Time flies and the Porsche Cayenne is now into its third generation. Some 800,000 have been sold since the big SUV was launched in 2002 and it’s now Porsche’s second biggest-seller after its little brother – the sublime Macan.
So what’s new about the latest Cayenne? And can it still cut it against the increasing number of rivals – everything from the BMW X5 to the Range Rover Sport, and the Audi Q7 to the Maserati Levante?
At first glance you may not think that it’s changed that much, but Porsche has always been more about evolution than revolution.
Lighter, longer, lower and sharper than before, arguably the new Cayenne has more of an athletic stance. It’s still no beauty head-on, but it is unmistakably a Porsche.
The easiest way to distinguish it from the outgoing car is to compare the epic new grille and air intakes which seem wider and cleaner. The active grille uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed.
Also, the sloping bonnet with power dome, front headlights and full-width rear horizontal light bar are reminiscent of the Panamera. Overall, the new Cayenne’s design flows much better.
Inside, it’s still spacious, stylish and luxurious and is now packed with the latest tech, while still retaining that thoroughbred Porsche DNA.
The Porsche Advanced Cockpit is dominated by a 12.3-inch full-HD touchscreen, already seen in the latest Panamera.
Thankfully, Porsche hasn’t done a Volvo or Tesla and completely replaced the buttons. There are still several modest examples to control the main functions, but now the majority are “hidden” – subtly integrated into the glossy touchscreen, giving acoustic and haptic feedback when operated. Voice control is also available.
Porsche’s stuck with the central analogue tachometer ahead of the driver and it’s flanked by four other circular displays (two digital) which highlight essential driving data, plus features such as the clever Night Vision Assist (a thermal imaging camera).
Starting at £55,965, there are currently four models in the range – the Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne E-Hybrid and flagship Cayenne Turbo which is a fraction under £100,000.
I tested the Cayenne S (expected to be the most popular model), which starts at £68,330. Powered by a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine, delivering 440bhp and 550Nm of torque, it has a 0-62mph time of just 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 164mph.
Impressive figures for a big car and frankly, there’s more than enough power there for everyday driving, but you always get the feeling that here’s an SUV that really wants to be let off the leash.
Power is channelled to all four wheels via a slick 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic gearbox, though it can be overridden using the steering wheel paddles, plus there are five drive modes to suit a variety of terrain – On-Road, Mud, Gravel, Sand and Rocks.
Naturally, you can also choose between Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual road modes, either via a centre console button or a nifty rotary dial on the steering wheel (if you specify the Sport Chrono Package).
The Cayenne may look a bit of a brute in the metal (it weighs a shade over two tonnes), but it’s surprisingly agile, tempting you to explore its performance and handling.
The ride is comfortable if firm in Normal drive mode, though the suspension gets noticeably stiffer in Sport and Sport Plus. Thanks to various Porsche electronic gizmos, it stays admirably free of body roll on more challenging roads.
The V6 will quietly cruise along nicely. Press on and the exhaust growls and it’s clear that this beast has a dark side.
With a combination of a responsive, powerful engine, sharp steering and impressive levels of grip and traction, driving a Cayenne will put a smile on your face.
As well as all that power, the Cayenne is a practical daily driver too. There’s plenty of room for three adults in the back, while the boot now has an extra 100 litres of capacity, taking it to 770 litres overall – or 1,710 with the back seats folded.
Fuel economy is a claimed 30.1-30.7mpg (depending on wheel size), though you won’t get near that in the real world if you succumb to the Cayenne’s charms, while CO2 emissions are in the region of 213-209g/km.
If you want to be more environmentally-friendly, then try the E-Hybrid, which also boasts a 2.9-litre V6, plus a small electric motor, gives an electric-only range of up to 27 miles, plus tempting green stats (83.1mpg and 79g/km CO2).
Porsche doesn’t claim to match Land Rover’s legendary off-road ability, but the Cayenne is surprisingly capable, and it has a very useful 3,500kg towing capacity.
As with all Porsches, the basic car is well equipped, but there’s also a bewildering list of optional extras. In the case of the Cayenne S these include carbon-ceramic brakes, Porsche’s Active Stability Management and Dynamic Chassis Control, plus rear-axle steering (a first for the Cayenne), a BOSE surround sound system and privacy glass. Just take it easy when you’re ticking the boxes!
It’s safe too and is packed with tech including Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), lane departure control and active cruise control. Naturally it also scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a big SUV with badge appeal and beautiful build quality, then the all-new Porsche Cayenne should be right up your street. Powerful, practical and packed with tech, it’s safe, seriously fast and comfortable.