Before the Lamborghini Urus, Maserati Levante, Jaguar F-Pace and Aston Martin DBX there was the Porsche Cayenne. The Cayenne debuted in 2003 and proved that luxury sports car companies could build SUVs that were both practical and fun to drive. The luxury SUV segment has become incredibly competitive since 2003, but the Cayenne is still one of its top options, especially for those who value performance above all else.
New for 2021: A Revived Trim Level and Bigger Battery Pack
Porsche has reintroduced the “GTS” trim level for 2021, which is available on both the SUV and Coupe body styles. The GTS slots in between the “S” and “Turbo” trims and is the cheapest way to access the Cayenne’s burly twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which is rated at 453 horsepower. Meanwhile, the plug-in hybrid Cayenne has been given a bigger battery pack. According to Porsche, moving from a 14.1-kWh battery pack to a 17.9-kWh unit should increase the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s all-electric range by 30 percent.
Exterior Styling: A Stunner as an SUV and a “Coupe”
The ‘21 Cayenne is available in two body styles, SUVs and Coupe, with the latter featuring a rakish roofline that trades passenger and cargo space for style points. When it comes to the luxury SUV space, both the SUV and Coupe body styles are a bit conservative, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Cayenne eschews flash in favor of subtle aggression, with its low ride height, wide wheel arches and quad exhaust hinting hard at its potential on the track and backroads.
What’s Under the Hood: So. Much. Power.
The Porsche Cayenne comes standard with a turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 rated at 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. There are two 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8s on offer, one producing 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque while the other is tuned and makes 541 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque. All engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which sends power to all four wheels.
The slowest Cayenne will do 0-60 mph in just 5.9 seconds, which is incredibly impressive for an SUV. However, that time looks downright slow compared to the rest of the lineup. For example, the Cayenne GTS, which has the 453-hp V8 under its hood, can do 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds (SUV) and 4.2 seconds (coupe). If that’s not fast enough, fear not as the range-topping Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid makes the same sprint in 3.6 seconds. Regardless of the engine, all Cayennes are capable of hitting a top speed of at least 150 mph, with the Turbo S E-Hybrids Coupe topping out at an eye-popping 183 mph.
While it packs monstrous engines, the Cayenne is much more than just a stop light speed demon. Reviewers have heaped praise upon the Porsche for its perfectly weighted steering, brakes that bite hard and a suspension that strikes a perfect balance between performance and comfort. CNET even went so far to say that the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe could “keep up with supercars on winding roads.”
The Cayenne is available with a slew of optional performance extras, including ceramic brakes, an adaptive air suspension and an off-road package that adds a skid plate and tilt, angle and steering angle display to the gauge cluster’s info screen. The Cayenne is also capable of towing a surprisingly 7,700 pounds.
Porsche’s SUV performs pretty poorly at the pump, which is to be expected given its low 0-60 times and high top speeds. The thirstiest Cayenne GTS, Turbo and Turbo Coupe average a dismal 15/19/17 mpg (city, highway, combined) according to the EPA. The V6 powered Cayennes lead the pack with an mpg split of 19/23/20. Between those two markers you’ll find the Cayenne GTS/Cayenne GTS Coupe (15/19/17 mpg and 15/20/17 mpg) and the S/Cayenne S Coupe (18/22/20 mpg and 18/22/19 mpg).
What’s Inside: A Luxury Cabin That’s a Bit Short on Space
Porsche isn’t known for skimping on the luxury, and the 2021 Cayenne is certainly no exception. Eight-way power-adjustable front seats are standard, as are leather seats, a leather steering wheel and dual-zone climate control. Available features include a 14- and 18-way power-adjustable front seats, wood and carbon fiber interior trim, four-zone climate control, panoramic roof, massaging front seats and heated and ventilated seats (both rows).
Despite being a mid-size SUV, the Cayenne doesn’t exactly offer a ton of space for people or cargo. The SUV body style comes with seating for five standard, but getting three adults into its backseat will be a challenge, while the Coupe offers seating for four standard but does offer a five-seat layout. Cargo space is equally tight, with the Cayenne SUV offering 22.7 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row and 60.3 cubic feet with the second row of seats folded down. The Cayenne Coupe offers storage space similar to what you’d find on a large compact crossover: 22 cubes behind the rear seats and 54.3 cubes with them folded down.
A 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, navigation and a 10-speaker sound system all come standard on the 2021 Cayenne. Available tech includes a 14-speaker Bose sound system, a 21-speaker Burmester sound system, a wireless charging pad and two 10-inch entertainment screens mounted to the front headrests that can be removed from their mounts. While it may look intimidating due to its size, Edmunds said the Cayenne’s massive touchscreen is intuitive and offers crisp graphics.
Luxury automakers aren’t known for giving away safety and driver’s assistance tech, which is why it’s so refreshing that the Cayenne comes standard with a forward collision-warning system and rear parking sensors. That’s not a ton of safety tech, but it’s better than nothing. Available safety tech and driver’s assistance aids include a night-vision camera, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera system for parking, automatic emergency braking, a heads-up display and lane-change assist.
Pricing and Trim Levels: You Can Put a Price on Performance
Both of the Cayenne’s body styles are available in six trim levels: Cayenne, Cayenne E-Hyrbid, Cayenne S, Cayenne GTS, Cayenne Turbo and Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid.
The entry-level trim Cayenne is priced at $67,500 (SUV) and $76,500 (Coupe). If you’re looking to save money and don’t care about 0-60 mph times of top speeds, this is the way to go because the Cayenne gets expensive quickly after this.
Despite packing the same turbocharged V6 as the Cayenne, the Cayenne E-Hybrid makes 455 horsepower thanks to the addition of an electric motor. The Cayenne E-Hybrid starts at $81,800 in SUV guise and $87,600 in Coupe form.
The Cayenne S has an MSRP of $85,100 in SUV form and $89,900 in the Coupe body style. This trim has a higher top speed than the E-Hybrid, owing to the fact that it doesn’t have a battery pack and electric motor and thus weighs less. Still, it’s a bit tough to recommend the Cayenne S over the hybrid, especially since the hybrid sprints from 0-60 mph in less time and can travel up to 13 miles solely on electric power.
At $107,300 (SUV) and $110,500 (Coupe), the Cayenne GTS certainly isn’t cheap. However, it is the least-expensive V8 Cayenne on sale. Despite “only” packing 453 horsepower the Cayenne GTS offers impressive performance and comes standard with Porsche’s adaptive air suspension system.
If performance is what you’re after then the Cayenne Turbo is where you need to look. This 541-hp SUV does 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and has a top speed of 177 mph. Needless to say, all that performance will cost you. Specifically, it’ll cost $127,800 for the SUV body style and $131,900 for the Coupe.
Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid
At the top of the pyramid sits the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid, which has an MSRP of $163,200 (SUV) and $166,200 (Coupe). For those seeking the pinnacle of SUV performance, the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid isn’t a bad buy as it truly does offer supercar performance, at least in a straight line.
The Last Word
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne asks a simple question: How much is performance worth? If you really can’t put a price tag on a low 0-60 time and the ability to carve up corners at-will, then the Cayenne is the SUV for you. However, if you’re looking for a bit more space for people and cargo then you might want to look elsewhere, especially if you’re on a budget.