Porsche Cayenne: about as good an SUV as you can get

By Nick Hodgson

“I’m feeling cold”. Barely a moment later a response comes seemingly out of thin air, “the temperature will increase in a minute”. No I’m not talking to Siri, that was in actual fact from the new Porsche Cayenne. It’s hard to believe, but we’re now onto the 3rd generation of Porsche Cayenne. Originally launched back in 2003, the Cayenne has quickly become a staple of the Porsche diet and has arguably catapulted the success of Porsche further than they ever could have dreamed.

The new Cayenne has strong competition however. The SUV market has been flooded since 2003 and to stay afloat you’ve got to be offering something truly special to stay ahead. Sticking to formula, the new generation of Porsche has been launched with the Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo and now a hybrid offering too. Four new models and for the first time in SA all but the hybrid were available for us to sink our teeth into. Porsche as we all know are the kings of evolution, building on what’s come before and improving in lots of subtle ways that more often than not add up to a whole lot.

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Unsurprisingly then the same philosophy has been applied to the new Cayenne and has had a plethora of small improvements made to bring it bang up to date and in line with the quality that the rest of the range exhibits. Newly designed and reworked air suspension, rear wheel steering, cruise control as standard and 4 USB ports are just a smattering of rather excellent additions. Then there’s the new airbrake, a first for any SUV, the benefits of which depend entirely on if you’re a “every little helps” type of person or not. As you drive along the angle of attack changes depending on your speed, the idea of course being to optimise rear traction. Under hard braking it’ll flip up and provide as much drag as possible. Sounds good in theory, however in practice it only gives you a 2m advantage when coming from 250kph to a standstill. Again, the advantages of that all depends on if you believe every little bit helps or not.

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Behind the wheel each vehicle broadly handles the same. That is to say brilliantly. I’m not an SUV man, but even I have to admit the Porsche engineers have done a wonderful job at keeping the Cayenne flat, level and confident through the corners, while at the same time giving the passengers a supple and comfortable ride. It’s truly one of the most exceptionally competent SUV’s out there on the road and a vehicle that you can quite comfortably eat up the miles without even noticing it. The big difference really comes in with the power on tap. Bottom of the range basic Cayenne has 250kw and 450Nm of torque, neither a stat to be sniffed at. Give her the beans and you’re flying along in no time. However, that being said the Cayenne Turbo does a rather good job of dwarfing the standard Cayenne, coming in at a whopping 404kw and 770Nm. Believe me that difference shows on the road and driven back to back it makes the standard Cayenne feel almost inadequate. Crazy considering just how good the “baby” in the range is.

At the start of the day it was abundantly clear that the third generation of Porsche Cayenne would be looking to improve the breed through evolution, what with 65kg saving of weight, bigger cabin space, higher power output and so forth. I was worried that most of this was all going to be marketing bumf to try push on us a largely unchanged vehicle, branded as new. I’m extremely thankful to report however that this is far from the case. The Porsche Cayenne really spearheaded the popularity trend towards luxury SUVs over a decade ago now and today in 2018 they’ve shown that there’s no sign of slowing down. I’d hesitate to call the new Cayenne a revelation, but if you’re looking for the very best in the SUV market, it’s rather difficult to do much better than this.