Porsche has rejuvenated the third generation version of its large luxury Cayenne SUV. The enhanced styling represents a mere gradual evolution. But the engineering changes and the improvements to cabin design are genuinely far-reaching. If you're buying in this segment, you have to consider this model.
The 911 sportscar may be the model Porsche is known for but it's the Cayenne large luxury SUV that has established the company in his modern era. And made it one of the world's most successful car manufacturers. This model line dates back to 2002, with a second generation 'E2' design arriving in 2010 and this current MK3 'E3' version launched back in 2017. Porsche wants this third generation design to remain on sale for most of the rest of this decade (alongside the completely different all-electric Cayenne due in 2025). For the combustion-powered 'E3' design, that's meant the need for what the brand describes as one of the most extensive product upgrades in its history. The Cayenne is still Porsche's best seller, with over 1.25 million examples of this model sold this century, so this upgrade was crucial for the brand and is extremely far-reaching, with significant engineering changes and a completely fresh feel for the cabin. As before, there are both standard SUV and Coupe body styles. Let's take a closer look.
Lots is new with this updated model. The entry-level Cayenne's previous 2.9-litre V6 gets replaced by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 generating 353PS. That engine also forms the basis for two Plug-in Hybrid models, where it's boosted by an electric motor powered by a 25.9kWh battery that's larger than the unit fitted previously. The Cayenne E-Hybrid puts out 470PS, while the alternative Cayenne S E-Hybrid puts out 519PS: both offer around 46 miles of EV driving range. On to the V8 models. The conventional Cayenne S, which previously used a V6, now adopts the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 unit familiar from Porsche's Panamera and the Lamborghini Urus. With the Cayenne S, this puts out 474PS, powering the car to 62mph in just 4.8s en route to a top speed of 167mph. That same V8 is also used in the flagship Plug-in Hybrid model, the Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid, which puts out 739PS with 950Nm of torque. It's the most powerful Cayenne of all time, making 62mph in 3.7s en route to 183mph. Across the range, the engineering changes here aren't just about extra power. Special two-valve shock absorbers have been developed to work in conjunction with the (optional) two-chamber air suspension system. These have separate compression and rebound stages to improve cornering agility, reduce roll and pitch and enhance ride comfort at urban speeds. This improved Cayenne also gets bigger tyres which can run at lower pressure, enhancing grip. As a result, the handling of this Porsche even more emphatically sets the class standard. As previously, you can also add an active anti-roll system and rear-wheel steering, but some enthusiasts might feel that these features detract a little from the purity of the driving experience. Otherwise, things are much as before. So there's 4WD of course and a ZF eight-speed auto gearbox. It's also worth mentioning that this Cayenne is just as happy as its predecessor off the beaten track. A spare set of off-road wheels and tyres might prevent some costly refurbishment work to the standard alloys though.
Porsche hasn't been brave enough here to fundamentally alter the way this Cayenne looks, but it has made its styling a bit sleeker and more chiselled in both the SUV and SUV Coupe body styles. Brand loyalists will recognise this updated model by its resculpted bonnet and swollen wings - and perhaps also by new-look matrix LED headlights which feature over 32,000 pixels per cluster. These can apparently offer over 1,000 brightness variations to handle different driving situations anfd are upgradeable to HD status on request. In profile, you'll notice the smarter wheel designs, varying in size from 20 to 22-inches. And at the rear, there's a restyled 'three-dimensional' light bar and a restyled apron with a low-mounted numberplate. The key changes with this revised design though, lie inside up front. The redesigned dashboard is dominated by a full-width digital panel incorporating up to three screens; a 12.3-inch central infotainment monitor, a 12.6-inch 'free-standing' curved instrument cluster for the driver and an optional 10.9-inch touchscreen ahead of the front seat passenger. Porsche says that this extra passenger screen can 'take the strain off the driver' by allowing someone else to set navigation destinations or media settings. The driver meanwhile, will have his or her eyes full of all the functions on the redesigned instrument display, which offers up to seven different views, including a five-dial '911'-style layout. Away from screens, Porsche has redesigned the steering wheel, the centre console and the dash-mounted gear selector, borrowing from themes familiar from the Taycan EV. Otherwise, things are much as before. In the back, a low-set seating position preserves headroom, but to be frank, leg room isn't very much better than you get in the supposedly much smaller Macan model. The boot though, is a useful size, 772-litres in the conventional version of the SUV body style (or 627-litres in the Hybrid variant). With the Coupe body shape, the figures are 592-litres - or 434-litres for the Hybrid.
Prices open at around £70,500 for the standard 3.0 V6 petrol Cayenne, and it's then quite a big step up to the E-Hybrid (around £80,000) and the more powerful Cayenne S (which is pitched at just under £85,000). The Cayenne S E-Hybrid is around £87,000, while the Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid is pitched right up at around £130,000. Across the range, you'll need a premium of around £3,000 for the alternative Coupe body style. Either way, these figures are still pretty competitive with those being asked for nicer versions of large luxury SUVs like the BMW X5, the Mercedes GLE and the Range Rover Sport. It's also hard to argue with the amount of kit the car gets as standard. There's a full leather interior, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear ParkAssist, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic dimming rear view mirrors, Porsche Communication Management with touch-screen satellite navigation and audio controls, cruise control and a three year warranty. That's on top of a Porsche Vehicle Tracking System (VTS). There's also a clever cruise control system that takes into account speed limits, bends and inclines. Key options for this improved model include two-chamber air suspension, the HD headlamp upgrade and the new front passenger-side 10.9-inch touchscreen.
If you want a really efficient Cayenne, you'll need to wait for the full-electric version. But let's look at what we have in the combustion range. The big ticket item on the Cayenne has long been depreciation, but then that's not an issue exclusive to Porsche. Show us one large SUV that retains its value well. The pace of change has been dizzying in this sector and older SUVs date rapidly due to advances in engine efficiency. Look at the prices or early petrol-engined Cayennes for evidence of this. Porsche has made big strides in improving fuel economy and driving down emissions with this model - principally with its Plug-in hybrid technology. Expect a CO2 figure from the E-Hybrid variant of just 33g/km (which means an 8% BiK tax rate); and up to 188.3mpg on the combined cycle, with an EV range of up to 46 miles. When connected to an industrial outlet, the batteries can be charged within around two and a half hours via the integrated on-board charger and the standard Porsche Universal Charger (AC) and it can be charged in less than four hours when connected to a conventional household electrical outlet. As for the mainstream versions, well the base 3.0-litre V6 Cayenne manages up to 26.2mpg on the combined cycle and up to 246g/km of CO2 (with variance depending on spec and wheel size). For the twin turbo V8 Cayenne S, the figures are up to 22.8mpg and up to 282g/km. We would imagine 'real world' consumption on the S variant though, is likely to be a good deal scarier.
The Cayenne remains a cutting-edge benchmark in the luxury SUV segment, especially in this updated form. The technology on offer here is awesome but if you like your driving, we're not sure that loading this car up with rear wheel steering, air suspension and big wheels (as many owners will) is the best way towards showcasing its continuing class-leading status as the ultimate driving machine in the large part of the luxury SUV sector. However you specify this car though, there's still nothing else quite like it in this class. Certainly it took the German brand some time to get this model right: early Cayennes were rightly forgettable. But this faster, greener and better looking version of the MK3 design is hugely impressive, in many ways the most astonishing car of its kind we've yet seen.