$23,709 - $43,718

2012 Porsche Cayenne Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Porsche Cayenne was new.


Performance: 8.9

Test drivers say the 2012 Cayenne's performance capabilities are exemplary, particularly due to its variety of engines and its adjustable suspension. They say that while the base V6 engine is adequate, they love the more powerful V8 engines in the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo.

  • "What the all-wheel-drive Cayenne does provide is thrilling performance, with exceptional handling and a diverse lineup of engines.” -- Edmunds
  • "Big tires and big power yield big performance. Turbo model is a rocket; regular V-8 is quick; V-6 is adequate.” -- Car and Driver
  • “While you won’t confuse the Cayenne for one of Porsche’s legendary 911s, this SUV offers a driving experience closer to that sports car than you might think.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "But logical or no, the Cayenne has been a big success for Porsche, even beating out the immortal 911 in terms of sales. This despite being an SUV that in its various forms doesn't do well as an off-road vehicle, isn't all that sporty a sport crossover and isn’t very efficient as a hybrid.” -- CarGurus

Acceleration and Power

The base Cayenne comes with a 3.6-liter, 300-horsepower V6, while the Cayenne S comes with a 4.8-liter, 400-horsepower V8. The Turbo comes with a twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 that makes a whopping 500 horsepower. While the base engine is paired with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission, all others get only the automatic. Test drivers say that while the base V6 is just all right, they’re blown away by the V8 in the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo.

According to the EPA, the base Porsche Cayenne with an automatic transmission gets 16/23 mpg city/highway, which is fairly good considering it has standard all-wheel drive. The Cayenne’s lowest fuel economy ratings are found in the Cayenne Turbo and the manual-equipped base Cayenne, both of which are rated at 15/22 mpg city/highway. The Cayenne Turbo’s combined fuel economy rating of 17 mpg is particularly impressive when you consider its massive 500 horsepower. Other all-wheel drive, 500-horsepower or more SUVs, like the BMW X5 M and Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged, get 14 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA.

If you’d like to get even better fuel economy than the Cayenne S or Turbo, but want more power than the base Cayenne’s V6 provides, consider the Cayenne S Hybrid, which is reviewed separately. It gets an impressive 20/24 mpg city/highway and puts out 380 horsepower.

  • "The accelerative performance alone of the Cayenne Turbo earns it a place in a very exclusive club. Add the optional turbo upgrade, racing-bred carbon-ceramic brakes and all the available suspension and drivetrain upgrades, and there are few sports cars (let alone SUVs) that can keep up.” -- Edmunds
  • “V8 or Hybrid, Cayenne’s acceleration ranges from quick to downright ferocious. … Throttle response on the S and Turbo is immediate, and the 8-speed automotive operates in rapid-fire mode. While it’s a traditional automatic, it shifts nearly as quickly as a dual-clutch automated manual.” -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

Test drivers rave about the 2012 Porsche Cayenne’s handling. They say that it’s one of the most sports car-like SUVs on the market, with agile driving manners and a sporty available adjustable suspension. One reviewer notes that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo’s braking ability is even better than some sports cars, and many mention that the Cayenne’s standard all-wheel drive system helps the SUV corner particularly well.

  • “One of the, if not the, most car-like SUVs on the road. Cayenne’s standard all-wheel drive provides reassuring grip, and steering feel is excellent. … Braking is strong and secure.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "In Edmunds brake testing, the Cayenne Turbo came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet -- exceptional for any vehicle, especially an SUV. … Handling, on the other hand, is impressive and the steering deserves special praise for its linearity and precision.” -- Edmunds
  • "Listen closely and the supercharger can be heard whining a bit; the electric power steering feels well connected to the pavement, and the suspension is stiff enough that the truck feels sutured to the road.” -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Through Barber's tight turns and meandering high-speed esses, the Cayenne S with PTV Plus carried breakneck cornering speeds normally reserved for sports cars. Further, this technology arguably makes the new Cayenne the best rotating and most entertaining SUV around, at least in a track environment.” -- Motor Trend
  • "Cornering attitudes are level, grip is tenacious at 0.90 g, transient response is eager, and ride quality is firmly compliant, even in the adjustable suspension’s sport setting.” -- Car and Driver

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