Currently reading: 12 hours in a Porsche Cayenne V8: is an SUV really the best GT?
We say auf wiedersehen to the petrol Cayenne with a dash around the Scottish border in the new V8 S

Day One: 0700. London. Disable phone alarm, flick through news app. Twitter. Shower, change, get in car. Sit in traffic on the A406. Ponder grey clouds. So far, so normal. 

But Waze is not set westerly for the office, in Twickenham, like it normally is. It is pointing north. I am en route to Kielder Forest in Northumberland to drive the new Porsche Cayenne S.

The Cayenne has long been described as the saviour of Porsche. Car enthusiasts have been fed the narrative that the Cayenne is a means to an end. Porsche makes this so that other, more interesting, purer Porsches can continue to live.

If this new model feels familiar, that’s quite likely because we road tested the new Cayenne S in last week’s issue, calling it an “enjoyable, uncomplicated SUV to keep forever”.

Our road test, of course, is a place for hard facts and objective assessment. But the circumstances around this particular model necessitate a wider appraisal of its place. So we have decided to see if the new Cayenne S really blends performance and practicality, with an epic day-long tour of the north of England and southern Scotland. Which, in turn, necessitated my early alarm call.

Still, to cover the mechanical bits. According to Porsche, the latest facelift is one of the most extensive product upgrades in its history. There’s the usual stuff – new screens, new suspension, more power, more efficiency.

It’s all geared towards keeping the Cayenne feeling fresh, because from 2026 it will sit alongside the technically unrelated Cayenne Electric, before disappearing entirely as Porsche switches to electric cars only. It’s too early to start writing an obit – but this is the beginning of the end of the ICE Cayenne, and as a result feels the right time to be appreciated.

Intriguingly, for me, the biggest change is not in hardware or software. It’s in nomenclature. Porsche has seen fit to return the S to a V8, this time a 4.0-litre twin-turbo also used in the Panamera and Lamborghini Urus. Mk1 Cayenne S models had a V8, and then midway through the second generation it switched to a V6. Now the eight-cylinder S is back.


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The super-SUV segment is no place for shrinking violets. Now Porsche dials it up to 11.

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11.00: Stop at Wetherby. Standards of driving are getting better, but the weather is getting worse. Flick through the news app. Twitter.

Photographer Max has replied to an email chain with some more precise locations. You can’t really go wrong around Northumberland.

Unfortunately, my first choice, Forest Drive, is closed for winter. This 12-mile toll road links Kielder Castle to Blakehopeburnhaugh, is one of Britain’s highest roads and forms part of the Kielder Forest Rally – a tight, fast national event for historics and modern two-wheel-drive cars.

In my mind, a forest stage + four-wheel drive + 468bhp = photography gold. But still. No point dwelling, I still have 85 miles to drive.

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13.00: Arrive in Northumberland. Weather is biblically wet now. Settle down to some work.

19.00: Flick through news app. Twitter. Dinner, Merlot, bed.

Day two: 07.00. Northumberland. Disable phone alarm, flick through news app. Twitter. Shower, change, get in car.

No traffic, no grey skies and no four-cylinder thrum of the BMW X3 I drove up here in. Today is, finally, about the Cayenne’s V8, rather than the everyday mundanity of early alarms and apps.

This engine is magnificent, really. Yes, it’s seen service in numerous Volkswagen Group products but the Cayenne deals out its 443lb ft of torque like a croupier at the Casino de Monte-Carlo.

Zero to 62mph is dispatched in less than five seconds thanks to Porsche’s launch control system. Set the dial to Sport+, hold the brake firmly with leftie, mash the throttle with rightie. Lift leftie and the Cayenne slings you away in a controlled whirlwind of aggression and noise. Well, assuming you’ve turned on the sports exhaust. Without it, the V8 is restrained.

The Cayenne is not a traditionally good-looking car. Nor is it unconventionally aesthetic. But this facelifted third-generation car is a lot less gawky than that awkward original.

The wraparound rear light bar adds a bit of retro-futuristic Y2K style commonly found on the Instagram pages of the fashionistas of today.

It also illuminates the rear end of the car in a soft, dramatic light as the sun, golden like a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, dapples the car. Yesterday’s rain has firmly disappeared, replaced by this pure, bright, dry sun, so enticing that I almost take my big jacket off.

Villages and tight B-roads feature heavily on our run from Malton, just outside Newcastle, west to Kielder Forest. I thought the Cayenne would feel massive slicing through the villages, but the view out is wide-reaching and the height makes seeing the car’s extremities a doddle.

On one occasion, I forget to turn off the sports exhaust and the daggers I receive from villagers are palpable. Even in Algarve blue with silver wheels, the Cayenne is an ostentatious car, brash even, and you need to be slightly thick-skinned because some people will think you’re a berk.

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11.00: Kielder Forest. Check phone. No signal. Thankfully, photographer Max and I have walkie-talkies. Chat has mostly been about the scenery, its sweeping nature, how the roads rise and fall, and how the sun continues to shine.

The Cayenne sure is sure-footed. Earlier, I was travelling perhaps a little quicker than I would have liked and had to brake pretty hard on a cattle grid. No lock-ups, no loss of traction, just a little ping from the ABS.

Kielder may do smaller motorsport events now but it used to be part of the Network Q RAC Rally. The last time it featured was 1996 – when Armin Schwarz and Denis Giraudet won in a Toyota Celica GT-Four. The year before, Toyota was banned from competing in the WRC with its GT-Four for illegal turbo restrictors. The illegal modifications were said to add 50bhp, bringing total power to around 350bhp.

Or around 120bhp less than I’m packing today. I’m sure a GT-Four with Schwarz was infinitely quicker than I am behind the wheel of a 2.2-tonne SUV, but I can guarantee that the Cayenne is easier to drive.

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The thin-rimmed steering wheel is light but provides instant feedback. Switch the car into Sport+ and it immediately becomes more playful with the traction control dialled back. With this mode engaged, it even lets its hair down.

Turn tightly in to a corner, hit the apex, bury your right foot and momentarily the car squats on its haunches and feels rear-wheel drive, with a bit of rearward motion and tyre chirrup before then composing itself and sending you on your way.

13.00: Time for lunch. Flick through news app. Check Twitter. For logistical reasons I won’t bore you with, we need to get from A to B via winding roads quite quickly. At the office, we often debate which are the fastest A-to-B cars. Ferrari SF90s are jolly fast, but in a world of sleeping policemen and potholes, hot hatches are faster. I’d never suggested the Cayenne before, but I will now.

You sit high and quite secluded from your surroundings. Even in its most aggressive set-up, there’s elasticity and a bit of roll. This, in essence, makes it comfortable, and easier to drive quickly. The breadth and spread of power makes overtaking effortless and safe.

15.00: Scottish Borders. Flick through news app. Check Twitter. Being in the Borders is so starkly different from where I started yesterday.

The scenery, the accents obviously, but the furniture too. I pass multiple phone boxes – not the red ones, but the crappy BT ones. None of them has graffiti or the glass smashed in. It’s a bit like stepping back in time.

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A petrol station offers a chance to stretch my legs. It’s really not so much a station as essentially a really old pump. It seems like a relic, until I realise it’s unmanned and has contactless payment. There may be some parallels to be drawn with the Cayenne here. A thumping great V8 SUV might seem like an artefact to some but there are hidden depths and it has adapted to modern life. I clock the digital driver’s display. One figure jumps out: 13.3mpg. Yikes.

18.00: Drop the car back off with Porsche. Flick through news app. Check Twitter. I realise I don’t get to blat around the Borders in a brutish V8 forever. Sigh.

That last schlep back to Malton involved a bit of everything. The Cayenne ate it up. With the drive mode twisted to Normal, the car has an extended gait. It does a good impression of an exec saloon.

23.50: London. Too tired to flick through news or check Twitter. Body tired but brain focused.

Verdict? The Cayenne S is brilliant. Fast, flexible, usable, exciting, comfortable, bombastic. Underrated? No: we correctly gave it a four-and-a-half-star rating. Misunderstood? Yes, I think so.

I bet as an Autocar reader this isn’t the first time you’ve read about a 400-something-bhp four-wheel-drive car going through somewhere pretty and it being brilliant.

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But for some reason, perhaps because the Cayenne is an SUV and can also ferry kids to school and carry golf clubs in the boot, a general consensus among petrolheads dictates that it is not a desirable car. Something as mundane as early alarms and scrolling through news apps. Not something diehard enthusiasts lust after. Somehow, not proper.

Let me put it this way. People are not buying Cayennes to be altruistic – to keep Porsche making 718 GT4s: people are buying Cayennes because Cayennes are fabulous. Misunderstood by the enthusiast, misaligned by the press, mistaken for a Chelsea tractor by the uninitiated. And soon, it’ll just be missed.

Murray Scullion

Murray Scullion
Title: Digital editor

Murray has been a journalist for more than a decade. During that time he’s written for magazines, newspapers and websites, but he now finds himself as Autocar’s digital editor.

He leads the output of the website and contributes to all other digital aspects, including the social media channels, podcasts and videos. During his time he has reviewed cars ranging from £50 - £500,000, including Austin Allegros and Ferrari 812 Superfasts. He has also interviewed F1 megastars, knows his PCPs from his HPs and has written, researched and experimented with behavioural surplus and driverless technology.

Murray graduated from the University of Derby with a BA in Journalism in 2014 and has previously written for Classic Car Weekly, Modern Classics Magazine,, and CAR Magazine, as well as

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manicm 25 March 2024
13mpg? So in other words a Ferrari Purosangue uses less fuel. Never laugh at the prancing horse again
Peter Cavellini 24 March 2024

Still comes down to this, drive what you like, not what other drivers think you should, your money, your choice, if where you live is like Yorkshire for instance then a raised driving position is ideal, you'll know your roads so you'll no where passing opportunities are, a low slung sportscar if driven by a patient person will enjoy them just the same.

lukeski 23 March 2024

I would have thougth that most cars were better at being a GT, than an actual GT, which is typically a noisy,uncomfortable impractical way of moving between fuel stations with no visibility to appreciate your grand tour:)