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Avg. Price Paid:$20,235 - $32,984
Original MSRP: $46,400 - $93,700
MPG: 14 City / 20 Hwy
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2008 Porsche Cayenne Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Porsche Cayenne was new.

The 2008 Porsche Cayenne is a capable performer and falls in the middle of the pack in this category. Road and Track says, "For those who want the best-handling SUV money can currently buy, then the Cayenne, with any of its powertrains, is probably what you're looking for."

Likewise, reviewers praise the Cayenne's new performance package, which consists of a boost in power, chassis improvements, and an amazingly flat cornering ability delivered by the all-new optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC). The Car Connection says the SUV "now feels even more like a sports car, and a Porsche, without sacrificing utility or comfort."

Acceleration and Power

Under the hood, the 2008 Porsche Cayenne provides several powertrain options that offer impressive acceleration figures despite the fact that, according to MSN, "the Cayenne is very heavy, weighing from 4,762 to 5,191 pounds." The base model packs a 3.6-liter 290-horsepower V6, while the Cayenne S gets an even more powerful 4.8-liter 385-hp V8 engine. The ultra-performance Turbo model boasts a twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter 500-hp V8.

EPA-estimated fuel consumption for the base V6 engine is 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, while the Cayenne Turbo's V8 nets 12 mpg city and 19 highway and the Cayenne S gets 13 mpg city and 10 mpg highway. Thanks to a new direct fuel injection system, Porsche says fuel economy has increased by 10 to 15 percent over the previous model, and reviewers seem to agree, with Motor Trend noting the Turbo's mileage estimates are "not bad for a vehicle our German hosts claim will get to 60 mph from a standing start in 4.9 seconds."

Though the base V6 is plenty powerful compared with similar SUVs, some reviewers feel it's not impressive enough for a Porsche. "On the road, the V6 Cayenne still yearns a bit for power to haul the mass, the transmission working hard to keep the tach needle in the power band when hit with a demanding right foot. For our $44,295, we'd likely look elsewhere when shopping for an SUV," says AutoWeek. But The Car Connection says the base engine is worth a try, commenting that "the V6 isn't scorching off the line, but it can fairly be called quite sprightly rather than just adequate, with a much meatier, useful mid-range that cuts down on the need for downshifts and makes overall drivability much better."

For those who crave more power, the S model's V8 is a logical choice. AutoWeek says it "strikes a perfect balance between power and poise, making its $58,795 sticker feel like the bargain here," while The Car Connection notes "The Cayenne S has more than enough oomph to easily charge to extra-legal speeds." But for the ultimate performance package, reviewers say the Turbo is the only way to go. Car and Driver says the twin-turbocharged V8 "easily devours just about anything that gets in its way, most noticeable at cruising speeds where a stab of the throttle quickly puts the speedo needle in triple digits." The Detroit News raves "This SUV was made for the Autobahn not the back roads of Texas," and points out that "According to Porsche, the Cayenne Turbo will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. That means if you hold down the accelerator completely down for seven seconds in the U.S., you're breaking the law."

The V8 in the Cayenne S and Turbo is paired with a six-speed Tiptronic S transmission. The base Cayenne comes standard with a six-speed manual, but is optional with the Tiptronic automatic. Edmunds enjoys the Tiptronic, which has two modes--Normal and Sport: "Engaging Sport mode produces 1st-gear launches, more aggressive throttle pedal action and high-rpm upshifts. During our test-driving in southern Spain, we found the effects to be quite dramatic, especially for the Cayenne V6." The Sport option, now standard on every Cayenne, is one of Kelley Blue Book favorite features. "There is something appealingly cartoon-like about a button on the dash that, when pushed, offers, as Porsche describes it, "extra dynamism." Who doesn't want that?" the reviewer says. MSN notes that the base model's "automatic transmission shifts more often than with the V8s to keep the V6 in the right power band for the best performance."

The Porsche Cayenne has a maximum towing capacity of 7,700 pounds--which Autobytel calls "a good-sized load." Every Cayenne comes with preparation for a trailer hitch, and the Porsche Trailer Hitch system is optional.

Handling and Braking

Reviewers rave about the Cayenne's excellent handling abilities, which "gives consumers the most fun you can have driving a family vehicle," according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Car and Driver says that the Cayenne handles "exceedingly well, despite its somewhat slow and mostly uncommunicative steering, but there's no compensating for its bulk and height." But in fact, many reviewers note that the Cayenne doesn't feel as tall or as heavy as it is, with The Car Connection commenting, "Overall, the Cayenne feels agile and frisky behind the wheel."

The Cayenne features a subframe-mounted double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension that reviewers find plenty adequate. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram says even the base model's suspension is "tuned like that of a sports car, allowing the vehicle to hug the pavement quite well on the curves. The Cayenne has the feel of a low-slung sports car, something you won't find on other SUVs." The Turbo model comes standard with an air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (optional on the other models), which raises the vehicle height for off-road driving.

But what reviewers really rave about is another option--a new hi-tech feature called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) that "works remarkably well," according to Car and Driver. The pricey option uses active anti-roll bars on the front and rear axles to significantly reduce lateral body movement during cornering maneuvers. According to Porsche, "PDCC reads the current steering angle and lateral acceleration forces, and responds by producing a stabilizing counterforce that precisely negates any swaying force acting on the body. The result is optimal traction and occupant comfort in both on- and off-road use."

Forbes says, "Our test drive (on roads, not the racetrack) proved the PDCC's effectiveness: The system literally eliminated any perceptible body roll as we thrashed the three models on hand through all manner of wickedly curvy roads." The reviewer says the system also improves comfort "by reducing the perceived side-to-side motion of the vehicle over bumps in the road or even when changing lanes quickly." Road and Track echoes, "Despite its 5200-lb. curb weight, the Cayenne felt unnaturally agile and responsive thanks to the PDCC" and later adds in, "Without doubt the new PDCC endows the Cayenne with cornering levels and stability not seen before in this sector."

The Washington Times notes the system's usefulness even in "a downpour that floods the roadway...Driving a traditional vehicle you might white-knuckle the steering wheel and hope that you emerge from the flow unscathed. Driving the Cayenne you would have a whole lot more going for you as the PDCC helps you retain control of your vehicle just as it did for me during the hour or so of driving this watered course." But Car and Driver notes that as useful as it is, PDCC "come[s] at a price." Already a several thousand dollar option, it's only available in conjunction with the equally pricey optional air suspension system. Several reviewers express their disappointment, with Forbes commenting, "We think that Porsche owners shouldn't have to pay an extra $3,150 for fine handling, just like they shouldn't have to pay extra for powered and heated seats on the company's sports cars."

The Cayenne's hydraulic power assist rack-and-pinion steering is variable, meaning it becomes tighter at high speeds and looser at low speeds. MSN says "steering is sharp and nicely weighted, although it feels a little heavier with the V6." Equipped with variable steering and PDCC, the Detroit News praises the Cayenne as being "more capable than most drivers. And it has more power than most need."

Finally, the Cayenne's excellent braking capabilities are the icing on a rich performance cake. The base model has 6-piston fixed aluminum monoblock black calipers in the front and 4-piston calipers in the back, along with an Anti-Lock Braking System with Brake Assist. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes, "The brake calipers and discs are larger than those of competing premium SUVs. The biggest and best brakes are on the Turbo model, and are designed to handle the extra horsepower and torque of that vehicle." For this year, the Turbo got a significant brake upgrade that makes the calipers "eight percent lighter, eight percent stiffer, and 30 percent larger than the last model's," according to Motor Trend.

Off-Roading

Every Cayenne comes with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) permanent all-wheel drive, which prompts the Washington Times to marvel, "Even with road-friendly tires this Porsche can climb some pretty rugged back country." Off-road wading depth is 19.7 inches and ground clearance is 8.45 inches with the standard steel suspension. The optional air suspension (standard on the Turbo) increases ground clearance up to 10.7 inches.

The PTM system actively distributes engine torque where it is needed most, and the intelligent all-wheel drive has an electronically variable center differential that can be locked for the toughest off-road terrain. Other features include a two-speed transfer gearbox (with Low-range gearing for off-road use), an Automatic Brake Differential (ABD) for better traction, and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) for greater stability under acceleration. To use the PTM system, the driver can choose High-range mode for road and track driving, or Low-range mode for additional off-road traction.

Kelley Blue Book says, "While we expected the Porsche Cayenne to excel in spirited on-road driving, it was the extensive off-road driving we did in the Cayenne that was a revelation to us." MSN similarly praises, "Driving the new Porsche on a rugged off-road portion of a test route during the preview showed it has the 4-wheel-drive grip and ground clearance to tackle very rugged terrain." Car and Driver continues the praise, noting that "off road, the Cayenne is good enough for dirt roading, fire trailing, and slop that's less than of gumbo consistency. It's not a Rubicon runner but, then again, it's not meant to be."

Performance Options

Base model

The Cayenne comes standard with a 3.6-liter water-cooled 6-cylinder engine that puts out 290 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. The engine nets a top track speed of 141 mph and can go from 0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds. It includes a direct injection system, continuously variable intake and exhaust camshafts. The engine is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 6-speed Tiptronic S transmission.

S model

The next level up, the Cayenne S includes a 4.8-liter water-cooled 8-cylinder engine that puts out 385 hp and 369 pound-feet of torque. The engine nets a top track speed of 155 mph and can go from 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds. It includes a direct injection system, along with Variocam Plus continuously variable intake camshaft phasing and valve lift switching. It's paired with a 6-speed Tiptronic S transmission with Porsche Hill Holder and shift on the move.

Turbo model

The ultimate performance SUV, the Cayenne Turbo includes a 4.8-liter water-cooled 8-cylinder engine with two exhaust turbochargers that puts out 500 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. The engine nets a top track speed of 171 mph and can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. The engine includes a direct injection system, an Engine Management System with electronic throttle, and Variocam Plus continuously variable intake camshaft phasing and valve lift switching. It's paired with a 6-speed Tiptronic S transmission with Porsche Hill Holder and shift on the move. The Turbo also comes with a special air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management.

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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