The 2015 Porsche Cayenne S gets a new engine and a raft of tweaks to keep Porsche's best seller in the SUV fight.
WHAT IS IT
Porsche's largest SUV that now makes up half of the brands sales in Oz and underpins its profitability for Porsches we like better, like the 911. It's offered in V6 petrol, V8 diesel and hybrid form and in 2014 was joined by a smaller SUV, the Macan, which overtook it in the sales race last month as stock of the old Cayenne dried up
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The 2015 update brings new metal, more power and a new engine to the Cayenne S to make it faster, more efficient and more desirable – on paper – than before.
Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, Range Rover Sport
Model: Porsche Cayenne S
Engine: 3604cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo
Max power: 309kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 550Nm @ 1350-4500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 9.5L/100km (EU)
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The refreshed Cayenne S is a more desirable model thanks to even better drivability and lower running costs. We'll still miss the old V8...
PLUS: Superb drivability and balance; cabin fit and finish
MINUS: Numb steering, lack of tech showing its age
THE WHEELS REVIEW
PORSCHE’S Cayenne has gained a dose of upgrades to battle the new BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport, as well as keeping Porsche's most popular and profit-generating product looking fresh alongside the new smaller Porsche Macan SUV in its showrooms.
Cayenne is now armed with a new-look front and rear, with smarter, cleaner looking sheetmetal ahead of the windscreen, and restyled tail-lamps and a two-piece tailgate at the rear. While not dramatically different to look at, the range also gains the previous GTS-spec's firmer suspension tune – the most athletic of the pre-facelift line-up – and new engines. We're driving the new S model, which replaces the 4.8-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine with the 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 introduced with the Macan.
The new 3604cc V6 makes the Cayenne S – which at $139,900 wears the same price-tag as its predecessor – a different animal. Its 309kW trumps the 4.2-litre V8's 294kW, and it has more torque, too, spread across a wider rev range: its 550Nm arrives at 1350rpm, against the old V8s peak of 500Nm at a higher 3500rpm. Behind the 918-inspired steering wheel – the only significant cabin change – the six doesn't have the old V8's meaty growl, but that's not to say it's a disappointment. For starters, its claimed 9.5L/100km fuel economy is 0.9L better than the old V8, and even if it doesn't have quite the same timbre, the six still offers a solid yet less boisterous growl when you give the full boot.
Throttle response is solid in the highest Sports Plus mode of our test car – fitted with the optional Sports Chrono pack, which brings a Performance-Start launch control for the first time – but not neck snapping, with no noticeable lag. Impressively, the new V6 S sends the more fuel-efficient Cayenne from rest to 100km/h 0.3sec faster than the V8 it replaces (now 5.4sec), but the rolling response and drivability is improved, too. The eight-speed Tiptronic has been retuned to behave like Porsche's brilliant dual-clutch transmission, yet it still isn't as reactive or smooth as the PDK that little bro Macan runs.
The firmer suspension still delivers a composed yet comfortable ride on our test car's optional 21-inch wheels, but for a plusher ride the standard 19s will fare better. So, too, the optional air suspension, even if the standard set-up is excellent: there's minimal dive and squat, while roadholding is superb. So, too, is grip, with the all-wheel drive system unchanged for this update for superb out of corner, power-down traction. One thing we would like is more steering feedback from the Cayenne's hydraulic steering. While you can place the car well, and it's responsive, it doesn't weigh up enough as you wind lock on around corners.
The Cayenne update is more than a nip and tuck, but packaging limitations of the ageing platform means it misses out on some key tech that the Macan offers, like the aforementioned PDK and electric steering. Yet the Cayenne S is much improved, and the V6 makes a much more compelling proposition as a daily driver. And let's be honest: most Cayenne buyers won't get within a horse-float’s length of exploiting the off- and on-road capabilities of one of the best-balanced SUVs money can buy.
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