Whistler, BC -- As much as Porsche “purists” hate to admit it, the arrival of the Porsche Cayenne for the 2003 model year was revolutionary for the brand. Not only was it the first SUV Porsche produced, it marked Porsche’s reinvention as not only a producer of sports cars, but luxury models for the (near) masses as well.
While it’s still technically in its second generation, 2015 sees the emergence of the “E2 II” version, sporting some exterior styling tweaks, a new base engine, and a plug-in hybrid.
2015 Porsche Cayenne Price and Specs
The 2015 base Cayenne sports 300 horsepower, 295 lb-ft of torque V6 and starts at $67,400. The Cayenne S now uses a turbocharged version of the 3.6L V6 and is good for 420 horsepower and 406 torques and retails for $83,700. That’s followed by the Diesel (240/405) at $71,300, the S E-Hybrid (416/435 -- those are combined gas/electric figures) at $86,800; the GTS (440/442) at $108,200 with the top-spec Turbo (520/553) starting at $128,200. There’s been no Turbo S announced as of yet.
All models come standard with AWD and a Tiptronic S 8-speed transmission with paddle shifters.
Inside & Out of the 2015 Porsche Cayenne
When the Cayenne was redesigned for the 2011 model year, it became a little tighter, a little squatter-looking than the outgoing model.
While the changes aren’t quite so drastic for this year, “lower” and “squatter” is still the name of the game.
The LED taillights have been given a new “four point” look when illuminated and they’re now connected by a new tailgate crease, providing a cleaner look to the rear as a whole. The exhaust tips (of which there are three varieties) have also been moved to the farthest corners of the rear valance, adding to the “squat” effect.
Up front, the hood shutlines have been moved atop the front fenders, the intakes have been enlarged and the leading edge of each one given what Porsche calls “Airblades.” They catch the air before it gets tangled up with the wheels, lowering turbulence and cooling the engine bay at the same time. It’s a smart touch, if one whose plastic finish cheapens things a little.
Inside, 2015 welcomes the addition of the 918-inspired steering wheel shared with the Macan. It’s a nice upgrade over the last model, whose chunky wheel was too bulky for the cabin. Also new are optional ventilated rear seats, soft-close doors, and windshield heater system that not only removes the distracting squiggly lines from old models, but also adds a layer of sound-deadening to the windscreen.
Driving the 2015 Porsche Cayenne
While there has been a Cayenne Hybrid before, Porsche admits that it has nothing on this new vehicle in the efficiency department. Now that it’s a plug-in, we can cruise 20 kilometres on a single charge, which takes 8 hours with a standard 120V outlet and just 1.5 if you have a 240V.
The E-Hybrid also adds an additional two driving modes to the “Sport” and “Sport Plus” of other Cayennes: “E-Power” and “E-Charge.” The former works as advertised, doing its best to keep you running on full electric power if you have the juice. The latter is there for those times on the highway where you’d rather save your e-juice for less efficient driving environments, like city traffic.
The best part, however, is how the E-Hybrid doesn’t drive like a Hybrid at all. When you combine the two power sources (a 95-hp electric motor, and a 321-hp supercharged V6) there’s plenty of push, and the lightweight lithium-ion batteries don’t add too much weight overall.
The 420-hp from the biturbo V6 in the S comes at you nice and smoothly, the 8-speed auto helps reduce the effects of turbo lag. Yes, we also sampled the Turbo and it’s got massive pull, but we knew that. It was hard to predict just how sporty that V6 felt, though. Better still, since there’s less weight up-front, the already pointable Cayenne is even more so.
That’s on the road; we got a chance to take these beasts on some pretty hairy mountain terrain around Whistler, British Columbia as well.
While maybe 1 in 1,000 Cayenne buyers will actually explore these capabilities, the piece of mind that comes with them remains valuable. If you can climb a near-45-degree grade on lose gravel, imagine what you can do on a slightly slippery road up to the cabin?
Comparing the 2015 Porsche Cayenne
The Audi Q7 is the vehicle that first comes to mind, but you won’t find nearly the variety there as you do with the Cayenne. Still, it does sport 3-row seating and its TDI variant starts at a lower price than the Cayenne Diesel.
If a sportier drive is what you’re after, then the BMW X5 xDrive35d or xDrive50i are worth a look, as well.