Third-gen cash cow shows the opposition a clean set of hooves
BACK in 2002, a new global sport was born. It was called kickin’ the Cayenne, and it seemed everyone wanted a turn to sink the slipper. Porsche purists scoffed at its high-riding hideousness and abrasive ride; others were outraged that this iconic German sports car specialist would succumb to the lure of filthy lucre in the sports utility segment.
Well, as we acknowledge the debut of the all-new, thirdgeneration model, total sales for the nameplate are now well past 750,000. So it’s fairly clear who’s having the last laugh. But just as importantly, we can’t think of another large premium SUV that can challenge the new Cayenne for dynamic ability and driver involvement.
The modular architecture on which it’s built is the VW Group’s MLB Evo platform (shared with Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, Lambo Urus) although Porsche is quick to point out how much of the key chassis hardware – uprights, hubs, carriers, brakes and more – are specific to the Cayenne.
There’s also been a significant change to structural materials and the construction method compared with the outgoing car. Greater use of aluminium means the bodyshell is now variously screwed, bonded and stitched, rather than purely welded, bringing increased rigidity while cutting weight by around 65kg, spec-for-spec.
Initially, at least, buyers can order a Cayenne in one of three strengths that basically amount to swift, ultra-rapid or properly nuts. The engine line-up (all running an eight-speed torque-converter auto) effectively mimics that of a trio of Panamera variants.
The entry model (simply called Cayenne) runs a 3.0-litre, singleturbo petrol V6 making 250kw and 450Nm. It’s priced at $116,000 and delivers performance that will surely be deemed ‘more than ample’ for plenty of customers. Porsche claims 0-100km/h in 6.2sec, and it always feels lively and responsive to the throttle. Yes, it’s a bit light-on for character, but there’s nothing wrong with its willingness to punch through the mid-range and remain unstressed when working hard up around 6000rpm.
It’s worth noting that this variant comes standard with steel springs for its adaptive dampers, and the ride (regardless of the dynamic mode selected) is never as composed as that of the upper two models that run air springs. Fortunately, this air-sprung set-up is on the long list of options available for the base Cayenne.
Above it sits the Cayenne S, powered by the Panamera 4S’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, delivering an identical 324kw and 550Nm. The price jumps significantly (to $155,100, up nearly $39K over the base car) but so does performance, while a meaner, harder-edged character is bundled in free. Not only is the must-have air suspension included, but the brake package jumps from fourpiston, 350mm fronts on the base car to a six-piston/390mm set-up.
Topping the range is the $249,400 Turbo, spewing 404kw/770nm from its 4.0-litre twin-huffer V8.
Inside, the cabin’s newfound sense of space and premium feel is profound. Even in base spec, the Cayenne feels nicely executed. Start adding trim options and it becomes a properly high-end environment.
Perhaps you’re a late, even grudging convert to the SUV wave. Maybe you’ve driven a few in this segment only to find them still a little less than quick-witted and satisfying. The new Cayenne, with standard-setting levels of dynamic nous, may just make you want to put the boot in.
Model Porsche Cayenne S Engine 2894cc V6 (90º), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo Max power 324kw @ 5700-6600rpm Max torque 550Nm @ 1800-5500rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Weight 1945kg 0-100km/h 5.2sec (claimed) Economy 9.4L/100km Price $155,100 On sale Now