When the Porsche Cayenne was first announced by the German manufacturer, everyone thought it will be beginning of the end of a brand which had a long heritage of building legendary sports cars. Fast forward 14 years later, and the Cayenne is one of their top selling models, and now with the introduction of the third-generation model, Porsche just makes it drive even more like a sports car.
Starting off with the exterior, the 2018 Porsche Cayenne is all-new car, even if it looks like a facelift of the old model. It is longer, lower and wider than the previous generation. While the front is not too distinct from the old model, it was a deliberate decision by Porsche to not change too much and just build on it. Look closely, and you start to notice the sleeker headlights, the new hood and front grille. The rear is where the changes are apparent, with a new full-width tail lamp design similar to that of the new Panamera and 911.
Porsche continues to create some of the best cockpits around, with a nice balance of sportiness and luxury in the look and feel of the new interior. Porsche got rid of many of the buttons, and replaced it with a big 12.3-inch screen. It was a very easy system to use and didn’t have us hunting for the driver’s manual in the glovebox, and the a/c still has physical buttons for the basic functions.
The leather upholstery was top-notch and the steering wheel now has a dial to easily switch between drive modes. There is a choice of seats with either adjustable headrests, or sporty ones with more bolstering and fixed headrests.
We had a go in the twisty mountain roads of Crete with the new Cayenne S, which now gets a 2.9-litre turbocharged V6 engine, mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. It churns out 440 hp and 550 Nm of torque, enough to do the 0-100 kph run in 5.2 seconds. This was ample power driving up and down the high-altitude roads around the largest of the Greek islands. Luckily for us, the tourist season was over so the roads were empty most of the time.
We couldn’t stop admiring the ride comfort of the car, which has clearly improved from the previous model. It was also very quiet inside, if kept under 120 kph.
We did a fairly easy rocky offroad section on the island, and it was unsurprisingly handled with no problems.
Back on the road, body roll is minimal, with well-controlled body motions during the endless twisty roads, even during some spirited driving. We never reached the limits of grip.
Looking at the Cayenne Turbo, the new engine has lesser displacement and more power, the new 4.0-litre turbo engine now producing 550 hp and 770 Nm of torque. Just like the previous model, this one has way too much power than anyone will ever need, and we certainly didn’t find any long stretches of highway in Crete to test its potential. But there is just that adrenaline rush when putting the pedal to the metal in an SUV, when the practical side within you disappears and your inner voice starts saying, “I want one!”
The Turbo manages to be quite comfortable as well, just stiffening up when switched to Sports Plus mode, and that isn’t too bad either. The only issue we have is with the exhaust. While it gives out a slight growl, we were expecting crackles and pops, to be honest, and Porsche probably has reserved those sounds for the Turbo S, or as an upgrade in the future. We weren’t prepared to push the car to the limit on unknown mountain roads, but the safe areas where we did have a chance to give it a good push, it was still not enough to deter the Cayenne Turbo, the handling improved further by the four-wheel steering system. First introduced to the Porsche 911 last year, the system can tilt the rear wheels by up to 2.8 degrees.
Some Porsche purists continue to argue it is not a “real” Porsche. But at the end of the day, Porsche is a business and they are providing a product where the demand exists. We need to stop thinking about the 911s and 959s when talking about the Cayenne. They have built something extremely capable, and their latest offering just got better.