Why My $177,000 SUV's Brakes Squeal, and Why It's Not OK

2014-Porsche-Cayenne-Turbo-SBrakes

I just finished a week in a $177,000 2014 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, the German sports-car maker's top-of-the-line, super-fast twin-turbo V-8-powered SUV. It's a remarkable machine — sleek, ridiculously quick, crazy expensive and possessed of one quality that drove everybody who rode in the machine absolutely nuts. The brakes squealed like a poorly maintained diesel city bus.

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The noise made every stopping event more about figuring out how to modulate the brakes to prevent noise instead of enjoying the amazingly firm and fade-free properties of the huge stoppers. That's not an attribute any car should have let alone a new six-figure one.

2014-Porsche-Cayenne-Turbo-S

What caused the problem? This particular Cayenne had carbon ceramic brakes — a special high-performance option that replaces the common steel rotors and metallic pads with special cast rotors that use a proprietary composite, a mixture of resins, fibers and powdered metal. These special rotors are far better at dissipating heat at racetrack speeds, enabling lap after lap of extremely strong braking that would toast normal brakes.

On race cars and some high-performance sports cars that see a lot of high-speed, harsh-duty use, they make sense. And they work amazingly well on the street, too, with strong, fade-free braking time and again. But they work best when they're hot, and these brakes come at a cost that isn't listed on the window sticker — noise, and lots of it.

The fact that the brakes on your average family sedan don't make a huge amount of squealing noise in everyday use is actually something of an engineering miracle. Think about it — the reason you stop when you hit the brakes is due to friction, the rubbing of the pads on the rotors with significant force brings you to a halt. The formulation for brake pads to enable that to happen without crazy amounts of squeal is equal parts experimentation and materials alchemy. But for carbon ceramic brakes, noise is often secondary to stopping power and repeatability. The engineers don't seem to mind that when used under more relaxed street conditions, these pricey brakes make more noise than the jalopy next to you at the stoplight.

The problem becomes this: Why are these racing brakes even offered on a Cayenne, a heavy five-passenger SUV meant more for ferrying Kardashian-class socialites to a mall than setting lap records at Road America raceway? Ponying up the $8,840 for the carbon ceramic brake option is only likely to bring dissatisfaction and trips to the dealer to try and quell the squeal.

Audibrakes

The Cayenne isn't the only car guilty of such options-list silliness — all sorts of cars are now offering these brakes as an extra-cost option, but most limit them to special track-oriented models, like the upcoming Z07 Performance Package on the already-track-oriented 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Editors in our Chicago office recently tested the new Jaguar F-Type R Coupe and experienced the wrong kind of looks from cars in gridlock as the brakes squeaked on a lengthy commute.

Our recommendation: If you drive your ultra-performance car on the streets more than you do on a racing circuit, skip the expensive carbon ceramic brake option. They may look cool and offer some fun bragging rights at the local Cars & Coffee, but they really are racing brakes and are only likely to cause auditory distress and buyer's remorse.

Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman

Comments 

Bowrider

The offering of these on "every day commuter cars" is nothing short of genius by manufacturers. The markup is probably over 100 percent and to someone who is purchasing a Cayenne Turbo S, nine large to say you "got it loaded" is pennies.

WTF

You should try using a product on the back of the pads to see if that would make the noise level accept.

wein

I think ceramic pads do make noise when new, The noise will fade away after awhile. I have installed ceramic pads on my two cars. It's good in the sense that ceramic's last longer than other materials.

mike

$8,800? Wow. I put ceramic brakes on my 4Runner for about $400 if I recall. They do squeal a bit, especially in the mornings, but they work well. $8,800 is bonkers, though. You can add that to any car for a few hundred bucks.

Mork From Ork

@WTF: the product on the back of the pads is to prevent chatter or vibration from the pads rattling in the calipers. The squealing the author's talking about is from the friction of the pads against the rotors.

Cranston Snord

You bought a modern car.
SUCKER!!!!

Andre

I think some of you may be confused. The brakes they are reffering to are Carbon Ceramic Brakes. This is not to be confused with ceramic brake pads that you can pick up at autozone. These brakes are only available for extremely high end vehicles and are rarely available as an aftermarket upgrade. The rotors in most cases are made from the carbon ceramic material. If any of you have seen a lamborghini or any exotic car with what looks like black rotors those would be the ones. So no, the grease you put on the back of your corollas metallic pads wont quell the noise and they are in no way even slightly comparable to your $400 ceramic pads on your 4Runner. Carbon Ceramic Rotors + Pads. Look them up -___-

Andre

Take notice of the color of the rotors in the pictures above. They are a blackish dark grey material. Those are what the writer is referring to.

Chris

This problem is not exclusive to the carbon ceramic brakes. I have a 2008 Cayenne S with the regular brakes and these squeak like crazy, too, all day. I swapped them out for some high quality German made Zimmerman rotors and Pagid pads, no more squeaks ever and the braking power is just a s good as factory!

Mark

Hey big $175,000 Porsche driving boy,

Those brakes have GOT to be changed at 30,000 miles. Guess how much all four ceramic brakes are to replace on a Porsche?

I am in the business and I can get you a deal fro$9,500. Really over $10,000 and closer to $11,000...

Since they are proprietary you HAVE GOT to go to the dealership...

Who looks smart now big spender man?

Nate

The brake squeal you are referring to sounds more like an improper bedding process. Google "bedding brakes"….

Pumbaa

Well that squeal will get you some extra attention when you stop. Is there now a racing event for SUV s?

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