GRAZ, Austria – It doesn’t feel that long ago that the introduction of the original Cayenne had Porsche purists crying blasphemy. A sports car company building an SUV? The horror! Hindsight shows that not only did the SUV save the company during a tumultuous time, it also allowed revenue to be directed towards the R&D of the brand’s growing roster of sports cars, making them lighter, faster, more efficient, and basically better all-round. So how could you be mad at that?
A performance SUV by definition is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or virtual reality, but here in 2019 it seems every manufacturer is rolling out a rapidly increasing number of SUVs varying in size, price, and potency to suit the needs and wants of seemingly every consumer. The market is becoming crowded; within the luxury performance coupe segment alone there is the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Audi Q8. And those are just the ones from Germany.
Now in its third generation, the Cayenne family gets another sibling added into the mix. Upon preliminary introduction, the Cayenne Coupe offers similar technical specifications of its non-coupe counterpart but with less cargo capacity for more money. So why not just buy a Macan and call it a day? The focus of the Cayenne derivative’s development was primarily in design, offering sleeker proportions than its sibling, but dig deeper and there’s more to the story than just a sloped rear roofline. The Coupe gets unique styling attributes and a longer list of standard equipment, but the differences don’t end there.
Unlike the ungainly and strangely proportioned Panamera, the Cayenne Coupe is visually appealing from all angles. The chassis is 18 mm wider and the roof has been lowered 20 mm, flattening the A-pillar to provide a slightly shallower windshield angle. The most obvious difference is the raked rear hatch. These revised proportions were enough to require newly designed doors. A new fixed roof spoiler adds a differentiated silhouette and can be complimented with an adaptive spoiler. Seamlessly integrated into the rear hatch, it extends by 135 mm above 90 km/h for added downforce.
The standard roof is one piece of panoramic glass covering the entire ceiling, while a contoured carbon-fibre roof is available as part of a sport package. More on that later.
One could be forgiven for assuming that the passenger seating proportions would be compromised, but the rear seats have been lowered 30 mm to compensate the new profile. At six feet tall, I still had plenty of headroom to spare. Rear seat configurations include a three-seat bench or two passenger sport seats with added bolstering befitting of a sports coupe.
We were recently given the opportunity to sample three versions of the new for 2020 Cayenne Coupe ranging from the “entry-level” model, to the mid-range S, and lineup-topping Turbo. Canadian manufacturer suggested retail pricing for each vehicle tested including optional equipment and packaging were $133,250, $165,500, and an eye-watering $187,250 respectively. If you want to play, you’ve got to pay.
Sliding behind the steering wheel, the interior is unmistakably Porsche and will be familiar to existing Cayenne owners, aside from a convenient drive mode selector on the steering wheel that lets the driver easily switch between Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual settings. Each step up the trim ladder results in tangible enhancements – finer materials, a longer options list, and added performance. The “base” model gets an Audi-sourced turbocharged 3.0L good for 335 hp. Smooth and offering more than enough power for those who will opt for the entry-level, it won’t set the world alight. The slightly heavier (by 10 kg) Cayenne S gets a V6 with slightly less displacement but an additional turbo, raising its output to 434 hp.
Most journalists on our program lauded the S as the clear winner of the group for finding a sweet spot. The base too docile and the Turbo too heavy and expensive, they believed that the lack in added power was negated by a lighter front end lending itself to more agile handling and indeed a more palatable price tag. I on the other hand am of the belief that there is rarely such a thing as too much power and thus appreciated the top-dog Turbo’s twin-turbocharged 4.0L V8 churning out 541 hp. It didn’t feel cumbersome (for an SUV) and sounded fantastic. Granted, I’m also not the one footing the bill.
The 2,050 kg S will hustle from naught to 100 km/h in 5 seconds while the 2,200 kg Turbo will do so in a mere 3.9. All three engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Turbo S models are known to arrive towards the end of a model’s cycle before being refreshed, so the chassis may see even more power down the line.
All three models were quiet and compliant, offering distinct and perceptible variances from the others. Steering is predictable and precise with good feedback, and handling was well balanced between offering visceral feedback and comfort. Driven back to back on the same roads in similarly rainy conditions, the brief routes provided insight into each model’s inherent ability to dance the ever-so-fine line of luxury and keenly developed driving dynamics in a sliding scale of indulgence and potency. Depending on the drive mode chosen and gear selected, the drive can be serene or spirited. It felt the least ungainly of any SUV I’ve driven to date, which is high praise from someone who doesn’t like SUVs.
Fortunately, the roads were smooth and serpentine, allowing for the opportunity to evaluate handling and suspension, which were, exemplary, however the routes didn’t offer the chance to experience highway driving. Given that Austria’s law enforcement officials are shockingly vigilant and intolerant when it comes to speeding, it’s probably for the best that we weren’t let loose on wide open roads to stretch their legs.
Porsche models are well known for being infinitely customizable, as is the case with the Cayenne Coupe. Of particular interest to those looking for a performance SUV is the lightweight sport package that includes the aforementioned carbon-fibre roof, which reduces weight by a 21 kg over the single-pane panoramic offering that comes standard. The package also 22-inch wheels, carbon and Alcantara accents throughout, and retro-inspired checked fabric seating inserts while removing some sound deadening material to save weight. A sports exhaust system is included on the Turbo only.
With everybody and their mother buying an SUV these days, it’s rare for a company not to offer multiple options for consumers to choose from, so why not Porsche? Contrary to expectations, the Cayenne Coupe is a unique and welcome offering to the already crowded but increasingly popular segment. The level of spiciness you choose is up to you, and your pocketbook.