Costs more than the standard car and is little different to drive, but restyled Cayenne certainly has an appeal all of its own

Sorry to start with a cliché, but the Porsche Cayenne Coupé really is one of those cars that appears to be an answer to a question you thought nobody was asking. Yet like all manufacturers, and German premium ones in particular, Porsche is getting ever keener to make sure no niche goes unfilled. So what we have here is, as it says on the tin, a coupé version of its large Cayenne SUV.

Effectively a rival for high-end versions of the BMW X6, Mercedes GLE Coupé and, arguably, the Range Rover Velar, the Cayenne Coupé at the very least should inject some driving dynamism into a class where generally speaking there is none. And it does that by being based on the best big SUV of the lot for those of us who love driving. Mechanically, you see, the Coupé is pretty much identical to the standard model.

The Stuttgart stylists have done a rather neat job, the changes helping shed some of the standard car’s not inconsiderable visual bulk

Obviously the big changes are external, where designers have grafted on a sloping roofline that chops around 20mm from the Cayenne’s height, plus added a few extra millimetres of length and width. Credit where credit’s due, though, because the Stuttgart stylists have done a rather neat job, the changes helping shed some of the standard car’s not inconsiderable visual bulk. It’s not a jarring shape like the BMW X6; instead, it’s much more subtle, giving the Coupé more than a hint of slightly scaled-up Porsche Macan.

Perhaps aware that this could be mistaken as a mere marketing exercise, Porsche has attempted to add some eye-catching engineering. For starters, there are two roof options - a full-length panoramic glass job or a carbonfibre panel. The latter saves 21kg and gets a distinctive ‘double bubble’ finish similar to that of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, which perhaps isn’t the sort of connection that car’s creators would like made.

Back to top

How does the Coupé compare to the standard Cayenne?

The carbonfibre roof is part of a number of ‘Lightweight Packages’ that can be specified, each designed to reinforce the point that the Coupé is a more serious driving tool than the normal Cayenne. Each gets some carbonfibre interior and exterior trim inserts, a reduction in sound deadening material and natty checked cloth trim and Alcantara trim for the seats. All in, with the roof panel, these add up to a saving 22.4kg. To minimise mass further, there are some forged aluminium 22in alloy wheels that shave around 17kg from the unsprung mass. In total, that’ll be around £7500. Mind you, the Coupé needs all the help it can get because without the diet parts, the Turbo tips the scales at 2200kg, which is 25kg more than the five-door model. Less really is more in this case.

Elsewhere on the exterior, you’ll notice at the trailing edge of the roof there’s a large fixed spoiler, which works in partnership with an active spoiler housed at the base of the windscreen. Capable of extending by 135mm, it’s deployed at speeds in excess of 56mph and is claimed to increase aerodynamic pressure over a rear axle that’s 18mm wider. Of course, for the peacocks among us, it can be manually raised at any speeds simply by prodding a button.

Climb into the Cayenne Coupé and you’ll find that not only is there a fractional reduction in space, there are also fewer seats. In place of the standard car’s rear bench are a pair of individual chairs separated by a deep trinket tray and a pair of cupholders - although a 2+1 layout can be ordered at no extra cost. On the plus side, the squabs have been lowered by 30mm, offsetting the lower roof.

However, boot space has shrunk considerably, from 745 litres to 625 litres. Folding the rear bench liberates 1540 litres, which is 138 litres down on the standard car. Bear in mind the Cayenne Coupé Turbo’s figures are lower again, at 600 litres and 1510 litres respectively.

The rest of the interior is largely carried over unchanged, with the same comprehensive dashboard with its wall-to-wall TFT displays. And of course the fit and finish are first rate, with top-notch materials used throughout. It oozes premium appeal, with the four-seat layout and lower roofline helping to create a more bespoke and cosseting ambience.

Back to top

Mechanically it’s business as usual too, and from launch you get the same engine line-up (minus the plug-in Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid) as the Cayenne. That means the same choice of 335bhp or 434bhp 3.0-litre V6 in the entry-level and S models respectively, and a 542bhp twin-turbo V8 for the Turbo, which is what we’ve driven here. All engines get the same ZF transmission mated to four-wheel drive that features the firm’s ‘hang-on’ clutch, which means on the road it’s essentially rear-wheel drive unless the computers detect wheelspin and send torque forward.

Essentially the chassis stays the same too, with independent suspension. However, the Coupé’s rear axle is 18mm wider than the Cayenne’s, the PASM dampers are now standard on all models and the Turbo gets the three-chamber air suspension - an option on the other two. You can also specify the 48V Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) that features active roll bars that aim to eliminate lean in the corners. On top of that, there’s the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) rear differential and the rear wheel steer axle. Predictably, all this gubbins was fitted to our test car.

How does the Cayenne Coupé perform on the road?

This might sound just a little disingenuous but, if you’ve driven a standard Cayenne, then there’s probably no need to continue reading this because, well, that’s exactly what the Coupé feels like. Yet while that might seem like a cheap jibe, it’s worth bearing in mind that we’re still talking about the finest-driving large SUV there is.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, though: any change in the car’s behaviour because of the fractionally lower centre of gravity is virtually impossible to detect. Perhaps on a track you’ll notice, but on the roads of our Austrian test route the Coupé felt just like a Cayenne. In fact, apart from the slightly narrower view through the windscreen and a more restricted view rearwards, there’s virtually no difference.

What that means is that despite tipping the scales at over two tonnes, the Coupé creates the same uncanny feeling that it’s laughing very loudly in the face of physics. Try to rationalise it and your head will explode, because there’s no way on earth a car this big and this heavy should be able to cover ground at such an astounding rate and with what feel like limitless reserves of composure. Of course, it helped that our car had the optional PDCC, torque vectoring rear differential and steered rear axle, all of which play a not insignificant part in its uncanny abilities.

Back to top

What you’ll notice first is the way the Cayenne responds so quickly and accurately to the weighty steering, the nose staying resolutely locked on your line despite a very distant feeling of all that mass wanting to carry the car straight on. The rear steer helps here, rotating the rear of the car just enough to quell any understeer but without feeling wayward. Get hard on the throttle and, rather than stability control systems going into meltdown, the four-wheel-drive system simply shuffles torque where it’s needed, the torque vectoring diff subtly overdriving the outside rear wheel to get you pointing at the exit just so. And because the four-wheel-drive system essentially runs in rear-wheel-drive mode, you can even get a snifter of power oversteer out of slower corners, which is quickly and smoothly gathered by the trick transmission.

The body control is mind-boggling too, resisting lean and allowing you to corner fast and flat. Mid-corner bumps? There must have been some, but the Porsche would rather we didn’t know, simply steam-rolling them into submission. There’s genuine poise and control here, the Coupé behaving like some over-sized Volkswagen Golf R when pedalled with enthusiasm. And because you’re sitting so high up, you can see the road unfold ahead sooner, which partly offsets the vast exterior dimensions.

And it’s fast. By gum is it fast. Porsche claims that the Sport Chrono-equipped Turbo will crack 62mph from a standstill in 3.7sec, which is two-tenths quicker than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo - although top speed remains unchanged at 177mph. As with the handling, you’ll be hard-pressed to detect the shaved tenths of a second on the road, where the Cayenne remains blisteringly, almost anti-socially, fast.

Peak torque remains at a monstrously high 568lb ft and is available anywhere between 2000 and 4500rpm, which is just where you need it for devastating point-to-point pace. In combination with the slick eight-speed auto that has an uncanny ability to second guess your needs, it allows the Turbo to make mincemeat of the straights between corners and any cars that happen to be in your way, all of which will be left in the wake of your bellowing, belching optional sports exhaust.

Yet for all its speed and ability, the Coupé still isn’t a fun car in the traditional sense. There’s satisfaction to be had from working its precise and honed controls and genuine awe at its otherworldly ability to devour any road you throw at it with such jaw-dropping composure, but the sense of connection isn’t deep enough and there’s always a nagging sense that the car is doing much of the work. But then it is a leviathan SUV and not a stripped-out sports car, so perhaps we’re being unfair.

Back to top

Arguably a better indication of the sort of use the car is really intended for is revealed when you knock all the settings back. Row back from Sport Plus mode and the Cayenne Coupé is transformed into a hushed, relaxing and extremely rapid GT car. Even on mammoth 20in wheels, there’s a plushness to the ride, the air springs adding just enough waft, while only really ragged and torn Tarmac betrays those vast rims, when there’s a slight brittleness to proceedings. It’s quiet too, the outside world relegated to nothing more than a very distant whoosh around the door mirrors and the odd thump from the suspension over a particularly deep pothole or sharp ridge.

Running costs, as you’d expect, are on the steep side. Claimed fuel economy for the Turbo is 20.2mpg, while we saw this drop to near single figures on the harder driven points on our route. It also pumps out quite a lot of CO2, with a quoted maximum of 268g/km.

Can the Cayenne Coupé justify its place in the line-up?

It’s fair to say the Cayenne Coupé represents something of a quandry. Across the range it costs between £3000 and £5000 more than the equivalent Cayenne, which means you’re paying more for a car that doesn’t drive any differently, isn’t really any faster and carries fewer people and less luggage.

Yes, it gets a bit more kit as standard but, on all rational basis, there is no reason to choose a Cayenne Coupé over the standard machine. And like that car, you’ve arguably got to spend a lot on extra chassis technology for it to show its best.

Yet when were cars like this ever bought with the head? More pertinently, maybe to compare the Coupé with the standard car is missing the point, because the role this Porsche really fills is that of a 21st-century GT. With the fashion for SUVs seemingly showing no signs of slowing, the Coupé fits the brief to perfection. It’s got the eye-catching looks and the perceived exclusivity; it’s fast and refined; and it boasts a cosseting and luxurious interior.

Viewed like that, it almost makes sense.

2 Porsche cayenne coupe 2019 fd hero side


James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping Autocar.co.uk topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe 2019-2023 First drives