$10,490 - $25,471

2009 Porsche Cayenne Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Porsche Cayenne was new.


Performance: 8.3

The 2009 Cayenne's performance capabilities are commendable. Testers were surprised by its agility and sporty handling, and they especially loved the Cayenne's optional V8 engines.

  • "For those who want the best-handling SUV money can currently buy, then the Cayenne, with any of its powertrains, is probably what you're looking for." -- Road and Track
  • "In terms of performance and handling ... Cayenne fully lives up to its Porsche heritage. The new GTS mode is a particularly sporting drive thanks to its lower ride height, standard manual transmission and downright bawdy sport exhaust." -- Edmunds
  • "While we expected the Porsche Cayenne to excel in spirited on-road driving, it was the extensive off-road driving we did in the Cayenne that was a revelation to us. Thanks largely to its very sophisticated systems like the optional air suspension system, traction management and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, the Cayenne is a superior off-highway performer, making quick work of imposing grades." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Cayenne GTS is easy to drive, and easy to slip gracefully into three-digit speeds without those little hairs on the back of your neck standing up. Porsche says the GTS will get to 60 mph a couple 10ths quicker than the S model (in the high fives), but that's not why you'll be slobbering all over yourself. It's up in the middle ranges, where second gear starts and third ends. That's where the excitement is. Roll the windows down, and let it go. Claimed top speed is 157 mph." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne weighs between 4,762 and 5,191 pounds, but has an arsenal of engines that are plenty adequate to push the vehicle. The base model packs a 3.6-liter, 290-horsepower V6, while the Cayenne S gets an even more powerful 4.8-liter 385-hp V8 engine. The Cayenne GTS features a 4.8-liter 405-hp V8 engine, and the Cayenne Turbo comes with a twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter 500-hp V8. The Turbo S comes with the same engine but makes 550 horsepower. The V8 in the Cayenne S, GTS, Turbo and Turbo S is paired with a six-speed Tiptronic S transmission, and the base comes standard with a six-speed manual, with an optional Tiptronic automatic.

The EPA rates the base Cayenne at 14/20 mpg city/highway with either the manual or automatic transmission; the GTS at 11/17 mpg city/highway with a manual and 13/18 mpg city/highway with an automatic; the Cayenne S at 13/19 mpg city/highway with an automatic; and the Cayenne Turbo at 12/19 mpg city/highway with an automatic.

  • "Swift acceleration from nearly any speed is always at hand, even in the V6 models." -- Edmunds
  • "The first think I noticed while driving the new Cayenne on city, country and mountain roads near Cadiz, Spain, was the absence of uneven power deliver that the first generation model had under some driving conditions with both its V6 and V8 engines. The new Cayenne has smooth power deliver. Even the Cayenne V6 is quick, although its automatic transmission shifts more often than with the V8s to keep the V6 in the right power band for the best performance." -- MSN
  • "Much of the magic of these engines is in Porsche's newly developed high-pressure common-rail direct-fuel-injection system and constantly adjusting variable valve control. On the road, the engine is smooth; easy driving is manageable-until you put your foot into it and get above 2500 rpm when the twin turbochargers kick in." -- Motor Trend
  • "Its muscular V8 delivers smooth, strong acceleration in most any situation. Some testers found shifter/clutch action less than ideal, a good reason, perhaps to spring for the optional automatic transmission." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

Although the Cayenne's weight was ever-present in test drivers' minds, most found it's a non-issue with the SUV's maneuverability. What's more, features like the available Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) improve the SUV's composure by using active anti-roll bars on the front and rear axles to significantly reduce lateral body movement when cornering. Reviewers also said that the Cayenne's six-piston fixed aluminum monoblock black calipers in the front and four-piston calibers in the back are well up to the task of stopping the SUV.

  • "As nimble as can be expected of a tall, 5500-lb SUV. Cayenne corners with good grip and balance with direct steering and modest cornering lean. Strong brakes are more than up to any stopping task." -- Consumer Guide
  • "For an SUV, the Cayenne handles exceedingly well, despite its somewhat slow and mostly uncommunicative steering, but there's no compensating for its bulk and height." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Cayenne Turbo's heft is burdensome even for an engine this mighty. But once it's energized, there's more than enough torque to rock this SUV back on its rear wheels while hurtling out of tight turns. A second annoyance is steering that's touchy when off center. Some drivers will require a week or two to adjust their reflexes. The Cayenne Turbo feels as if it's tuned more for race track and mountain road use than ordinary suburban driving and commuting. The key is to steer with tidy wrist action instead of minor elbow motion. Fast drivers will love it, patient cruisers probably won't." -- Forbes
  • "The Cayenne Turbo is a mighty machine, pummeling zero to 60 mph in a claimed 5.1 seconds on its way to a 171-mph maximum. True, it's over the top, but with Sport selected and the PDCC working overtime, it never once felt unwieldy over the sinuous, soaking-wet roads I was driving. Despite its 5200-lb curb weight, the Cayenne felt unnaturally agile and responsive thanks to the PDCC." -- Road and Track
  • "With all of that weight and power, brakes are important, and Porsche doesn't scrimp on them. The brake calipers and discs are larger than those of competing premium SUVs. The biggest and best brakes are on the Turbo model, and are designed to handle the extra horsepower and torque of that vehicle." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Although it's unlikely many will take a Porsche off-roading, critics said the 2009 Cayenne is built to adequately handle rough terrain. All trims come with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and permanent all-wheel drive. They have an off-road wading depth of 19.7 inches, with ground clearance of 8.45 inches with the standard steel suspension.

The PTM system actively distributes engine torque where it is needed most, and the intelligent all-wheel drive has an electronically variable center differential that can be locked for the toughest off-road terrain. Other features include a two-speed transfer gearbox (with low-range gearing for off-road use), an automatic brake differential for better traction and anti-slip regulation for greater stability under acceleration. To use the PTM system, the driver can choose high-range mode for road and track driving, or low-range mode for additional off-road traction.

  • "Driving the new Porsche on a rugged off-road portion of a test route during the preview showed it has the 4-wheel-drive grip and ground clearance to tackle very rugged terrain." -- MSN
  • "Off road, the Cayenne is good enough for dirt roading, fire trailing, and slop that's less than a gumbo consistency. It's not a Rubicon runner but, then again, it's not meant to be." -- Car and Driver
  • "While we expected the Porsche Cayenne to excel in spirited on-road driving, it was the extensive off-road driving we did in the Cayenne that was a revelation to us." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Cayenne can also be a capable SUV when it comes to off-road work, but only with the optional off-road package." -- Edmunds

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