I ask if there’s going to be a longer wheelbase car with seven seats and get a rather old-fashioned look by way of a reply. Clearly not.
After a brief spell in the Turbo’s passenger seat – monster thrust, mesmeric ride, slightly muted engine note – I’m ushered into the driving seat of a Cayenne S.
Its 2.9-litre ‘hot turbo’ engine is among the newest to see service in a Porsche. This car also has optional air springs and PASM active damping. I’d say it was a good rather than great powerplant for such a car, which, like all large SUVs, feels like what it needs more than anything else is a thumping great diesel under the bonnet. But while you have to work for it, there’s no doubting it delivers the goods: thanks to its aluminium intensive structure, the Cayenne S is about 60kg lighter than the car it replaces and has the same power as a current Cayenne GTS.
It should hit 62mph in less than five seconds, which is pretty rapid for a merely mid-range two-tonne SUV. More impressive given its size and weight is its ability to cover the ground on give-and-take roads. Porsche has deliberately taken a different route to Audi and Bentley by eschewing a Torsen centre differential in favour of its own clutch-based system, which it says is quicker to react and results in more neutral handling – a trait I can confirm. Indeed, you can sling it into quick curve at brain-boggling speeds for such a car and it will find a way of scrabbling round. It’s not as agile as a Macan but nor could you expect it be. I was also delighted to discover its electric power steering was at least as linear as the old hydraulic set-up and I’d say more accurate. My only slight disappointment is the car felt more fluent than fun. No, this is not a Cayman GT4 and expectations must be managed accordingly, but even the least-sporting Porsche is still a Porsche. So it was with limited expectations that I climbed into the base-spec Cayenne and, despite needing to be worked even harder, got on better with it almost immediately.
The reason was not hard to find: on standard steel springs with passive dampers, it may not ride quite so capably as a tricked-up S over long distances, but it still rides pretty well while offering a level of feel and feedback missing from the optionally air-sprung car. I felt more involved, better entertained and more in touch with the road. SUV or not, this is unmistakably a Porsche.
Porsche has yet to decide even whether to take the base petrol model in the UK (the old car was to special order only) but that scarcely matters: if you want your Cayenne or Cayenne S to handle like a Porsche rather than ride like a limo, spare yourself the price of the air suspension that, at least of these models, will be standard only on the Turbo.
Doubtless a fuller evaluation will reveal more, but for now you can take it that the new Cayenne is more than usefully improved without representing revolution for its kind or class. Then again, for anyone who needed a full-size SUV but cared about driving, even the last one remained the number one choice right up until its death. My sense is that if properly specified, the new one’s grip on that title will be tighter than ever.
Price TBC Engine 6 cyls, 2894cc, turbo, petrol Power 434bhp at 5650rpm (approx) Torque 405lb ft at 1750rpm (approx) Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2100kg (approx) Top speed 165mph (approx) 0-62mph 4.8sec (approx) Economy TBC CO2/tax band TBC
WHY IT PAYS TO GO MODULAR