The car that helped define sports-SUVs gets a new, and predictably brilliant, generation.
This is Porsche’s third-generation Cayenne. Really, it is. We admit it, when Porsche first pulled off the covers for its new Cayenne we were a bit underwhelmed. But then, Porsche doesn’t do radical design changes, and when it’s hit as successful a formula as it has with the Cayenne then you can understand its reluctance to do so.
That original arrived in 2002, and the purists still grumble. Let them, as the 750,000 - and counting - sales have allowed Porsche to continue to build its sports cars. Purists be damned.
The Cayenne is hugely important, then, and all Porsche’s chatter about it being the sports car among SUVs does ring true. That’s especially the case when relating to the Cayenne Turbo (click here to read the full range review), which along with the longer, lower and wider looks, has a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 with 530bhp and 567 lb ft of torque. Thanks to some weight saving, it’s hauling as much as 65kg less than its predecessor, allowing a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds if you’ve gone for the optional Sport Chrono Pack (4.1 seconds without).
Think scaled-up Macan, and that’s how the Cayenne looks. It’s taken a while for the big SUV to be entirely comfortable in its skin, but it seems to have just about managed it third time round. There’s fared-in lights at the rear, Porsche sticking to the company line about it sharing its style with the 911. Technology, too, with the Cayenne now on wheels that are wider at the rear than the front, and with optional rear-wheel steering also on offer.
No surprises visually then, the Turbo gaining its range-topping styling aggression by the addition of larger air intakes up front, four sizeable exhausts around the back and a pop-up spoiler on the roof. Wheels are 21-inch as standard here, as are Porsche’s new 'Porsche Surface Coated Brakes' (PSCB); a steel disc that’s got a tungsten-carbide layer that increases friction values but reduces brake dust. As a nod to that reduced dust, perhaps, PSCB is signalled by white callipers, though you might spot the tell-tale yellow ones that show that our test car had the optional PCCB ceramic stoppers fitted.
Inside it’s all relatively familiar from the Panamera, with haptic push controls on neatly integrated panels centred around the transmission tunnel. All that is topped by a huge central screen which contains the many layers of entertainment and connectivity.
Porsche has resisted the temptation to go overboard with touchscreen integration as it has with the Panamera, so you’ll find the ventilation working conventionally - no bad thing. The instruments in front of you retain Porsche’s dominant analogue rev counter in the centre, flanked by a pair of configurable screens.
Overall, the fit and finish is exemplary, the space and comfort similarly so. The boot’s bigger, too, with 100-litres more capacity than in the previous-gen Cayenne, useful in this most practical of Porsches.
How does it drive?
As the flagship Cayenne the expectation is it’ll be very good, and we’ll cut to chase and confirm that it is. It’s lighter, thanks to a lot more aluminium in its construction, allowing its V8 bi-turbo engine to haul it along with conspicuous ease at effortless pace.
All that is backed with a rousing engine note. We had no mere couple of hours in it, either, instead picking it up in Scotland, taking some sensational roads down through the Borders before doing a motorway run to the Porsche Experience Centre in Silverstone.
On those country roads it achieves that tricky goal of shrinking around you and hiding its mass, feeling smaller and lighter than it is. Useful on country roads, and down to its incredible agility, which benefits enormously from the addition of optional rear-wheel steering.
How that rear steering reacts is down to your chosen mode setting - picked via the mode switch on the steering wheel spoke. Sport+ sees the Cayenne Turbo turn in with the sort of immediacy you’d usually associate with a sports car rather than an SUV. Such is its alacrity it is initially unnerving, taking a while to get used to it.
Do so though and the Cayenne Turbo can be thrown about like an eager hot hatch, only one with four-wheel drive, torque vectoring aided traction and 530bhp available.
The resultant speed it can carry - not just because of the engine’s ability to generate it, but the chassis’ usefulness in exploiting it - make it a formidable back-road car. That it achieves all that while managing taut wheel and body control, allied to a supple ride is even more remarkable. That's thanks in no small part to the optional fitting of Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, which brings with it that other-worldly agility. With it, rivals like the BMW X5 M, Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 and Range Rover Sport might just about keep up, but each feel a little bit one dimensional in comparison.
All that and, if you want it to, its four-wheel drive system will drive you up the side of a mountain (not that anyone will). The eight-speed automatic Tiptronic S transmission is so good that the paddleshifters might as well be redundant, and when the road gets less interesting it’ll cruise with the best of them, too.
Should I buy one?
That depends on your SUV predilection, your budget and expectations. You’ll get a lot of the Turbo’s ability in lesser Cayennes, but if your garage is filled with exotica - as many Turbo buyer’s will be - then your practical SUV runabout has to have supercar levels of performance, too.
That’s exactly what the Cayenne Turbo brings, with the ability to tow your racecar, boat or suchlike at the same time. A Range Rover SVAutobiography is more luxurious, Mercedes-AMG’s alternatives more rousing aurally, but the Cayenne takes performance allied to agility to another level in this class.
That alone makes it worth it, though to get the very best of it requires extensive and expensive option box ticking, but in every case it feels worth it. If we’ve one complaint, it’s just that it doesn’t move the game on stylistically, but then what Porsche ever has…