Review: 2016 Porsche Cayenne V6

2016 Porsche Cayenne V6

Porsche’s lowest-on-the-heat-scale Cayenne still proves satisfying.

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Porsche purists are an influential group. When the builder of iconic sports cars was putting the finishing touches on the transformation from air cooled to water cooled engines, they howled loudly in protest. The recent decision to kiss naturally aspirated engines goodbye for the entire 911 model range has garnered its share of vitriol. And if we look way back to 2003 when the first Cayenne models were landing at dealerships, the backlash reached a fevered pitch, sputtering on and on about how one of the world’s greatest sports car companies could have the chutzpah to build an SUV. Speckled throughout the company’s existence have been periods of doubt by those who claim to hold the brand’s principles in their truest forms.

It’s a good thing that Porsche has tuned the contemptuous chorus of voices out. The 911 continues to sell briskly, and even more so does the Cayenne; in fact, for all the doomsday rhetoric spewed by fanboys and pundits Porsche enjoys the current distinction of being the world’s most profitable automotive brand. Also flying in the face of traditional values is a manufacturer with such a strong focus on performance to become the first to have three separate plug in hybrid models for sale (OK, so one of those is the hyper-mega-cool 918 Spyder.) To those who get their knickers in knots about messing with the sacred formula that made the company so great- put a sock in it, would you?

After all, the success buoyed by the Cayenne and Panamera (two models who often don’t get enough love and are often chided for less-than-beautiful styling) allow Porsche to continue building small volume gems for enthusiasts to salivate over like the GT3 RS and Cayman GT4.

PROS: Superb build quality, handles and stops much better than it ought to, surprisingly capable off-road.

CONS: Can get insanely expensive, engine isn’t up to the task, could use a bit of a diet.

THE VERDICT: The mildest flavour of Cayenne in the Porsche catalogue is still a satisfying dish.

It’s been a while since we were behind the wheel of a Cayenne, so we’ve been looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the 2nd generation model. It’s been slightly refreshed with new four point LED headlight treatments and taillight designs as well, bringing it in line with the Porsche lighting design theme found throughout the lineup.

Finished in an understated Mahogany Metallic hue, our tester was not the ridiculously fast Turbo S, nor was it the trick e-hybrid model. It lacked the rip snorting shoutiness of the GTS and an empty space on the front fenders meant it did not have the super-efficient diesel engine. It was the V6, the lowest rung on the Cayenne ladder- yet it still proved wholly satisfying, putting a dent in the theory that you don’t have to gorge yourself at the options buffet to end up with an enjoyable car.

Our tester definitely subscribed to this ethos, sporting a relatively small $5,170 in options. No matter how you spec it, the basic goodness of the platform is there. This means you’ll have an SUV that drives much better than it ought to, yet still has the chops to venture off the beaten path- Porsche engineers still subject these things to the frigid conditions of the Arctic to the scorching temps of Death Valley and everywhere in between.

But what if you did decide to attack the options sheet with reckless abandon? We decided to do just that, starting with the most basic Cayenne V6 possible ($67,400.) If you do this, two things happen: you will have built the most lavishly equipped V6 model in history, and you will have doubled the base price of the SUV and then some. Some options add hardware that will make your Cayenne a better driver, and those look to be the most compelling in a catalog that is almost exhausting to wade through. Shoppers who are more frugal will most likely skip the leather wrapped air vents ($2,725).

We set out not to discover how much we could push the limits of financial sense but what it’s like to live with a Cayenne day in and day out. We used it as if it were our own, subjecting it to the banalities of everyday life and we discovered that despite the fact it shares a platform with the Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touareg, it sure does earn its Porsche badge.

It starts off with a perfect relationship with the controls. The seats are a spot on blend of comfort and firmness, holding you in place when you decide to throw it around a but yet leaving you feeling fresh after a long day in the saddle. You reach for a perfectly sized 918-ispired steering wheel, and just off to your right is the rising centre console that conjures up associations to aviation the way its button-heavy interface is laid out. When you look ahead at the expansive view through the windscreen, your eyes are drawn to the classis Porsche instrument binnacle complete with a tachometer mounted front and centre.

It’s an altogether sporting affair, and this athleticism is reflected in the dynamics en masse. Step on the brake pedal and the pads bite down with proper authority, and that’s without any of the plentiful hardware upgrades. I’m always amazed at how Porsche is able to make these heavy lumps dance, and this V6 version is no exception. The only letdown? The V6, while churning out more than adequate thrust for the real world feels strained and laboured against the heavy curb weight. 300 horsepower is not exactly paltry, but it isn’t enough to endow our tester with the kind of scoot you would associate with a Porsche. Plus, the soundtrack isn’t nearly as scintillating as a Boxster or 911.

If Porsche didn’t offer so many versions of the Cayenne culminating with the bonkers Turbo S, folks just might appreciate the Cayenne V6 a bit more. As we said, it’s still a very rewarding SUV to drive- and it definitely feels the most polished amongst its accomplished stablemates, the VW Touareg and the Audi Q7.

This Cayenne might not be the spiciest, but it does hit the spot. 

2016 Porsche Cayenne V6 – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $73,685
  • Body Type: 5-door, 5-passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine: 3.6 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower: 300 @ 6,300 rpm
  • Torque: 295 lbs/ft. @ 3,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb Weight: 2,115 kg (4,663 lbs.)
  • Observed fuel consumption: 13.6L/100 km (17 mpg)