First Drive: Porsche Cayenne

First Drive: Porsche Cayenne

What is it?

This is the third-generation model since the Cayenne’s 2002 launch, bringing with it better technology levels as well as elevated performance. There are three models – Cayenne, S and Turbo – all offering a certain degree of sports-car-like performance transplanted in an SUV.

What’s new?

It’s lighter, with weight stripped back thanks to extensive use of aluminium throughout the body. All the engines are downsized too but up on power – a benefit of turbocharging.

A new eight-speed gearbox has been fitted to provide seamless shifts. Rear-axle steering is now available with the Cayenne – a first for the range – and this comes alongside Porsche’s new Surface Coated Brake, which offers better stopping performance than a conventional brake. Inside, the Cayenne benefits from Porsche’s latest infotainment system.

What’s under the bonnet?

Three powertrains are available with the new Cayenne and we tested the middle-powered S.

This uses a bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6 engine that produces 434bhp and an impressive 550Nm. Sending power to all four wheels via an eight-speed gearbox, it lets the Cayenne S hit 60mph in just 4.7 seconds with the Sport Chrono pack fitted (5.0 without) – a second quicker than the car it replaces.

All Cayenne models feature Active Porsche Traction Management too, which uses an electronically and map-controlled clutch to distribute torque between the wheels. This means it can actively decide how much force to send to the front and rear axles to generate the most amount of grip possible.

What’s it like to drive?

Despite being longer than the car it replaces, it’s 65kg lighter, and that makes a huge amount of difference, particularly when cornering the car’s lower bulk. You get very little roll, and the entire vehicle feels planted throughout.

The engine is something of a triumph, too. Though smaller in capacity than the unit it replaces, it’s no less potent, packing 17 extra horses. It revs freely and never feels lethargic.

Our test car was fitted with upgraded ceramic brakes, which provide a huge amount of stopping performance – in fact, probably a touch over the top for the likes of the Cayenne S. The steering, predictably, is superbly set up. There’s plenty of weight to it, and it remains accurate at both low and high speeds.

How does it look?

The front end is dominated by the larger air intakes, with the Cayenne and Cayenne S models getting silver-coloured slats. New three-module LED lights give the Cayenne a more imposing look at night, while the integrated light strip at the rear is a styling trait we’ve already seen on the Panamera – and it looks just as good here.

What’s it like inside?

The interior of the Cayenne is a great place to be and is worlds apart from the button-heavy cabin found in the previous-generation car. The large 12.3-inch infotainment screen gives access to media and navigation functions, and is clear to use as well as being impressively responsive.

Apple CarPlay is now included as standard to give seamless integration between your smartphone and the car’s system.
It’s also been made more practical, with 100 litres of extra space to play with, totalling an impressive 770 with the seats up, rising to 1,710 with them lowered.

What’s the spec like?

The new Cayenne S comes in at £68,330. It justifies this price tag, though, with a distinct sense of quality, as well as a decent amount of standard material, including front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, LED headlights and the large infotainment system.

What do the press think?

Auto Express said: ‘If you want a large SUV with the performance and handling of a sports car, the Porsche Cayenne is it.’ Top Gear said: ‘The Cayenne remains the king of driver-friendly SUVs. A very complete machine.’

What do we think?

The new Cayenne needed to be well sorted to live up to its predecessor’s reputation and, thankfully, it is. Porsche always thought of the Cayenne as a ‘sporty’ SUV and that’s certainly the case with this model. It rides and handles like a car half its size, offering plenty of space and practicality, too.

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