Full 2008 Porsche Cayenne Review
What's New for 2008
After skipping a year, the Porsche Cayenne returns and is revamped for 2008. All engines receive more power this year. There's also a revised suspension for even sharper handling, a new GTS trim level and a few new luxury and convenience features in the form of an optional power liftgate, adjustable cargo tie-downs and adaptive headlights. Except for a mild face-lift and new taillights, the body and interior are carried over.
Although it initially raised more than a few eyebrows and drew many a scowl from die-hard sports car enthusiasts, Porsche's first and only SUV has proven to be a big success. Since its introduction five years ago, the Cayenne crossover SUV has provided sports car fanciers with their own ute that combines athletic moves with a measure of utility. It also allowed the company to survive, as Porsche needed something of a volume seller to remain independent. Although many car buffs were initially disgruntled at the thought of this great sports car company jumping on the SUV bandwagon, the Cayenne has proven to be both a savior and a damn fine vehicle.
For 2008, the Porsche Cayenne enters its second generation. Most of the changes are under the skin, and indeed the body shell and interior are mostly untouched. Wider headlights, a reshaped hood and front fenders and a deeper chin spoiler give the 2008 Cayenne a slightly more aggressive stance than last year's model. More energetic power plants mean even the V6-equipped Cayenne can wear its Porsche crest with pride. The V6's output now stands at 290 horsepower (an increase of 43 hp). The V8-powered Cayenne S makes 385 hp (an increase of 45 hp), while the new GTS model has an enhanced version of that V8 that pumps out 405 hp.
The top-shelf Cayenne Turbo continues to be available, and it kicks out an astounding 500 hp (an increase of 50 hp). Zero-to-60-mph times range from around 8 seconds flat for the V6 to around 5 seconds flat for the Turbo. Handling, always a forte of the Cayenne, is even better now thanks to optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC). This system uses automatically adjusting stabilizer bars to do an amazing job of virtually eliminating body roll when the SUV is driven hard on a winding road.
Is all of this enough to keep the 2008 Porsche Cayenne on top of its game? When it debuted, the Cayenne essentially had the BMW X5 as its lone rival in the high-performance crossover SUV segment. Now it must also contend with the Land Rover Range Rover Sport and revised Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. For maximum performance, we still think the Porsche earns the podium as its acceleration, braking and handling can't be beat. But it's not without fault. Foremost, it follows Porsche tradition of being expensive, particularly when fitted with options. It's also somewhat lacking in utility, while fussy controls and a small backseat detract from its luxury ambience. So if performance is a secondary concern for you, one of the Cayenne's competitors might suit you better.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Porsche Cayenne midsize luxury crossover SUV comes in five trim levels, which are essentially defined by the powertrain fitted to each. The base Cayenne comes with a V6, along with 17-inch wheels, automatic climate control, a 12-speaker CD audio system, foglamps, full power accessories (including front seats), leather seating, a trip computer and a power liftgate. This base model comes with a manual transmission, but most buyers will select the Cayenne Tiptronic, which has the same equipment but adds the six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
The automatic-only Cayenne S is similarly equipped, but is V8-powered and comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. The Cayenne GTS adds a more powerful V8 and a sport exhaust system as well as a standard six-speed manual transmission, 21-inch alloy wheels, an active air suspension and a 20mm-lower ride height than other Cayennes. The top-of-the-line Cayenne Turbo comes with a turbocharged V8, active air suspension, specialized front and rear styling, brushed aluminum body accents, a Bose audio system, a navigation system, front and rear park assist, heated seats (front and rear), bi-xenon adaptive headlights, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and an Alcantara headliner.
Many of the Turbo's features are available as options on the lesser trims. Other option highlights include various wheels (ranging up to 21 inches in size), a large four-section panoramic moonroof, insulated glass, the PDCC active antiroll bar system, various wood and aluminum interior accents, rearview camera, satellite radio, CD changer and the Off-Road Technology Package, which provides a locking rear differential and skid plates.
Powertrains and Performance
The Cayenne and Cayenne Tiptronic both come with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 290 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. The Cayenne S packs a 4.8-liter V8 with 385 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. In the Cayenne GTS, this engine produces 405 hp. The Cayenne Turbo has a twin-turbocharged version of the V8 that makes a mighty 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. All have a six-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission (except the base Cayenne and GTS with the six-speed manual) and all have all-wheel drive. A low-range gear is provided for off-roading, but buyers should note that all Cayennes come with street-biased, all-season tires. Anyone planning to do serious off-highway work in Porsche's SUV should invest in a set of all-terrain tires.
The base Porsche Cayenne is suitably quick: The six-speed manual runs zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, according to Porsche, while the Tiptronic version takes 7.9 ticks. The Cayenne S hits 60 in 6.4 seconds, while the Cayenne GTS should get the job done in either the high 5s (manual transmission) or low 6s (automatic). We're told that the Turbo stampedes to 60 in just 4.9 seconds. Top speeds range from 141 mph for the V6 versions to 171 mph for the Turbo. Towing capacity for all Cayennes is 7,700 pounds.
Antilock disc brakes are standard on the 2008 Porsche Cayenne, as are front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Stability control is standard as well, and the system now features a rollover sensor. Active bi-xenon headlights and front and rear park assist are standard on the Turbo, and available on all other trims.
Interior Design and Special Features
With a 911-style instrument cluster (meaning large, clear gauges) and left-side ignition switch, the Cayenne's interior is all Porsche. Sadly, this means that the climate and audio controls are comprised of many small, look-alike buttons that take some getting used to. Otherwise, materials quality is superb, as every major surface feels worthy of a vehicle with such a large price tag, right down to the richly carpeted footwells. Fit and finish, especially with the optional wood or metallic accent packages, is excellent, and the front seats are firmly supportive. Rear-seat comfort is mediocre, however, and cargo capacity, at 62.5 cubic feet, is on the small side for a midsize luxury SUV.
In terms of performance and handling, the 2008 Cayenne fully lives up to its Porsche heritage. The new GTS model is a particularly sporting drive thanks to its lower ride height, standard manual transmission and downright bawdy sport exhaust. Swift acceleration from nearly any speed is always at hand, even in the V6 models, while cornering is flat and confident, especially if the Cayenne is equipped with the new PDCC option. The ride is firm but never harsh and the brakes are strong and linear. The Cayenne can also be a capable SUV when it comes to off-road work, but only if you specify the optional off-road package.