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Widely updated Cayenne gets an impressive interior revamp and, even in bottom-rung form, doesn’t want for relative driver appeal

The 'new' Porsche Cayenne isn’t quite all-new: as the kids might put it, “because reasons”. Its maker is currently investing in both an electric Cayenne to sell alongside this one (due in 2026) and an even larger electric SUV to sell alongside that (known for now as the ‘K1’ and due in 2027).

It’s also about to deliver its electric new Macan, in which it’s been investing for even longer than either the electric Cayenne or K1.

In other words, it’s shovelling cash into a scenario that might leave a rapidly diminishing place for a traditional, combustion-engined SUV, but it has also yet to really test the market’s appetite for any of its new zero-emissions offerings (save the Porsche Taycan, of course). Right now, the company accountants could well be taking it in turns to breathe.

Understandably, it’s sought out a little pragmatism where it can, by eking out the lifecycle of the current, E3-generation Cayenne. The first-gen car lasted eight years, the second-gen Cayenne a little less, and this one will have served for more than a decade by the time Porsche retires it.

So this is the Cayenne that its maker refers to internally as ‘E3 II’. It’s a wide-ranging technical facelift. To be fair to Porsche, it contains at least as much material change as plenty of full-generational model renewals: overhauled V6 and V8 engines, new suspension hardware, a pretty much all-new interior and a couple of all-new model derivatives thrown in for good measure.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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With a wealth of engineering changes underneath and visual updates to the body and interior, this Porsche Cayenne facelift isn’t one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it surgeries. The new LED matrix headlights are easy to spot (and, if you like, you can have high-definition ones at extra cost), while the new bumpers front and rear make for a fresh, slightly Macanish-looking widened grille, though with familiar proportions behind it.

Technically, the headline change is the removal from the Cayenne S of the 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that formerly powered it, substituted for an overhauled version of the ‘EA825’ 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that Porsche first developed with technical partner Audi in 2017. 

That leaves the entry-level Cayenne and the Cayenne E-Hybrid as the only six-cylinder models still in a showroom line-up, which, for now, consists of four models (Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne E-Hybrid and Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid, plus equivalent ‘coupés’). In time, we’ll see a Turbo, a GTS and a V8-powered Cayenne S E-Hybrid as well, the PHEVs set to account for more than three-quarters of the UK sales mix between them.

We won’t see a return of the range-topping Cayenne Turbo GT, which is being reserved for markets, shall we say, less carbon-emissions-punitive than the European Union and the UK. Go for the Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid instead, however, and you can buy a GT package that makes your car look, ride and handle as much like the range-topping poster child as possible. Meantime, ‘making do’ with only 730bhp shouldn’t be too much of a chore.

Below that range-topping PHEV, there will be two further electrified models. The cheaper Cayenne E-Hybrid uses an overhauled V6 and a 174bhp electric motor, only now there’s a bigger battery to supply the juice. As such, electric-only range jumps to a handy 46 miles, dropping it into the 8% benefit-in-kind tax bracket. It’s a timely riposte to the Range Rover Sport’s company car appeal. The bad news? Kerb weight shoots up by 370kg over the base Cayenne.

And above that car will shortly come a Cayenne S E-Hybrid, using the same battery and motor technology but delivering a V8-engined electrified option for less than the Turbo E-Hybrid’s £130k-plus price. 

Outside of the engine bay, Porsche is continuing with steel coil suspension for lower-range Cayennes, with height-adjustable air springs optional on some and standard on others. New double-valved adaptive dampers (on which compression and rebound can be adjusted independently of each other) feature on all models, with front wheel and tyre size having changed slightly too - both, says Porsche, to the improvement of the car’s rolling refinement.

Four-wheel drive is standard on the Cayenne, downstream of an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox. Mechanical torque vectoring, four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars, meanwhile, are optional on most models.

INTERIOR

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It’s the Cayenne’s interior revamp that really stands out. Taycan-inspired in its adoption of digital technology, there’s a wide, sleek dashboard with a curved, free-standing digital instrument binnacle; a new central infotainment screen with improved navigability, and better-integrated app functionality and networked features; and an optional third touchscreen ahead of the front passenger, from where the navigation can be set, as well as videos streamed etc.

In spite of all the digital tech, though, Porsche doesn’t forget to add some tactile interaction points: expensive-feeling physical ventilation controls, and a good sized audio volume/on-off button, on the centre stack.

I like the new cabin air vent design. With a structural-looking centre spar, they have the look of engine cooling intakes. Very Porsche.

The build and material quality of the revised Cayenne are top-notch (including the lovely metal slider controls for the air vents). The instrument display looks a little as though it has forgotten its toupée - but it’s part of a cabin makeover that has taken a car that looked long in the tooth and made it feel fresh and up to date again.

Outright cabin space is pretty generous for four grown adults, though not exceptional. There are bigger luxury SUVs than this, in other words - Porsche having deliberately chosen the shorter-wheelbase MLB-Evo platform layout (when the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga went for the longer one) for the handling benefits conferred. Even so, very few travelling in the back are likely to complain.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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Our first UK test came in a simple, bottom-of-the-tree Cayenne, with Porsche’s overhauled turbo V6 engine.

On the road, the engine certainly feels torquier than it used to – little freer-revving at the top of the rev range, but very refined, and well capable of a turn of pace that feels assured rather than especially fast.

The gearbox’s shifts are delivered smoothly in the car’s milder driving modes, while the sportier ones hold onto higher revs and lower ratios for longer, and not ineffectively. But when you’re enjoying driving this car, you’ll be using Porsche’s stubby metal shift paddles to row up and down the ratios manually, and enjoying every smartly delivered shift. There’s certainly enough mid-range, accessible urge to keep the car going strongly up steeper gradients and along motorway slip roads, and enough audible performance character to pique your senses.

Pedal progression is good on the standard Cayenne. We tested a Cayenne E-Hybrid on Porsche’s European launch, however, and were disappointed by its brake pedal feel especially. 

It doesn’t blend between the electric regeneration and physical items. The top of the pedal’s travel is for regen - and it’s surprisingly vague and has little initial bite. Most un-Porsche-like. Porsche's engineers are aware of this, but there are so many variables around state of charge and other parameters that it’s a challenge to make it as consistent as they would like.

RIDE & HANDLING

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On steel springs, there’s slightly more noise and more connected feel about the Cayenne’s ride than more luxury-minded rivals have, but unusually precise and feelsome steering, taut lateral body control, and fluent cornering poise come as part of a dynamically impressive bargain.

Porsche’s new double-valved dampers maintain a level body well - and even more keenly in Sport and Sport+ modes - but they still don’t filter inputs that well, or deliver the cosseting float of competitors. You can generally hear and feel the bumps that the car’s axles are dealing with, then, although never harshly. The optional air suspension is there for those who want more of a luxury character, of course - and has been tuned, Porsche says, for a bit more of that this time around, as well as for the greater, ride-height-adjustable dynamic adaptability it confers.

While it may make sense for company car drivers, meanwhile, the Cayenne E-Hybrid doesn’t quite handle as well as the conventional models. You can feel the extra weight of the boot-mounted battery in direction changes, and it’s lacking that last bit of handling precision that you expect from a Porsche.

We’ll wait with interest to see how much the updated versions of the Cayenne S, GTS and Turbo enhance the car’s driver appeal and whether the more expensive PHEVs avoid the shortcomings of the regular E-Hybrid.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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Porsche’s currently bidding to restore its pre-pandemic profit margins and, as prices come in on its revised models, we’re seeing the evidence. The new Cayenne is around 10% pricier than the pre-facelift model. If you’re getting a V8 in your Cayenne S rather than a V6, that may not seem like such a bad deal; likewise, if your PHEV now comes with a load of extra electric range. On other models, though, it might sting a little more.

‘EAER combined’ electric range on both E-Hybrid models is between 40 and 50 miles, putting both into the 8% benefit-in-kind tax bracket for fleet users (although it’d be an unusual fleet to offer the Turbo E-Hybrid).

We’ve yet to get an indication of the real-world, extended-range fuel economy of any of the PHEVs, or the V8s - but a V6-powered base Cayenne returned about 28mpg for us at a UK-typical motorway cruise, dropping into the low-20s during more spirited cross-country driving.

VERDICT

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Even in bottom-rung form, the updated Porsche Cayenne feels like it’s cut out to handle and has clear driver appeal. So, as new as the digitally plumped interior may be, the car feels like a very familiar prospect, and priced as it is from a little over £70,000, it also feels like quite a lot Porsche - and of luxury SUV - for the money.

Some of Porsche’s other, pricier and more powerful Cayenne derivatives - the Cayenne E-Hybrid particularly - don’t seem to distinguish or define themselves as a driver’s car quite as clearly or simply. Not where it matters, on the road, at least. The improvement that Porsche has made to the rational argument to buy them, however, by extending electric-only range, is likely to ensure their continued popularity.

The next six years will clearly be busy and transformative ones in the luxury SUV segment and the truth is, by the time they’re run, it’s likely that such a pace of change will make this Cayenne feel even more ripe for retirement than the pre-facelift car was. 

For now, however, Porsche has done well to renew the car’s showroom appeal and its on-board technology offer – and, provided you choose the right engine, also to maintain the sporting dynamic standing of the car that first proved that luxury SUVs could handle.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Porsche Cayenne First drives