9

This is the third-generation Porsche Cayenne, which you have probably surmised already given that it looks quite similar to the second-generation car.

Which wasn’t a million miles away from the original. However, with 770,000 Cayennes sold since 2002, Porsche is understandably wary of meddling with a style that works so well. Gradual evolution hasn’t done the 911 any harm now, has it?

Getting underneath the Cayenne’s skin

Underneath, the changes are much more drastic, with this Cayenne based on the MLB platform that also sees service in the Bentley Bentayga, plus a host of driver-focused chassis technology: rear-wheel steering is an option, along with the electromechanical anti-roll system first seen on the Audi SQ7, and updated air suspension too.

Add to those new engines, which are also powering the latest generation Panamera, and a thoroughly overhauled interior and it’s plain that there’s far more to this Cayenne than first meets the eye.

Propping up the range is a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit good for 330bhp, while the Cayenne S we’re driving here gets a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 which pumps out 434bhp. Topping the range is the monstrous 533bhp, twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 Cayenne Turbo.

Unleashing the Porsche Cayenne on the road

The new Cayenne is fairly tremendous at a great many things. Buyers will make their own minds up about the looks, although it’s probably fair to say that those never previously sold on the largest Porsche SUV won't find much to change their mind here.

There can be no complaints about this new Cayenne’s interior however. Both the Cayenne and the Macan have been recognised for their dynamic acumen, though it’s seldom – if ever – that they’re complimented for a sense of luxury.

That changes here, this new Cayenne taking up where the Panamera left off with a stunning interior comprised of sumptuous materials, seamlessly integrated technology and considerable style.

It’s difficult to imagine wanting more from an interior in a car costing comfortably less than £100,000: impeccably appointed, intuitive and as connected as any buyer will currently need, the Cayenne’s cabin is a triumph. Oh yes, and there’s now an extra 100 litres of boot space.

The Cayenne S uses a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 and an eight-speed automatic gearbox, a broadly similar powertrain to that in the Audi RS5, albeit with marginally less power at 434bhp. Crucially, this powertrain feels a better fit here than in the sports coupé, the generous spread of torque – 405lb ft from 1800-5500rpm – arguably more befitting of a 2020kg SUV (yes, not much weight has been lost) than an M3-chasing two door.

It lends the Cayenne S a fair turn of speed, certainly enough to make the 164mph claimed top speed seem eminently achievable. With minimal lag and a swift-acting automatic gearbox, the turbocharged V6 will provide all the performance most buyers will require.

While dynamic praise of this latest Cayenne is wholly justified, it must be qualified, as is often the case nowadays, by how options are chosen. For instance, our test Cayenne S featured carbon ceramic brakes – nice to have though hardly vital for many SUV buyers – in addition to adaptive air suspension, rear axle steering and 21in wheels. When you bear in mind that a standard car would use steel springs, half the amount of steered wheels, smaller rims and iron brakes, you can see how it is hard to make a definitive judgement on the standard Cayenne S.

As you might expect, however, the test car delivered a stellar dynamic performance. With a lower kerb weight than both the Bentley Bentayga and the Audi Q7 with which it shares a platform, the Porsche is a sharper, more direct and more responsive drive.

Hackneyed though it may sound, it doesn’t corner unlike a large hatch, darting into bends with a neutral cornering attitude; indeed, while Porsche’s claim of this being more like a 911 than ever should be taken with a pinch of salt, it’s the Cayenne’s rear driven wheels that feel to be doing most of the work on corner exit.

Is the Cayenne the new SUV benchmark?

Not only has the Cayenne reasserted its position as the driver’s choice in the SUV segment with this latest version (albeit with the right options ticked), it’s also more practical and more luxurious – noticeably so, in the latter case – than ever before.

So while rivals can match it in certain areas, it’s impossible to choose one of such all-encompassing ability.

And while £68,330 could never be considered a bargain, that’s less than was asked for a Discovery First Edition diesel. That the Cayenne delivers reasonable value as well as tangible, significant steps on in every area that counts means this could be the new class leader of the SUV field. 

Matt Bird

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Sports SUVs

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Porsche range

Driven this week

  • Jeep Compass
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    Jeep enters the competitive compact SUV market with its new Compass, blending ruggedness with contemporary styling and tech
  • BMW 1 Series Saloon
    We had a short drive in a China-only front-wheel-drive BMW 1 Series
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    A brief drive in a China-only front-wheel-drive model shows the future is bright for the 1 Series when it makes the switch from RWD next year
  • BMW 5 Series
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    The BMW 5 Series is top of the mid-exec pack, but is there still room for a diesel saloon in everyday family life?
  • Toyota Prius PHEV
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    Does running a plug-in hybrid really make sense as a 500-mile-a-week driver? Six months with a Toyota Prius Plug-in should give a conclusive answer
  • Honda Civic
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    The tenth generation Honda Civic ditches its space race styling but is that enough to help it make a contender in a congested segment?