Porsche Cayenne VS Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class
- Modest steering feel
- So-so warranty
- Pricey servicing
Since the Porsche Cayenne turned the automotive world upside down in the early noughties, it has continued to evolve and has grown to become one of the brand's biggest sellers.
One size up from the mid-size Macan, it's problematic for hardcore Porsche-philes, but there's no doubting this five-seat SUV's success, or the fact that it helps keep the famous German sports car maker well and truly in the black.
And this is the new, third-generation version, with an all-new chassis, fresh engines, and a bunch of dynamic, safety and multimedia tech enhancements.
Read More: Porsche Cayenne Turbo 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Porsche Cayenne S 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Porsche Cayenne 2018 review: snapshot
|Engine Type||4.1L turbo|
If you’re in the market for a full-size, seven-seat, luxury SUV you’re obviously living life large. Big family, lots of friends, dogs and cats, and heaps of activity - horses, boats, camping?
You’re aiming at a six-figure bullseye between $130,000 and around $150,000. On a three-year novated lease, somewhere around three grand a month.
Mercedes-Benz Australia invited us to experience the car on a launch drive across city, suburban and rural roads.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
The Cayenne may be the Porsche of SUVs, but you can't have family car size and practicality without a few concessions.
It's fast, beautifully built, and engineered with a special eye for detail, and the well specced Cayenne S is the pick of the bunch for performance and value.
But it's worth remembering the SUV bit. This Porsche is more everyday enjoyment than track day excitement.
Is the Cayenne your kind of premium family truckster? Tell us in the comments below.
The design is new yet familiar. Longer (+63mm), wider (+44mm), lower to the ground, and lower overall (-9mm), yet the wheelbase is unchanged at just under 2.9m.
All models feature LED headlights, and the Cayenne and Cayenne S are identified by their silver grille slats, with the Turbo featuring matt and high-gloss black surfaces plus larger air intakes at the front.
Car-spotters will also notice narrower side windows with a sharper decline at rear (Porsche calls it the Flyline) and the C-pillars tilting forward for a racier look.
A full width horizontal light strip across the tail sits under a clear covering above a three-dimensional version of the Porsche logo.
And wheels now range in size from 19-inch on the Cayenne, 20-inch on the Cayenne S, to 21s on the Turbo, plus optional 22s, presumably for those who drive on billiard table smooth freeways at all times.
And the Cayenne now features staggered or mixed tyres for the first time, that is fatter rubber on the back than the front.
Inside, the biggest change is the adoption of the Panamera's 'Advanced Cockpit', with the central tachometer in the iconic five-gauge instrument cluster flanked by twin 7.0-inch screens to create a blended analogue/digital version of the classic Porsche five dial layout.
Plus, there's the sleek 12.3-inch screen in the centre running everything from nav and vehicle settings to audio control and phone calls, through touch and voice.
Again, it's a direct lift from the Panamera, and the screen layout can be customised to personal preference, with Apple CarPlay standard (but no Android Auto).
As mentioned, the GLS is big; a step up from the already substantial model it replaces. Built with the US market in mind, in fact it’s produced in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it’s more than five metres long, close to two metres wide, and over 1.8m tall. And there’s more than three metres between the axles, a 60mm wheelbase increase over the previous model.
And despite the size of the canvas, the Benz design team has managed to make the GLS look like a modern Merc. Signature elements include obvious ones like the slatted grille with a couple of three-pointed stars on the nose.
But there’s also, the carefully chiselled twin ‘power dome’ bonnet, scowling LED headlights and vents to aid front brake cooling and smooth aero performance around the front of the car.
The big beast’s off-road intent is highlighted by extensions around the wheelarches, with big optional 22-inch rims sitting underneath. The fact they look right-sized for the car speaks volumes about its scale.
The racy AMG Line package is standard, and a recess and pronounced character line, tightening the lower waistline is a familiar Merc treatment, plus alloy roof rails toughen the look while dialling up practicality.
The rear is relatively simple, borderline generic, with tapered tail-lights offering the only strong whiff of design personality. But believe it or not, thanks to careful detail sculpting of the body, and smoothing underneath the car it boasts a drag figure of Cd 0.32. Outstanding aero performance for a large SUV.
The driver and front passenger are presented with a sweeping dashboard dominated by twin 12.3-inch digital screens, one primarily covering the instruments, and the central screen managing the MBUX media system, including audio, nav, phone integration, car set-up, and more, plus ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control.
The overall feel is simple, and restrained, yet massively confident, with a subtle colour palette, large squared-off elements defined by brushed metal finishes, and an obvious, intense attention to detail, from the haptic controls to the beautifully finished, multi-function steering wheel.
And the standard Burmester audio system includes a two-way in-car communication function that subtly amplifies the driver and front passenger’s voices for those in the third row, and vice versa. Sheer genius.
Practicality highlights are more storage around the cabin, and a slide and recline adjustable rear seat.
Up front, the glove box is cooled, there are storage compartments under both seats, plus two cupholders, decent bottle holders in the doors, a 12-volt outlet (under the glove box), as well as two USB charge and connectivity ports in a generous console storage box.
Jump in the back and you'll find door bins with space for bottles, map pockets on the front seat backrests, a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, plus two USB charge ports and a 12-volt socket in the centre console.
The rear seat's tilt and slide party trick means there's plenty of leg and headroom in the rearmost, fully reclined position. But tweak a lever on the side and a pull handle under the cushion and you can move forward (in stages) to liberate as much as 100 litres of extra cargo space over the outgoing model, while maintaining seating for five (three without legs in the extreme forward position).
Porsche's official description of the rear bench offering “two comfortable seats outside left and right and one centre seat” accurately sums up the relatively squeezy plight of the centre rear passenger.
Cargo capacity is 770 litres with the 40/20/40 rear seat upright, and a handy 1710 with it folded forward. There are four tie-down anchor points, plus a netted storage area on the passenger side, two lights and yet another 12-volt power point.
An auto tailgate is standard on all models, and a 20-inch collapsible spare (with inflator kit) sits under the rear floor.
If towing is your thing the Cayenne's weight ceiling is 3.5-tonne for a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked. Porsche's 'Trailer Stability Management' system is standard.
Space is obviously a critical factor here, and no surprise there’s copious amounts of it inside the GLS.
Front seat passengers enjoy plenty of breathing room, without feeling remote from one another, and there’s lots of storage in the shape of a large lidded box/armrest between the seats, a decent glove box, two big cupholders and jumbo door pockets with room for large bottles.
There’s one data-enabled USB port in the front, two charge-ports in the second row, and four in the third row. Shouldn’t be any complaints about powering mobiles, tablets or games.
The second row feels every millimetre the SUV limo. Simply getting in and out is made easier because an auto lowering function drops the car 25mm when one of the doors is opened.
I was able to sit behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer. And there’s an extra 10cm of electrically adjustable travel to play with if those in the third row agree.
The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the front seatbacks, and again, the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.
Three adults across the rear is a breeze, there’s climate control ventilation, and a huge glass sunroof is standard. Rather than asking ‘Are we there yet?’ the kids will be disappointed when you arrive!
Then there’s what the Cleary family refers to as ‘the way back seat.’ A pair of third row seats for the lucky kids that get to inhabit their own little world. Getting in and out is relatively civilised thanks to electric slide and tilt for the second row seats, and space is generous. I could sit comfortably, so the kids will be all smiles.
With all seats upright cargo capacity is enough for a seven-person day trip (355L VDA). Press the button to fold the 50/50 split-fold third row down and your options expand substantially (890L). And with 40/20/40 split-folding second row lowered, transportation of a full, three-ring circus is on the cards (2400L). Overall, more space than the arch enemy BMW X7.
Plus, the ability to lower the car 50mm thanks to the standard air suspension makes life even easier. And one button lowers the second and third rows at the same time.
The spare is a collapsible space-saver, and towing capacity for a braked trailer is 3500kg, with a tow ball weight of up to 140kg. The ESP system also features a trailer stabilisation function that counters oscillation with “braking intervention.”
Price and features
There are three models offered initially, starting with the Cayenne, powered by a 3.0-litre single turbo-petrol V6 for $116,300 before on-road costs. Then the 2.9-litre V6 Cayenne S adds a second turbo and around $40k to the price tag, coming in at $155,100.
The powerhouse Turbo tops the line-up with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 under the bonnet, and cost of entry sitting at $239,400.
Not a diesel in sight (for Australia) for the time being, with an E-Hybrid variant due here closer to the end of this year.
As you'd expect in this part of the market the standard equipment list is solid, with the Cayenne featuring partial leather trim, cruise control, LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, front seats with 14-way electric adjustment and memory settings, remote central locking with 'Keyless Go', the twin digital instrument displays, multi-function sports steering wheel (with gearshift paddles), auto tailgate, 'Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM - with adaptive dampers), 19-inch alloy wheels, and 'Porsche Communication Management' (PCM) with the 12.3-inch screen controlling nav, phone and audio (10-speaker, 150 watt and digital radio).
As well as it's more powerful twin-turbo V6 engine, the Cayenne S adds 'Adaptive PASM' (with air suspension), 20-inch alloy rims, twin dual-tube tailpipes, dynamic (directional) LED headlights, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, pedal faces in stainless steel, a 710-watt Bose 'Surround Sound System' with 14 speakers (including subwoofer), and metallic paint in any one of seven colours.
Then the Cayenne Turbo piles on the power and luxury with the twin-turbo V8 joined by 21-inch alloys (in dark titanium with highly polished surfaces) including wheel arch extensions in the exterior colour, 'Porsche Active Aero' (with adaptive roof spoiler), scrolling LED indicators, 'LED Matrix' headlights, 'smooth finish' leather upholstery, 18-way electronically-adjustable 'Adaptive Sports' front seats with unique trim and fatter side bolsters, front and rear seat heating (and ventilated/cooled front seats), exterior mirrors with kerb-view parking aid, a heated steering wheel, 'cross-brushed' aluminium interior highlights, and Alcantara roof lining (cloth on base and S).
If you're ready to stump up the big bucks, that's a heap of fruit to go with this car's comfort and performance potential.
Aside from the comprehensive suite of safety tech, covered in the Safety section below, the GLS equipment list includes, 21-inch alloy rims, adaptive high beam assist, air suspension, alloy roof rails, AMG body kit, a huge panoramic sliding glass sunroof, privacy glass from the B-pillar back, auto tailgate, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, LED headlights, and power closing doors.
The power closing doors are a big plus for parents not wanting to disturb kids nodding off in the car, with the soft-touch function drawing the door in for the last few millimetres to an almost silent close.
Inside there’s ambient lighting (64 colours), strategically placed open pore oak wood trim, 13-speaker/590-watt Burmester surround sound audio, electric folding second and third row seats, a head-up display, ‘Mercedes-Benz’ branded illuminated sills, leather seat upholstery (‘Artico’ faux leather on the dash and doors), multi-adjustable electric seats in the front and second row (memory in the front), electrically adjustable steering column, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, and five-zone climate control.
The multi-media system is spectacular, incorporating the twin 12.3-inch digital screens, the central media unit managing nav, digital radio, mobile device connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus vehicle tracking. There are also remote vehicle status functions (door locking, valet parking, etc), global search (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Yelp, and Trip Advisor), and a wireless device charging pad.
The basket of goodies can hold its head high in this part of the market, so the value equation stacks up well.
Engine & trans
The new car's engines are lifted from the Panamera, and not only feature more power than the outgoing Cayenne, but Porsche claims improved fuel economy and lower emissions.
All feature an alloy block and heads, the Cayenne's 3.0-litre, single turbo V6 delivering 250kW from 5300-6400rpm, and 450Nm from just 1340rpm all the way to 5300rpm.
This 'base' engine features direct fuel-injection, 'VarioCam Plus' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side, and valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side), as well as the turbo located in the engine's vee to help minimise lag.
The Cayenne S's 2.9-litre V6 adds a second turbo to deliver 324kW from 5700-6600rpm, and 550Nm between 1800rpm and 5500rpm. It's shorter stroke design helps lift the rev ceiling by 300rpm (to 6800rpm).
Then the Cayenne Turbo adds two more cylinders to pump out no less than 404kW (542hp) across a narrow plateau from 5750-6000rpm, and 770Nm between 1960rpm and 4500rpm. The V8 also locates the turbos in the 'hot vee', but drops back to 'VarioCam' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side) without valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side.
All models now feature an eight-speed 'shift-by-wire' 'Tiptronic S' auto transmission, with drive going to all four wheels courtesy of Porsche's Active Traction Management system. The gear set in the Turbo (including the final drive) is slightly taller, although the seventh and eighth ratios are overdriven on all models to maximise fuel economy.
Claimed 0-100km/h times (with optional Sport Chrono package numbers in brackets) are: Cayenne – 6.2sec (5.9s), Cayenne S – 5.2sec (4.9s), Cayenne Turbo - 4.1sec (3.9s).
And if you have a very long driveway, leading up to your (presumably) very large house, you'll be pleased to know maximum velocity for the Cayenne is 245km/h, rising to 265km/h for the S, and a stonking 286km/h for the Turbo.
There are two engines on offer. The 3.0-litre (M256) in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol GLS 450 4Matic, and the 2.9-litre (OM656) in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel GLS 400 d 4Matic.
The all-alloy, twin-scroll single-turbo petrol engine delivers peak power of 270kW from 5500-6100rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm across a broad plateau from 1600-4500rpm. It also features a 48-volt electrical system driving the ‘EQ Boost’ set-up, able to deliver an extra 16kW/250Nm for short periods. The integrated starter-generator also enables energy recuperation.
Although the all-alloy, twin-turbo diesel features variable valve lift it gives some ground on power, offering up 243kW between 3600-4000rpm, but torque is a solid whack, with 700Nm on tap from 1200-3000rpm. Worth noting, that to minimise emissions this engine features a “selective catalytic reduction converter” in the exhaust, which brings with it the use of an ‘AdBlue’ reducing agent. The separate AdBlue tank has a capacity of 31.6 litres.
The nine-speed auto transmission is the same in both versions, although the diesel has a slightly lower final drive ratio.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle ranges from 9.2L/100 km for the Cayenne (emitting 209g/km of C02 in the process), to 9.4L/100 km for the Cayenne S (213g/km), and 11.9L/100 km for the Cayenne Turbo (272g/km).
All models feature auto start-stop (with coasting), your only fuel option is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 90 litres of it to fill the tank.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle for the GLS 450 is 9.2L/100km, the more frugal GLS 400 d trimming that to 7.7L/100km. The petrol 450 emits 210g/km of CO2 in the process, the diesel 400d dropping that slightly to 202g/km.
Stop-start is standard, you’re looking at premium unleaded for the 450 GLS, and you’ll need 90 litres of dinosaur juice to full the tank on both models.
The new Cayenne sits on the VW Group MLB Evo platform, which also underpins the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and the soon-to-arrive new generation VW Touareg.
It uses a lot of aluminium and lightweight high-strength steel which, in concert with the alloy body panels, makes the car not only stiffer, but lighter by up to 65kg.
We've driven each model over a two-day launch program in The Barossa Valley in South Australia, and can confirm the base Cayenne is quick, the S is properly fast, and the Turbo is ballistic.
The transmission is a conventional eight-speed auto, rather than Porsche's PDK dual-clutch, and shifts are quick but smooth in normal mode, transitioning to a sharper, even more precise response in Sport or Sport Plus.
Porsche stands proudly on its reputation as a great sports car maker and says the Cayenne fits easily into that context. But let's face it, this is a two tonne SUV, and while it's dynamically outstanding, it's no 911.
All models feature multi-link suspension front and rear including active dampers, with varying levels of suspension sophistication as you walk up the range, to three chamber air suspension on the Turbo.
On quick twisting B-roads it's fast, in the case of the Turbo, bloody fast. It grips hard thanks to fat Z-rated rubber and active drive distribution makes sure it puts its power down perfectly. But no matter how sophisticated the suspension tech, it still feels large and relatively top heavy.
The electromechanical steering is light, and while it's accurate, no matter which mode you're in road feel is modest.
Not surprisingly, the ride firms up in tune with sportier drive modes, but in Comfort, even the Turbo on 21-inch rims, soaked up the irregularities of at times choppy rural roads with surprising ease.
Given the car's mass and performance potential braking is an understandable priority, with even the base model featuring big ventilated rotors all around with four piston calipers at the front and two at the back.
The S ups that to six piston front and four at the rear, while the Turbo debuts Porsche's 'Surface Coated Brake' a Tungsten-Carbide coating on the discs and special pads for longer life and less dust. Of course, the front calipers are 10-piston with four at the rear (and they're white just to prove brake dust isn't a problem).
In typical Aussie conditions these monster brakes are like cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. Stopping power (on all models) is immense, and pedal feel is agreeably progressive.
We also headed off-road through rutted dirt and rocky climbs, and with five drive and chassis modes at its disposal the Cayenne ate it up.
The different off-highway modes ('Gravel', 'Mud' and 'Rock') will lock and unlock the centre and rear diff as required and the adjustable hill descent control made crawling down steep slopes a breeze. You can even option up an 'Offroad Package' bringing extra protection for vital components, as well as off-road specific info in the PCM and a compass display on the dash.
If you need to think about the dips and climbs on your country retreat, or maybe just the pitch of your driveway, the Cayenne and Cayenne S's approach and (with the Turbo in brackets) is 25.2degrees (23.3), ramp over is 18.7degrees (16.7), departure is 22.1degrees (20.4), ground clearance measures 210mm (190mm), and fording depth is 500mm (475mm).
Merc claims the GLS 450 will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.2sec, and the 400 d in 6.3sec. Not hanging around for a 2.5 tonne mothership. But the standout is the 400 d’s torque. All 700Nm of it available from just 1200rpm to 3000rpm; right in the mid-range sweet spot.
The nine-speed auto transmission is smooth yet responsive, with paddles on the wheel for manual shifts when you want to pick the ratio. The combination of effortless grunt and the nine-speeder keeping things on the boil is an impressive one.
Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear, and while you can feel the weight in cornering, the standard Airmatic air suspension (which does away with steel springs) is superb in terms of ride comfort and body control.
We took a deep breath and pushed enthusiastically through a series of sweeping corners and the fat (285/45 fr - 325/40 rr) Continental ‘PremiumContact 6’ rubber wrapped around our car’s (optional) 22-inch rims gripped hard.
The ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system also seamlessly shuffles torque between the front and rear axles (theoretically up to 100 per cent in each direction).
Merc has put extra focus on body rigidity, the tuning of engine and suspension mounts, and sound absorption, and it shows. The GLS 400 d is beautifully refined on the highway. A neat touch is the car automatically lowering 15mm at motorway speeds or when ‘Sport’ mode is selected.
Steering is electromechanically assisted, and Merc says the front suspension geometry has been revised to minimise vibration through the wheel. And yes, feedback is minimal, but unfortunately so is road feel with only a general connection between your hands on the wheel and the front tyres on the bitumen.
When you’re steering a large beast like this, often with something substantial hitched to the back, you want to know braking performance is up to the task, and the GLS’s big ventilated discs all around deliver reassuringly strong stopping power, with nice, progressive pedal feel to boot.
The seats are adjustable six ways to Sunday, but beyond that they’re comfortable and supportive, even over long stints behind the wheel.
We stayed on the bitumen, because, let’s face it, that’s where this car will spend 99.9 per cent of its time, with the exceptions of the boat ramp, a ski weekend or pony club.
For those special occasions the optional ‘Off-road engineering package’ adds a low-range transfer case, inter-axle locking, hill descent control, and under body armour for more serious work.
Active safety systems include the usual suspects like ABS, ESC, and traction control (ASR), with the addition of other features under the 'Porsche Stability Management' umbrella, including ABD (torque vectoring by braking), and MSR (prevents slip on the drive wheels produced under engine braking)
There's also AEB (although the Porsche system doesn't bring the car to a complete stop), 'Park Assist' (front and rear) including 'Surround View', 'Lane Keeping Assist', 'Lane Change Assist', and tyre pressure monitoring.
But if all else fails passive features include an active bonnet (activated by pedestrians, cyclists, etc detected by the front camera), driver and front passenger airbag, knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, front side airbags, rear side airbags and full-length curtain bags.
There are three top tether points across the back seat with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions. ANCAP hasn't assessed the third generation Cayenne so far, but its Euro NCAP affiliate awarded a left-hand drive, 3.0-litre diesel model a maximum five stars in 2017.
At the time of this launch drive the GLS hadn’t been safety assessed by ANCAP, but you could make a small wager, like every penny you have to your name, that it will score a maximum five stars.
The expected active features are there, including ABS, ASR, and ESP, with additional tech including ‘Active Blind-Spot Assist’, ‘Active Brake Assist' (Merc-speak for AEB), active lane keeping and lane change assist, ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Evasive Steering Assist’, ‘Parktronic’ (active parking assist with 360-degre camera), rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign assist, and a tyre pressure warning system.
Then, if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact the GLS is equipped with nine airbags (front and pelvis side for driver and front passenger, side for outer rear seat occupants, full-length curtain, and a driver’s knee bag), an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries, and the ‘Pre-Safe Plus’ (flashes rear hazards to warn drivers closing too quickly from behind, tightening the belts at the same time, and locking the brakes if the GLS is stationary with a rear impact imminent).
The Cayenne is covered by Porsche's three year/unlimited km warranty, with paint covered for the same period, and a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty also included.
Porsche Roadside Assist provides 24/7/365 coverage for the life of the warranty, and after the warranty runs out is renewed for 12 months every time the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Porsche dealer, and the main service interval is 12 months/15,000km.
No capped price servicing is available, with final costs determined at the dealer level (in line with variable labour costs by state/territory). Indicative scheduled costs for the first four years/60,000km line up as: 12 months/15,000km (annual) - $695, 24 months/30,000km (intermediate) - $695, 36 months/45,000km (annual) - $695, and 48 months/60,000km (major) - $1300, for a total of $3385.
The Mercedes-Benz range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi and BMW continues to lag behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz ‘Road Care’ roadside assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an 'Up-front' or 'Pay-as-you-go' basis.
As a guide, service pricing for the outgoing GLS is set at $2600 per service (up-front) and $3250 (PAYG), a saving of $650 a pop. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase ($3550 and $4900).