PORSCHE CAYENNE S COUPE
Is this the best handling Porsche SUV there is? It certainly makes a strong case
PORSCHE’S ENGINEERS might actually be wizards. There have been several examples of relatively inexpensive cars from the Stuttgart brand besting pricier competition, but now Porsche seems to have done something incredibly rare. It’s made an SUV that handles well. Very well. That SUV is the Porsche Cayenne S Coupe, and it might just be the most sensible option if you really want an SUV that’s fun to drive. I’ll leave the ‘get a wagon’ argument out of it this time.
So, the first thing you need to know is that the Cayenne S Coupe will set you back at least $166K, more if you tick options (you will) like the ‘comfort access’ box which adds $2420 to the price for keyless entry. Our test car was $190,580 as-tested, which included a $5000 paint option.
Paint aside, the styling of the Cayenne S Coupe is much better than initial press imagery would have had us believe, and we suspect you may still feel the same with the shots you see amongst these words. It’s a betterlooking car in the metal, so you’ll have to take our word for now. The rake of the rear end is rather sleek, and though it’s still Cayenne-sized, it looks purposeful. Inside, the same goes: sleek, sensible, and purposeful.
Once out on the testing route of our choice (having experienced a pleasant ride on its standard air suspension for the commute), the top of Lake Mountain via Reefton Spur, the Cayenne S Coupe quickly made it known it could tackle a drive unlike many other SUVs can.
Rather than stiffening up far too much to be comfortable in Sport Plus, the Cayenne lowers itself slightly and uses its Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with precision. It’s calibrated well enough that, rather than becoming an understeering mess though fast corners, the S Coupe holds its line and actually rotates with a hint of oversteer, an eagerness to turn partly thanks to optional ($4300) rearaxle steering.
It behaves in such a way that, and I hesitate to write this, mimics a sports car. It feels much more composed and far less top-heavy than anything its size
should. In fact, its handling and grip (on Pirelli P Zeroes) allow you to ask things of the car you shouldn’t be able to, then get away with it, and wonder ‘how?’ But we are confident that the Cayenne S Coupe’s talents are not solely down to grip, as there was plenty of tyre squeal and minor slippage as the two-tonne beast attacked corners, with the Pirellis starting to reach the limits of their ability but without giving up completely unannounced. Its chassis always keeps you in the loop as to how much grip is available; even on a cold, damp road, it feels as though it would take great effort to overestimate what the tyres have to give. Meanwhile Sport Plus mode hints again at a wild dynamic personality that makes us want to get this SUV on a track. Really.
After the corner, the sweet 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6’s 324kW and 550Nm come into play. It’s a strong engine which delivers power smoothly, so much so you wouldn’t guess it’s claimed to hit 100km/h in five seconds flat. It’s even rather responsive for a turbocharged engine, and if you’re on top of the gearbox (which can often be left to its own devices) you’ll find there’s always power when you need it. It pairs well with the chassis… and it sounds good too, which brings us to another option.
The only other box we’d suggest you need to tick is the sports exhaust, which was $5970 on our test car with tailpipes in silver. This gives the engine’s sound a bit more bark and comes across rather intensely even from outside the car, free of the false generated sounds inside.
With some frugal choices, you could probably land a Cayenne S Coupe that’s as satisfying to drive as this one for around $175K. For this reviewer, it’s the only SUV in recent memory that’s really worth taking for a drive on mountain roads just for the sake of it. It feels more balanced and composed than even smaller, faster SUVs from rival companies – AMG’s similarly priced GLC63 S, for example. It might be the best driver’s SUV for less than $200,000. In fact, Associate Editor Scott Newman had a steer with yours truly in the passenger seat and upon being asked if there was anything better in its class, he struggled to answer. The only SUV he could recall as better to drive was the Lamborghini Urus, which leaves this author thinking the Cayenne S Coupe may even be one of the best driver’s SUVs full-stop.
THE CAYENNE S COUPE MIGHT BE ONE OF THE BEST DRIVER’S SUVS, FULL-STOP
ABOVE The Cayenne S Coupe is able to do things that a two-tonne SUV has no right doing so well
ABOVE Inside the Cayenne has an appropriately premium feel, with many of the shared Audi parts hidden or well-integrated
ABOVE LEFT Design details on the Coupe are satisfying, and the overall shape is pleasing to the eye in the metal