What is it?
The big news for the new Porsche Cayenne S is that the old V8 is out and a new 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 is in. That means more power and torque – up from 394bhp and 369lb ft in the V8 to 414bhp and 406lb ft in the V6 – as well as better fuel economy. Suspension has been tweaked, too, with an overhaul to improve both pliancy and precision, according to Porsche, while cars fitted with optional adaptive dampers (£1052) or air suspension (£2379) enjoy a broader spread between comfort and sports settings, too.
It’s not obvious, but the exterior has also had a going over. It’s virtually just the doors and roof that remain untouched, but different air intakes and new tail-lights are among the most obvious identifiers of this update.
Power is still sent through Porsche's eight-speed automatic transmission, via an on-demand four-wheel drive system.
What's it like?
The engine is a peach. Okay, so you don’t get the emotive burble of the old V8, but the V6 feels properly lively when you want it to, revving sweetly through a long, elastic-feeling rev range, without any untoward boostiness from the turbos. Use the paddles and you can even work this motor as if it were naturally aspirated, though most will prefer to avoid the slightly whiny-sounding high revs and stick to the broad spread of torque elsewhere.
That’s where the eight-speed auto will generally keep you anyway. It shifts smoothly and nearly always picks the right ratio, although in Sport auto mode it can be a little slower than you might hope; the paddle shifters are better for really plundering the Cayenne’s substantial performance.
So is the handling drastically improved? Not really, no, but the Cayenne was hardly shabby to drive before. What is evident is that the Porsche remains about as wieldy as a big SUV can be. The four-wheel drive system allows a little slip at the rear wheels, which is a welcome help to get the car turned in, because otherwise – in greasy conditions, particularly – the Cayenne's first inclination is to understeer. Throw in some liberal trail-braking as you dive into a corner, though, and you can dial the understeer out pretty easily and the whole car feels balanced, responsive and even quite fun. All this is tempered by great brake and throttle feel and response, as well as well weighted, predictable steering.