- I’ve driven both the Tesla Model X and the Porsche Cayenne on numerous occasions.
- The Porsche Cayennes have ranged in price from $86,000 to $136,000, in several trim levels and with both V6 and V8 engine options.
- The Tesla Model Xs were what’s now called the Performance trim, currently priced at $105,000.
- These are two of the best luxury SUVs on the market, the respective pinnacles of gas-powered and all-electric propulsion.
- I favor the Cayenne for now, but the Model X is something special.
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In this corner, we have the champ: the incredible Porsche Cayenne, lord of the gas-burning luxury SUVs.
And in this corner, we have the Tesla Model X, the Cayenne of all-electric utes — our challenger.
It’s a fair fight. Well-equipped versions of each SUV can be had for around $100,000. Each offers stunning performance for an upscale hauler of people and stuff. The Model X can even cram in a third row, making it a seven-passenger utility.
The Model X is the newcomer, but only relatively. While the Cayenne has been with us since the early 2000s, the Model X didn’t arrive until 2015 — but that means we’ve had about five years to savor the X, in all its falcon-winged glory.
I recently drove two different versions of the Cayenne: the Turbo and the new Coupé, a fastback take on the SUV form.
I drove the Model X not long after it debuted, and then a few years back when I took it on a 700-mile family road trip. I followed that up yet another couple of days behind the wheel.
Both vehicles are great. But one is better. Read on to see which SUV wins this comparison:
Up first is the Model X, probably the most flamboyantly high-tech SUV ever made. It debuted in 2015 with dramatic, upswinging “falcon-wing” doors.
I’ve driven it several times. The pricing has moved around over the years, but at the moment, you can choose from two trim levels, before adding extras: the $85,000 Long Range Plus and the $105,000 Performance.
Both current trim levels have a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive system.
About those doors: They’ve been a one-off for Teslas. The engineering delayed the Model X’s market arrival. Although they’re quite cool, they’re also tricky to build.
But they make getting into and out of the rear seats very easy. Still, Tesla isn’t planning any new falcon-winged vehicles.
The Model X’s design is consistent with the company’s view that an electric vehicle look sleek, striking, and futuristic — but not too crazy. The Model X’s aesthetic has held up nicely for five years, but it’s probably Tesla’s least attractive platform.
On the outside, anyway. The interior is simply awesome, especially if you opt for the white simulated leather treatment.
After some difficulties with the original rear seats, Tesla decided to make them itself. They might appear to be rather simple, but they’re genuinely comfortable and supportive. The white upholstery is also surprisingly durable.
A third row is available, but because the Model X is essentially a midsize SUV, these seats are extremely cramped.
Even my youngest kid complained about having to ride back there on a long road trip.
The Model X’s cargo capacity is impressive. Drop the second row and you have 88 cubic feet to play with. But even with the second row in business and half the third row occupied, I managed to cram enough gear in there to cover five people’s needs for a weekend.
The large front trunk, or “frunk,” took care of the overflow.
The Long Range Model X gives up some performance to deliver 351 miles of range; but the quick trim still gives you 305 miles.
On one of my trips, I pulled into a Sheetz to fill up on electrons.
Model X ownership requires patience. My recharge sessions lasted anywhere from about 20 minutes to an hour. Level 2 charging at 240 volts is much slower, and trickle charging using the Model X’s own cable gets you about a mile per hour.
The Model X I was driving at the time had a large, 100-kilowatt-hour battery. Right now, you can get a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds from the Long Range Plus, and 2.6 from the Performance.
Interior storage for the Model X is fantastic. You have cubbies, reconfigurable cupholders, and thanks to the lack of a gas powertrain, all kinds of legroom.
The infotainment system is stunning. Many vehicle functions are managed through it, so you have to ascend a learning curve. But it covers all the bases and them some, including the usual Bluetooth device-pairing and USB connectivity, but also a stellar, Tesla-designed audio system.
The Tesla mobile app is also superb. It’s useful for everything from pre-cooling or -heating the interior to monitoring charging.
… The magnificent Porsche Cayenne! shows here as a 2020 Coupé, Porsche’s newest design — a fastback — for the greatest SUV ever built by human hands on planet Earth.
While the Coupé takes the form of a stylish, sporty fastback, with a sloping roofline.
Coupés are all the rage in luxury SUV land. Porsche is actually late to the game, as BMW and Mercedes have been selling coupés for several years. And technically, the Model X is a fastback.
Have I ever been a fan of the Cayenne’s design? Not really. The whole Porsche-bug-eyed-front-plus-barn-door-back wasn’t my thing. But the fastback certainly helps.
My tester came with a set of 21-inch “Spyder” wheels, a $2,700 extra. Front and back, this base-level Cayenne had cast-iron brake rotors and black calipers. No regenerative braking, as with the Model X.
The Cayenne Coupe has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, making 335 horsepower with 332 pound-feet of torque.
For both Cayennes, power is sent to the all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic with a manual-shifting option.
For the Coupé, there’s 22 cubic feet of cargo space, expandable to 54 with the rear seats dropped. For the Turbo, it’s 26 cubic feet, going up to 59.
That’s more than enough to handle daily life, but the Model X is definitely the superior hauler.
Rear legroom for the Cayenne …
… is excellent. But there’s not a third-row option.
The Cayenne Coupé has a stunning panoramic glass roof. But the Model X has a windshield that extends well up into the roofline.
Porsches are supposed to be about driving, and the Cayenne has always distinguished itself on this score.
The thick, topstitched, multifunction steering wheel is heated, as are the front seats. The tachometer is front and center in the instrument cluster, and the drive-mode selector is located on the lower right. You have Normal, Sport, Sport-Plus, and an Individual mode to choose from.
In Normal Mode, the Cayenne Coupé hustles up to seventh and eights gears, to enhance the MPGs. Auto-stop-start is also active in this mode, as well as Sport, which hold the shifts longer. Sport + give you the full Monty, and Individual allows from customization. Usually, I favor Sport with Porsches, but with the Cayenne Coupé and the least-power motor, I made the move to Sport + and enjoyed punching the Sport Response button, which serves up 20 seconds burst of all the boost the turbo six can muster.
The undergirdings of the Cayenne are intricate. There’s both torque vectoring a rear-wheel steering, as well as Porsche’s traction management and dynamic chassis control features, which do allow you to push this SUV rather hard without having to worry about that which might concern you with lesser utes.
The top speed is 151 mph, and the 0-60 mph dash passes in just under six seconds.
Off-roading? Check. The Cayenne has several modes: Gravel, Mud, Sand and Rock.
Not for nothing, but the key fob is Porsche-shaped.
The dash-center stopwatch is oh-so-Porsche.
I have to give the edge to the Cayenne. But just barely!
The Porsche Cayenne is the greatest SUV ever made by human hands on planet Earth. That verdict has only been reinforced for me the last two times I’ve driven the vehicle, in Cayenne Turbo and Coupé trims.
The Model X, meanwhile, is now the most offbeat vehicle that Tesla currently produces. But as an SUV, it’s something special. Even though it’s 100% electric, I concluded back in 2015 when it launched that it was the most consequential ute since the Cayenne, which made its own jaw-dropping debut over a decade earlier.
The X is endlessly fun, and it rarely fails to draw a crowd of admirers. And while the Model S sedan was an important vehicle for Tesla — its first clean-sheet design — the Model X was the company’s successful attempt to combine a lot of technology with substantial luxury and impressive EV performance. I’m not sure the company could ever produce such a content-crammed machine again, although I’m eager to see what the Cybertruck offers.
Price-wise, the Model X has an advantage: the top trim level starts at about $105,000, while the most stonking Cayennes are over $150,000. You’re gonna get all the Model X you can handle before you even climb halfway up the mountain that is the Cayenne Turbo. (Still, the Turbo delivers a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, while the Model X Performance makes the run in 2.6.)
The Model X is also the way to go if you don’t want to spend the college fund on gas: it consumes zero petrol and emits nothing from a tailpipe, which it doesn’t have. The Cayenne, however, get only about 20 mpg combined (less, if you really enjoy the V8 versions) and makes a lot of noise as it spews fumes from its multiple exhaust ports. (There is a monumentally powerful hybrid version of the Cayenne, the Turbo S E-Hybrid, and there’s a hybrid version of both the base Cayenne and the Cayenne Coupé.)
That said, the Cayenne remains the standard by which all other luxury utes are measured. The question is really whether you get what you pay for, and with the Porsche, there’s no doubt. You might wince when the payments are due, but you won’t ever live in disappointment.
You also won’t have to wrangle with the Model X’s neurotic complexity. This SUV has depths that even the most enthusiastic and dedicated owners haven’t plumbed. The Cayenne has a slightly tricky infotainment system and some ornate driving-mode options, but otherwise you’re dealing with a fast SUV that plies its asphalt sorcery behind the scenes. How can something this big and heavy handle so magnificently? Cue the confident chuckles of grinning German engineers.
So there you have it. The Model X is great. The Cayenne is slightly greater. But wow! A close race.