When you hear a brand’s released its biggest, heaviest SUV, you might think about a sluggish people hauler. But while the Cayenne is certainly capable of carrying five, and gear, it’s far from a plodding drive. We took the Porsche on a family trip up in the Hudson Valley to see how it handles long stretches of highway, twisty back roads, the “are-we-there-yet” cries, and luggage.
Day 1: Hitting the Highway
Now in its third generation, the Cayenne has always performed like you’d think an SUV from Porsche would. While you can nab one in a Turbo trim, starting at $126,500 with 541 horsepower and a 0–60 mph of 3.9 seconds, our S tester model was still a very spirited ride. With 434-hp the Cayenne S reaches 60 mph in 4.2 seconds—that’s not much slower than the 911 Carrera—with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6 that sprints to a quarter-mile in just under 13 seconds. While you’ll find similar heart-racing performance in other cars like the Audi Sportback or an AMG-trim Benze, those don’t have the heavier Cayenne’s weight, which makes the feel from behind the wheel so remarkable.
Piling in and heading north from New York City, the Cayenne’s precise steering and feedback are not what you’d expect from an SUV with a 4,740-pound curb weight that stands nearly 70 inches tall. The ride is not vague, and it makes it easier to take on corners with confidence, which we put to use on winding backroads. The capable, eight-speed automatic ensures the torque you want isn’t ever too far away and it shifts without much fuss from the driver’s seat. Stopping, though, can be a touch rough—Porsche’s (optional) tungsten carbide coated rotors are super grippy, so while they will stop you quick, it can be choppy. The suspension is also likely what you’d expect from a sport-tuned ride, which is to say it’s capable of taking on your asphalt commute, but it feels firm. From the wheel, you can pick from a few driving modes, like Sport, that let you customize your ideal setup. On the open road, using the paddle shifters on Sport+ are fun, but for daily driving, Normal is a better bet for than average ride.
Day 2: The Long Haul
The interior of the Cayenne borrows from the Panamera, with a clean, uncluttered look and few buttons. Most of the functions are hidden under a glossy plastic touchscreen, within the steering wheel or the 12.3-inch touchscreen. Big and bright, we found the infotainment system intuitive to use—to the point even our eight-year-old had fun changing the color scheme of the interior lights. Here’s where the adults can have some fun adjusting the height of the car’s drive modes. The screen responds instantly to your touches, swipes, and pinches. The steering wheel is dotted with several controls, which, once you’ve learned the ropes, keeps both hands put when executing a variety of maneuvers, from changing audio inputs to driving modes. It’s clear that designers have spent time thinking about which functions drivers need access too most often and addressing them from the wheel.
The front seats are soft, supportive, and very comfortable. While the interior is mostly black with refined surfaces and a nice combination of glossy and matte, our tester had brushed metal details to visually break things up. To some, the interior might not scream the glitz and glamour of a luxury ride, but we found it quiet and comfortable without being over-the-top. But while the ride inside is shielded from a lot of the road noise, the engine isn’t—which we didn’t mind really. We enjoyed the reminder coming in from the engine bay as you mash the gas pedal. After all, we’re doing the driving here, not sitting in the back getting chauffeured around. Behind the rear seats, we found it had plenty of space to haul our gear, and host an impromptu to changing room before entering a waterpark. While this might not be the ride we’d pick to load up for a DIY run to the home center, it has enough space for your road trips, grocery store runs, or shuttling kids and gear to games.
Day 3: Design
This generation Cayenne has new LED headlamps and a massive front grill, which spans most of the car, giving the SUV a girthy vibe. Outback, a lightbar runs across the width of the car, a design nod borrowed from the 911. The overall aesthetic, much like the inside, is clean. It won’t blow you over with outrageous lines or chunky proportions, but at the same time, it feels familiar.
As the category for sporty SUVs grows, with brands like Lambo entering the space and Korean brands elevating their performance specifications, the Cayenne is there blurring the lines between a sport-tuned hauler and a riveting sedan that happens to look like an SUV.
[From $66,800; porsche.com]Get it
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