, it produces 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. This model is truly breathtaking. Put your foot down and the world rushes past in a manner that is guaranteed to get you in trouble with the law. Of course, it takes more than just a beefy engine for a vehicle to be considered good, but the Cayenne's eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission is a pearler that is smooth, sharp, decisive, and simply a joy to use, whether left to its own devices or handled via the steering-mounted paddles.
A Porsche ain't a Porsche if it handles like a milk cart. Even if the Porsche in question is a tall SUV, it must drive well. Porsche takes real pride in this, arguably more so than any other luxury car manufacturer, and it shows in the way the Cayenne handles, regardless of what spec you've ordered yours in. Sure, there are hints of body roll when you're too enthusiastic through the corners, but it's nowhere near as bad as what you'd get in something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example. Nevertheless, this is still a family car of sorts, so you need some suppleness in the chassis, which the Cayenne provides. This is especially true if you get adaptive air suspension - standard on the GTS. Steering is well-weighted too, increasing in resistance the quicker you go and thus allowing you to park with ease while also maintaining the ability to make placing the SUV on the road easy. In terms of braking, the pedal is easy to modulate and provides good feedback. As a luxury SUV that handles and goes better than you expect, the Porsche Cayenne is certainly worthy of the hype. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's still phenomenal.
The base Cayenne's engine is unsurprisingly the most economical of the bunch, with an EPA rating of 19/23/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Thanks to a 23.7-gallon gas tank, this model will manage around 474 miles of range on a single fill-up. The Cayenne S will achieve similar range with mixed driving, although its city and highway gas mileage ratings are one mpg lower. The top GTS trim is the thirstiest model, with the EPA's reviews of the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 indicating that you should get 15/19/17 mpg on the same cycles and a mixed driving range of around 403 miles. How much of that you're likely to see in the real world will depend on how good you are at being feather-footed. For the E-Hybrid variant, EPA estimates were not yet available at the time of writing, but we don't think they'll differ from 2020's 21 MPG combined and 41 MPGe on electricity alone.
The interior of the 2021 Porsche Cayenne, as with any other Porsche, is simply exquisite. It's beautifully finished, impeccably built, and attractively designed. It's spacious too, and there's an abundance of tech, although we would prefer at least a few physical buttons, knobs, or dials on the center console or in the dash instead of the overwhelming obsession with touch-sensitive surfaces that are both magnets for fingerprints and dust and are tricky to operate when on the move. Some of the tech is welcome though, like dual-zone climate control (four-zone is available), eight-way power front seats, and keyless ignition. Adaptive sports seats are also offered.
The Cayenne SUV is sold in what Porsche called a 4+1 seating arrangement, but the truth is that, unlike many other similarly marketed vehicles, you can realistically fit three adults in the rear seats without much complaint. Getting in and out is easy and there's an abundance of headroom and legroom for all passengers. Up front, eight-way power-adjustable seats are standard and offer a good blend of support and comfort. The driver will also find that all-round visibility is excellent. No matter your stature, finding a good driving position is a breeze.
Much like with the exterior paint finishes, the options for customizing the interior of the Porsche Cayenne SUV are abundant, with the ability for buyers to spec different materials and colors for everything from the seats to the trim accents and even the floor mats. Detailing each and every option available is nearly impossible, but the standard configurations of each model include a partial leather finish for the seats and most of the cabin, which is available in a choice of Black or Slate Grey at no charge. Black/Mojave Beige is a $390 option. Full leather in Black or Slate Grey is offered at $3,760 while two-tone finishes like Black/Bordeaux Red, Black/Mojave Beige, Slate Grey/Mojave Beige, and Graphite Blue/Chalk will set you back $4,180. Alternatively, Club leather in either Truffle Brown ($5,170) or Truffle Brown/Cohiba Brown ($5,740) is available. Interior trims can be specced in aluminum, wood, carbon fiber, or leather. These prices vary as you go up the trim range, so be careful when ticking boxes or you may need to apply for two more mortgages.
The Cayenne's abilities extend beyond its performance on the road and off it, although most buyers are unlikely to ever take advantage of the latter. What all buyers will make use of, however, is its cargo area. Accessed via an automatic rear hatch, the rear of the Cayenne offers an impressive 27.2 cubic feet of volume. As good as this is, family-conscious buyers may wish to take note of the fact that the BMW X5 offers a whopping 33.9 cubic feet of cargo volume. Nevertheless, there's enough space for all occupants to bring a medium-sized suitcase each, and if that's not enough, you can fold the rear seats to reveal a space of 60.3 cubic feet. The X5 still outperforms it though, offering 72.3 cubes. As usual, the extra space taken up by battery packs and electric motors diminishes cargo capacity for the E-Hybrid variant, so this model only offers 22.7 cubes with the seats up and 56.8 with them down.
In the cabin, you get door pockets, center armrest storage, a spot for your phone in the center console, and a medium-size glovebox.
Although this is the most expensive and biggest SUV that Porsche makes, it isn't exactly packed to the brim with standard features. What you do get, though, is auto stop/start, 4D-Chassis Control, rain-sensing wipers, heated power wing mirrors, an auto rear hatch, LED headlights with cornering, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, keyless ignition, forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, and parking sensors at either end of the car. If you're willing to spend more than the base model's asking price of $67,500, you can have a panoramic sunroof, adaptive air suspension, adaptive LED Matrix headlights, a surround-view camera, a night vision camera, a head-up display, adaptive front seats, heated and ventilated seats in both rows, massaging front seats, keyless entry, ambient lighting, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, rear-axle steering, lane keep assist, and soft-close doors. Four-zone climate control is also available.
The standard infotainment system in the Cayenne is a rather impressive piece of kit, boasting a stunning 12.3-inch touchscreen display hooked up to a 10-speaker sound system. You also get wireless Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, and voice control. Four USB-C ports and Bluetooth are also included, along with an auxiliary audio input jack. Available upgrades include wireless charging, a six-disc CD changer, a Bose sound system with 14 speakers, or even a Burmester 3D surround sound audio setup with 21 individually controlled speakers. Navigation is a standard feature on all models, but sadly, Android Auto is still not offered anywhere in the Cayenne range. Despite this, we commend Porsche on this infotainment system as it is a big improvement over the system of yore, a system that was truly difficult to navigate. Still, we would prefer some physical buttons to make navigation of the menus easier when on the move.
Thus far, the 2021 Cayenne has been free of any recalls, but it is worth noting that the 2020 model was subject to two recalls in its time on the market. These were for a transmission oil pipe that may leak and a faulty brake wear light that wouldn't activate once the pads had worn down. Reliability seems to have improved since, so these issues shouldn't pop up again.
To put your mind at ease, Porsche sells the Cayenne with a four-year/50,000-mile basic and powertrain warranty, a 12-year corrosion warranty with no mileage limit, and four years/50,000 miles of roadside assistance. You also get complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first year or 10,000 miles - whichever comes first.
Thus far, there is no US Porsche Cayenne safety review for either the 2021 model of the SUV or its 2020 model year predecessor by either the IIHS or the NHTSA. This is not uncommon for vehicles in this price range and niche, so don't fret.
As standard, all Cayenne models are equipped with a respectable smattering of standard features that includes 10 airbags. These are made up of frontal, side-impact, curtain, and knee airbags, while the usual traction and stability protocols also help keep you out of harm's way. Other features include the obligatory rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, and rain-sensing wipers. Of course, Porsche will make money wherever possible, so the advanced driver aids offered come at a premium. These are worth considering though, as they certainly make driving a little less stressful. Options here include adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist and traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view camera, a night vision camera, a head-up display, and adaptive LED Matrix headlights.
There are very few bad cars on sale these days, especially in a country like the US, but they do exist. The Porsche Cayenne is not one of these cars. Sure, it has its pros and cons like any other vehicle, but we feel that the pros outweigh the following cons: it's not cheap, the cargo area is less than class-leading, it's thirsty, numerous features offered by competitors cost extra here, and standard safety equipment is kept to a minimum. Now that we've covered the bad stuff, let's talk about the stuff that is somewhere between good and bad, depending on your preference. The lack of physical buttons in the cabin can be a headache for some and a delight to others. Furthermore, the difference in straight-line performance between the top-tier GTS and the middle-range S isn't all that great. But of its good features, no one can be a skeptic. All versions of the Cayenne are phenomenal to drive, accelerate strongly, and are meticulously built. It's also finished in lavish materials, sounds pretty good, and carries a level of prestige that neither BMW, Mercedes, nor Land Rover can offer, no matter how hard they try. But once again, we'd overlook everything and still favor the Cayenne if it had none of these positive attributes but still drove the way it does. Test drive one and it'll forever change what you think is possible in an SUV. That's how damn good it is.
No Porsche Cayenne has a low price, but if you refrain from adding too many options, you can get a reasonably priced Cayenne. The base model in the USA carries an MSRP of $67,500 before a $1,350 destination charge. The next step up in price comes in the form of the E-Hybrid, which starts at $81,800. The mid-range S model is a little less affordable with a base price of $85,100, but the GTS is pricier still, with this model's asking price starting at $107,300. Before we went completely deranged with trying different types of obnoxious customization choices on the online configurator, we found that we could spec a fully loaded GTS to the tune of around $185,000. Yeah - a Porsche Cayenne can cost almost $200k. We'd rather have a supercar, too.
For 2021, there are three non-'Turbo' Porsche Cayenne models: Cayenne, Cayenne S, and Cayenne GTS. Each is fairly different in terms of output, but all feature all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission.
The base model is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine developing 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Standard features here include an auto rear hatch, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights with cornering, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display with wireless Apple CarPlay, a WiFi hotspot, 10 speakers, and SiriusXM satellite radio. This model is differentiated from its siblings by black brake calipers, two exhaust exits, and a black tachometer.
The Cayenne S, on the other hand, gets quad-exit exhaust tips in silver, Titanium Grey brake calipers, and the addition of a panoramic sunroof. Under the hood is where the real difference lies, as this model gets a slightly smaller but more powerful 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 generating 434 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque.
But none are as powerful (bar the separately reviewed Turbo variants) as the GTS. This version is propelled by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that pumps out 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. This model also upgrades from 19-inch wheels to 21s and gets adaptive air suspension to cancel out any additional discomfort that these sportier rims may add. Red brake calipers, black exhaust tips, and a number of gloss and satin black accents on the exterior help onlookers determine that this is the fastest and most agile version. Other enhancements include adaptive LED headlights, clear LED taillights, and a SportDesign body kit.
If you're only interested in the Porsche badge and care less about performance than fuel economy, the E-Hybrid is the way to go. This model is motivated by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, much like the base model, but with the added motivation of an electric motor. In total, it develops 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. It gets the Sport Chrono package as standard and has some Acid Green exterior accents, but besides these small changes and slightly less cargo volume, it is identical to the base variant.
If you get the base Cayenne, you may well want to add a few upgrades to enhance its ability, although the other trims could also benefit from upgrades. On the regular Cayenne, the Premium package is offered for $6,470. This adds adaptive LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, a Bose 14-speaker sound system, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry, and ambient lighting. Alternatively, you can spend $8,950 on the Premium Package Plus offering, which adds the aforementioned upgrades, as well as LED Matrix headlights and quad-zone climate control. Those looking to enhance safety can spend $6,250 on the Assistance package, and it's money well spent. This adds a surround-view camera, a head-up display, lane keep assist, a night vision camera, and adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist and traffic sign recognition.
As tempting as the GTS is - it's a brilliant vehicle to drive - the mid-level Cayenne S is our pick for a great balance of price and performance. It still doesn't offer much more than the regular Cayenne in terms of features, but its 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 is barely less powerful than the GTS thanks to output figures of 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. Nevertheless, we do still feel that the model could do with some enhancement. We'd add the above-mentioned Assistance package, and we'd also consider the standalone options of heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and rear-axle steering for GTS-rivaling handling ability.
The BMW X5 referenced earlier in this review is a popular comparison for buyers to make. It's a true luxury vehicle these days and offers plenty of space, loads of features, and a wide variety of powertrains. In its most powerful guise (discounting the full-fat X5 M), the X5 gets the M50i suffix that means it's more powerful than even the Cayenne GTS. This model's twin-turbocharged V8 develops 523 hp and can get to 60 quicker too, with a time of 4.1 seconds. However, this model's towing capacity tops out at 7,200 lbs while the Porker can do as much as 7,700 lbs. Furthermore, the BMW can't handle aggressive driving the way that the Porsche can, and the Cayenne is also better off-road. Overall, we prefer the Porsche.
The Cayenne has often been shown up by the Macan, a smaller crossover that carries the same brilliance in handling, the same sort of build quality, and an arguably better overall aesthetic. It's obviously more affordable too because it's got a smaller footprint, but it happens to have a number of enhancements too. Not only is it more economical thanks to its smaller engine options, it's got tri-zone automatic climate control as standard as well, but because it's still a Porsche, standard features still aren't that expansive. It can also only tow 4,400 pounds and offers just 17.6 cubic feet of cargo volume. Overall, the Macan is a great city car, but we'd take the Cayenne as a better all-rounder and family road trip companion.
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