For more than 20 years, the Cayenne has played a crucial role in the Porsche lineup.
While first met with disdain by so-called purists who decried the brand’s move from producing strictly sports cars to incorporating an SUV, members of the buying public made their opinions known through their pocketbooks. In fact, Porsche has sold more than 1.2 million units globally since the Cayenne launched in 2002, with the proceeds helping to ensure the brand can keep building the sensational sports cars those diehard fans love so dearly.
With something that could be classified as more than a mild refresh, the 2024 Porsche Cayenne is out to ensure this popular sport utility stays that way for years to come.
Surprise! A Similar Exterior
This third-generation Cayenne launched in 2017, which means it was about due for its mid-cycle refresh. In typical Porsche fashion, the styling has been an evolutionary affair from the start, with nearly all of the key elements of the original model still around today. Prominent headlights reside high on the Cayenne’s face, flanking a sloping, 911-style hood that leads into a trio of expansive grille openings. Even keen-eyed enthusiasts will need to carefully study the 2024 Cayenne to discern the changes.
Most notably, the grille opening and headlights are more squared-off than before, echoing the design cues from the latest 992-generation of the 911. The full-width tail light bar is more prominent this time, and likewise more closely resembles the brand’s halo sports car. Aside from that, the profile and dimensions remain essentially the same, with the SUV and sportback “coupe” versions each portraying a muscular, jacked-up wagon look.
There are eight new wheel designs, too, but it’s the headlights that stand out the most. Beyond their new shape, the optional HD-Matrix LED units offer some of the most advanced lighting technology around. Each headlight houses 32,000 pixels within a series of elements designed to offer not only exceptional illumination, but seriously smart lighting that’s both far-reaching and broad in its spread. Better still, the pixel elements react instantly to varying road conditions, creating a wide carpet of light while keeping it out of the eyes of other drivers and drawing attention to potential hazards like cyclists or pedestrians.
Diversity in Drivetrains
Porsche has also done an impressive job of expanding the Cayenne’s appeal through the breadth of drivetrain offerings over the years, and the updated version continues that theme with drivetrain offerings that emphasize efficiency and performance.
The base Cayenne models carry over with a twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 delivering 348 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, the Cayenne E-Hybrid has had both its performance and efficiency improved this time. The V6’s 340 hp is augmented by a new 25.9-kWh battery that juices an updated electric motor to the tune of 174 hp. Combined, the output is 463 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, ensuring the hybrid’s efficiency isn’t at the expense of performance. The sprint from a standing start to 100 km/h is claimed to be 4.9 seconds, and yet this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) has about 30 per cent more electric-only range than the 50 km of its predecessor.
Even bigger news is found under the hood of the Cayenne S, which has had its 2.9L twin-turbo V6 replaced by a 4.0L V8 that also employs a pair of turbochargers. The results are 468 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque – increases of 34 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque. They also bring it very close to last year’s GTS models that featured a similar V8, although now the turbos are single-scroll units and the cylinder deactivation has been eliminated in favour of a redesigned head that improves efficiency.
While the turbo V6 in the old Cayenne S was no slouch, the new machine is expected to be quicker – although that’s not really the point. The V8 offers a smooth, deep burble, and a feel of power and luxury that was missing from the smaller engine. Finally, the range-topping Cayenne Turbo GT returns in its SUV-coupe format, with an output bump to 650 hp from its overachieving twin turbo V8.
A Smoother Cruiser
Setting out from west Los Angeles, a mix of grinding urban traffic, open stretches of freeway, and some scenic canyon roads that showcased the Cayenne’s handling prowess. The 2024 Cayenne S tested here featured an updated adaptive air suspension system, now with a two-chamber setup that improves the SUV’s comfort and handling performance across the spectrum. Not only is body roll significantly mitigated, but road vibration and bumps are smoothed out, too. Despite the monstrous 22-inch wheels, the Cayenne’s ride was wonderfully compliant – although in fairness, California’s roads are in very good shape compared to our frost-heaved Canadian pavement.
When hustling the Cayenne S along twisty canyon roads, it was an unflappable companion, gripping and going wherever it was pointed, even when overzealous throttle inputs were applied. It’s taller, heavier, and larger than a 911, of course, so you’ll never feel like you’re driving a proper sports car; but for an SUV, it’s astonishing just how enjoyable it can be to drive at speed.
For those demanding even greater hustle, the North America-only Turbo GT’s acceleration is utterly dizzying. Perfectly content to trundle along at a relaxed pace, it becomes a snarling monster with only moderate provocation. The sound of its V8 in anger is thunderous, and the forward thrust threatens to flatten your rib cage into the seatback in a sensation that’s equal parts exhilarating and frightening.
While the Turbo GT’s astonishingly easy performance can make a driver giddy, an SUV that fast is absurd overkill, plus its coupe format offers less practicality than the traditional SUV body style. The Cayenne S is certainly the sweet-spot in the lineup, offering as much swiftness as anyone rightly needs, plus greater usefulness as a utility machine, and with a starting pricing that’s roughly half the Turbo GT’s.
Porsche has also reworked the Cayenne’s interior. There are more colour and material choices available, and the door panels and dashboard each receive some resculpting. The biggest change is the integration of multiple glass panels from the all-electric Porsche Taycan. The initial reaction is to groan about yet another premium interior taken over by the touchscreen revolution, but admittedly, this system works really well.
The driver faces a 12.6-inch curved gauge display that can be configured to present all sorts of different information. The primary touchscreen on the central dash spans 12.3 inches and offers bright, crisp graphics and quick responses to inputs. The lower centre console now gets its own touchscreen to manipulate the climate controls, although physical toggle switches remain for basic controls like temperature and fan speed adjustments – and that’s not the case in the Taycan. The implementation of this lower screen required the relocation of the gear selector to a space higher up on the dash beside the main touchscreen.
In front of the passenger is yet another (optional) touchscreen that allows engaged companions to keep tabs on the driver’s speed, adjust audio settings, and monitor the map. It all makes for a lot of glass real estate that quickly collects smudges and fingerprints, but it’s an easy system to live with, unlike some hopelessly convoluted multi-screen setups out there today.
As it has been for decades, the 2024 Porsche Cayenne remains an overachiever on the automotive landscape. The combination of all-condition capability with mind-bending performance is hard to fathom without experiencing it. Porsche’s stellar build-quality and luxury finishes make the Cayenne a coddling place for driver and passengers to spend time, but it comes at a considerable cost. The entry-point Cayenne starts at $89,800, with the E-Hybrid ringing in at a starting point of $104,800. The Cayenne S, at $107,500 is the sweet spot for driving engagement and practicality, while the Turbo GT’s $218,300 starting point is eye-watering.
Porsche allows considerable customization for its models, but this also means that those entry-point prices can rise dramatically. A fully electric version of the Cayenne has also been confirmed and should be landing within the next two years.
Porsche has listened to its customers and taken the already excellent Cayenne lineup and made it palpably better with improved driving dynamics, luxury, and technology. Dealers are now taking orders, with models expected to start arriving this summer.