The Cayenne remains the best-handling SUV you can buy
Its twin-turbo 4.8-litre V8 produces 500bhp and 516lb ft of torque
It takes little effort to balance the Cayenne through high-speed corners
Subtle changes to the styling make it much look less imposing
It goes on sale in the UK on 29 May, priced from £81,589
Panamera-influenced cabin oozes quality
The new Cayenne is roomier and more versatile than before
A sliding rear seat allows you to alter rear leg room
First DriveThe quickest and grippiest super-SUV in the world – and still somehow not the most entertaining or likeable on UK roads
First DriveSteroidal SUV packs more power, more torque and the kind of dynamic ability that would leave many sports cars trailing
What is it?
This is the all-new Porsche Cayenne. The Cayenne was the car that broke the mould for Porsche; its continued success has proved that there is a bright future beyond sports cars for the German car maker. Trouble is, the original Cayenne lacked the styling finesse and overall quality to see it win universal appeal.
Subtle changes to the styling, including a lower bonnet, added contouring along the body sides and a more heavily raked rear screen, make it much look less imposing and, dare I say, more sporting.
The positive impressions continue inside. The Panamera-influenced cabin is a world beyond the drab cabin of the old Cayenne, providing added class and higher levels of finish. New, heavily contoured seats also provide additional support and greater comfort up front, although vision, particularly to the rear three-quarter, is quite restricted.
With a 40mm stretch in the wheelbase over its predecessor, the new Cayenne is roomier and more versatile than before. A sliding rear seat allows you to alter rear leg room, and the rear seat backs now fold down in one easy action, either manually or via an optional electric system, to allow you extend the nominal 670 litres of boot space.
When it goes on sale here, Porsche’s new SUV will be available with five different engines: a 300bhp 3.6-litre V6 petrol, a 240bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, a 400bhp 4.8-litre V8 petrol, and the combination of a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol and electric drive with a total of 380bhp in the new Cayenne Hybrid.
The highlight, though, remains the Cayenne Turbo. Its twin-turbo 4.8-litre V8 is carried over virtually unchanged from the final version of the outgoing model. With 500bhp and a sturdy 516lb ft of torque, it’s got more reserves than many celebrated supercars – and more pace than the old Cayenne Turbo, according to Porsche’s claims.
Part of the performance gain can be attributed to a new Tiptronic S eight-speed automatic gearbox that comes with the option of remote shift paddles rather than the wheel-mounted rocker switches of the old Cayenne. It provides faster, smoother shifts than the old six-speed auto, while also contributing to a 5.7mpg gain in fuel economy and an 88g/km reduction in CO2 emissions.
At 2170kg, the new Cayenne Turbo tips the scales a good 185kg less than its predecessor. And its power-to-weight ratio has increased by almost 20bhp per tonne in the top-of-the-line Turbo. This gain, the new gearbox and reworked gearing help to lower the 0-62mph time to 4.7sec, and add 2mph to the top speed, at 172mph.
What’s it like?
The really great thing about the Cayenne is its ability to be sports car or luxury cruiser. The standard air suspension that the Turbo comes fitted with is an improvement on the steel springs fitted to the rest of the range, both in terms of body control and isolating occupants from the road surface.
At low speeds it can be slightly lumpy, but at higher speeds on uneven rural roads or on typical motorway surfaces the Turbo is relaxing transport. Excellent cabin refinement and a comfortable interior also goes a long way to making the Cayenne a soothing long distance companion.
And yet, select ‘Sport’ on the torque converter 8-speed auto gearbox and air suspension (both don’t have to be selected together) and there are few four-door cars - saloon, hatch or SUV - that offer the handling precision of the Cayenne Turbo.
This isn’t to say that you aren’t always aware of the car’s significant weight shifting around, but the suspension very effectively restrains body movement and so it takes little effort to balance the Cayenne through high-speed corners despite its height and dimensions.
The hydraulically assisted steering is also a complete revelation compared to the light, slightly detached sensation the previous Cayenne offered. There is immediate response even around the dead-ahead, and the heavy weighting gives an immediacy that allows the driver to make the most of the prodigious grip levels.
More than anything, it is the new all-wheel drive system, which sends 100 per cent of the power to the rear wheels unless the car senses any need for grip at the front end, that really transforms the Cayenne Turbo into a rewarding sports car. It’s a completely different experience to the previous Cayenne, and whatever your opinion on high-powered SUVs, it’s an exceptional way to travel.
Should I buy one?
The new version is a big improvement, then. But at a hefty £81,589, the new Cayenne Turbo comes in at £3692 above the old model and is £1914 more than the BMW X6 M. It’s good – but I can’t help but think the Cayenne S would be a smarter buy.
At £53,693, the S won’t deliver the same sort of straight-line performance, but you will get most of the dynamic benefits as well as all the other improvements in refinement, quality and class that Porsche has brought to its new SUV.