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2013 Porsche Cayenne Road Test and Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
September 10, 2013
8 min. Reading Time

Pop quiz: what's the cheapest model in the Porsche lineup?  Most people would guess that it’s the Porsche Boxster roadster, but those in the know will answer that it's actually the Porsche Cayenne SUV.  The 2013 Porsche Cayenne remains the most affordable automobile from the German automaker by the slim margin of $700, but don't let that fool you: this is a vehicle that offers a startling vast range of models that makes it relatively simple to quickly triple the entry-level edition's MSRP.

The fact that the 2013 Porsche Cayenne doesn't feature the same stratospheric price point as several of its siblings puts it in a unique market position - one that sees it facing off against a wider range of mid-size SUV rivals (Mercedes-Benz M-Class, BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee) than might be expected.  Fortunately for the Cayenne, it's been given the tools it needs to construct a compelling identity for itself and carve out its own niche in an increasingly crowded segment.

2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Models and Prices

So just how much will it cost you to get behind the wheel of a base 2013 Porsche Cayenne?  The SUV's starting MSRP is a reasonable $48,850, a price tag that will snag you a decent amount of standard equipment: leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, power windows and door locks, a trip computer, retractable heated exterior mirrors, 18-inch rims (with a full-size spare tire), tinted windows, tilt-and-telescopic steering adjustment, power adjustments for the front seats, dual automatic climate control, LED running lights, and yes, a six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed automatic is optional).

I'm not going to iterate through the entire Cayenne lineup, as there are six distinct editions of the SUV with pricing that ranges well over $100,000.  My test vehicle was loaded up with several options packages, however, that boosted its sticker by a not-insignificant amount.  Included on the Cayenne I drove were the Bose Audio package, the Premium package (moonroof, heated seats front and rear, parking assistance with rearview camera, Power Steering Plus, 14-way adjustment for the front buckets, heated multi-function steering wheel, adaptive HID headlights), Dark Blue Metallic paint, the Porsche Communication Management with Navigation system, and 20-inch rims.  The total cost of the 2013 Porsche Cayenne that I spent a week with hovered right around the $70,000 mark.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Design

  • The 2013 Porsche Cayenne does not offer any new design elements for the current model year.

The 2013 Porsche Cayenne puffs up the brand's iconic 911 Carrera styling cues and stretches them across the largest canvas in the company's portfolio.  The Porsche Cayenne's big-headlight visage is instantly familiar, and the LED running lights do a nice job of adding an extra bit of premium detail to the SUV.  Muscular in all of the right places but never overbearing, the Cayenne walks an interesting line between being attractive and being anonymous, which is a respectable place to be for a luxury crossover.  Some colors stand out more than others, but this is one of the few Porsches (especially the base model) that can fly under the radar in the parking lot at work while still looking classy, an appealing trait for a wide cross-section of premium buyers.

The interior of the 2013 Porsche Cayenne is a different story.  Nothing has been held back, even on the entry-level edition, in the creation of a passenger environment that looks and feels exceptional.  The cockpit-style console up front, the leather and other fine materials used on the dash, the door panels, and the switchgear, and the appropriate placement of LED lighting throughout the cabin makes the inside of this SUV an elegant place to spend any amount of time.  It's a level of detail that is rarely seen on a base German SUV, and the Cayenne is more inviting than its BMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals because of it.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Comfort and Cargo

  • The 2013 Porsche Cayenne is unchanged compared to the previous model year.

My week with the 2013 Porsche Cayenne coincided with a lengthy, three-day road trip that saw me put over 1,000 miles on the vehicle's odometer while visiting a trio of Canadian cities.  Spending that much time behind the wheel of a vehicle really helps you to become acquainted with its most intimate characteristics.  This is particularly true when considering its seats, which given that I was bouncing from one hotel bed to another could have had a Torquemada-like effect on my lower back and posterior.  I am happy to report that this was not the case - the Cayenne's thrones remained well-bolstered and supportive at all times, and the second row of seating (which both reclines and slides fore and aft) offered my passengers an equally-comfortable spot in which to nap the miles away.

Cargo space within the 2013 Porsche Cayenne's confines checks in at an average 62.9 cubic feet with the rear row folded forward, but when the back seat is locked into place there's a very usable amount of room provided by the SUV.  I had no issue filling the cargo hold with groceries (aided and abetted by the vehicle's power tail gate) and small purchases, and even larger items would be relatively easy to transport without having to lower the seatbacks.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Features and Controls

  • The 2013 Porsche Cayenne does not gain any new controls compared to the previous model year.

The 2013 Porsche Cayenne's feature set comes with a learning curve simply because the SUV's broad center console is replete with silver-and-black buttons and toggles that can be difficult to differentiate at first glance.  As one gets used to their position and function, it becomes almost second-nature to access the entertainment, climate control, and vehicle settings using Porsche's system.  It's certainly less of a hassle than having to rely entirely on a touchscreen, which the Cayenne's navigation system offers but not as the centerpiece of the automobile's interface.

Where Porsche does come through quite nicely with an LCD screen is in the gauge cluster.  The speedometer is to the left, the tachometer is at the center, and to the right of the arrangement is a circular display that can show all manner of information relating to either your journey or the Cayenne itself.  Access is controlled via a simple steering wheel toggle, and I was very happy to see the round display regularly provide me with detailed, full-color map detail of whatever navigation instruction was upcoming - a feature that was a non-intrusive way of keeping me on track.

One of the more unusual buttons that I discovered inside the 2013 Porsche Cayenne's cabin wasn't located anywhere near the console.  In fact, it was hidden at the bottom of the SUV's B pillar, behind the driver's seat.  One of my passengers investigated its functionality in the Cayenne's owner's manual and discovered that it turned the anti-theft alarm's interior sensitivity on and off - so you could theoretically keep an animal inside your Porsche without the horn sounding as soon as you locked the doors, I suppose.  Still, the sequence for activating the feature was quite elaborate, and the button placement had me thinking more about unmarked Chevy vans than upscale canine companions.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Safety and Ratings

  • The 2013 Porsche Cayenne does not debut any new safety equipment for the current model year.

The 2013 Porsche Cayenne comes standard with electronic stability control and traction control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, and of course a healthy number of airbags (dual forward units, front side impact airbags, a knee airbag for the driver, and side curtain airbags).  If you want advanced safety gear, your only real options are a blind spot warning system, but you can also add rear side impact airbags to the vehicle's equipment list via the options sheet.

2013 Porsche Cayenne Crash-Test Ratings: Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash tested the 2013 Porsche Cayenne.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

  • The 2013 Porsche Cayenne maintains the previous model year's engine lineup.

The 2013 Porsche Cayenne's base engine - and the one that motivated the SUV that I drove for a week - is a 300 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6.  Also capable of generating 295 lb-ft of torque, and available with either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the six-cylinder mill returns fuel mileage figures of 17-mpg city and 23-mpg on the highway.  I saw a very strong 25-mpg in mixed driving with a heavy highway component in my 1,000 miles of Cayenne use, which is impressive for such a heavy vehicle featuring standard all-wheel drive.

If you are looking for additional power, or a more frugal driving experience, then the Porsche Cayenne is also available in diesel, hybrid, and turbocharged V-8 editions.  The Porsche Cayenne Turbo tops of out at a phenomenal 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque from its forced-induction 4.8-liter V-8 engine.  All versions of the Cayenne feature all-wheel drive - not just the base model - although there are a couple of different flavors available depending on which model is selected.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Driving Impressions

The comfortable coddling that the 2013 Porsche Cayenne provided my hindquarters with was complemented by the SUV's buttoned-down driving experience.  The Cayenne is a top-shelf highway cruiser, one that devours the road ahead without translating any roughness to the pilot or adding to the fatigue that can accompany long-distance hauls.  Steering was precise at speed, and the vehicle's all-wheel drive system offered the kind of confident grip on the asphalt that I needed while braving several severe rain storms on the second leg of my journey. That same all-wheel drive system also played a key role in keeping the Cayenne planted when cornering in a more spirited manner.  The vehicle's suspension system can't mask the fact that the 2013 Porsche Cayenne offers much more ground clearance - and weight - than its 911 Carrera sibling, but it never had me white-knuckling the wheel through a curve.

Less willing to party was the SUV's six-speed manual gearbox.  As much as I wanted to like the idea of a performance SUV with a shift-it-yourself arrangement, the Cayenne's unit embodied many of the traits that have caused other automakers to move away from offering manual trannies in this class of vehicle.  Throws in the Cayenne were more 'long' than 'fun', and I found myself occasionally unable to smooth transition from one gear to another at full throttle.  The six-speed also made it somewhat difficult to launch the SUV hard, as engine power was more likely to bog the Porsche's all-wheel drive system unless an uncomfortable amount of clutch-slippage was injected into the mix.  I've driven other editions of the Cayenne with Porsche's eight-speed automatic, and it's excellent - and it would definitely be an option I would select when ordering the base model.

It's also important to stress that while the 2013 Porsche Cayenne's 3.6-liter V-6 engine is entirely adequate for daily driving duty, it's not quite up to motivating the SUV's considerable mass with gusto.  This is no fault of the motor itself, for it delivers its 300 horses with a sultry exhaust tone and a willingness to rev, but rather a simple question of physics.  Around town, and on the highway, most buyers won't notice anything other than respectable performance from the six-cylinder mill.  On the track - and I have piloted some impressive examples of the Cayenne on a road course in the past - the base model is simply out of its element.  Power delivery is one area where the base Porsche gives up some ground to vehicles like a comparably-priced Jeep Grand Cherokee. 

There is a Sport button on the center console that tightens the vehicle's steering, but it also sharpens throttle response to the point where it is difficult to drive the big people mover smoothly, without imparting much in terms of actual speed, so I chose to keep the Cayenne in Normal mode most of the time.  You can also lock both the center and the rear differential using a toggle switch next to the Sport button, which was actually useful when pulling my way through a muddy field on my way to a country fair.  The Cayenne's not built for serious off-roading, but it will hold its own on all but the woolliest of all-terrain trails - especially if you opt for a higher trim model that features adjustable air suspension.  The model I drove additionally featured crawl control, which I used to slink through rush hour traffic at a heady five miles per hour.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Final Thoughts

I very much enjoyed my time with the 2013 Porsche Cayenne, despite the flaws associated with its manual transmission.  The entry-level SUV is spacious on the inside, elegant on the outside, and an all-around winner when it comes to day-to-day driving dynamics.  It's not the thrill ride that models like the Cayenne GTS or Cayenne Turbo are, but then again it costs a fraction of the price.  This is the Porsche that is actually practical and also doesn't come with a substantial monthly payment.

The 2013 Porsche Cayenne's value proposition really boils down to its options.  Keep it in base trim and you'll walk away with a bargain - and probably won't miss much other than maybe the well-integrated navigation system.  Then again, most Cayenne buyers are aiming for something a little more rarefied when it comes to equipment and features, and with the compact (and likely similarly-priced) Porsche Macan SUV on the way, it's a fair question as to how much longer the executives in Stuttgart will choose to keep this version of the Cayenne in showrooms.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Review: Pros and Cons


  • Very comfortable in all driving situations
  • Great all-wheel drive grip
  • Luxurious and practical interior
  • Reasonable fuel efficiency for its size
  • Affordable in base trim


  • Options add up quickly
  • Manual transmission is joyless to operate
  • Power is adequate, but no more, from the standard V-6
  • Out-featured by some similarly-priced premium SUVs

Porsche Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.



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