WITHOUT THE PORSCHE CAYENNE, there would be no Bentley Bentayga, Maserati Levante, Lamborghini Urus or Aston Martin DBX. While maybe the sports-luxe makers would have gotten there on their own, it was Porsche who took the first hit back in 2002, when it announced it would be making an SUV. Back then, the car critics were mad. Outraged. It was an abomination for one of the most beloved sports car marques on the planet, they cried.
But now, it’s almost comical to think about, because Cayenne was so popular it not only helped secure Porsche’s financial future, but it went on to become the marque’s most important seller—and one half of its perfect two-car solution (the other being the 911, naturally).
While Cayenne may be the super SUV blueprint to ‘if you build it, they will come’, in today’s landscape, it’s not the only luxury performance SUV in town. Yet Porsche is not one to pause progress to rest on its laurels. So for 2024, the third-generation Cayenne has undergone an aggressive mid-life overhaul that touches the powertrain, chassis, styling and gear.
The best bit? More luxury, more power.
Earlier this month, we were lucky enough to take several Cayenne and Cayenne Coupé variants (of which there are a total of 11 in Australia, including the E-Hybrid), on a Mornington Peninsula road trip, a two-hour drive out of Melbourne (if you take the meandering backroads as we did). The drive included the mighty Cayenne Turbo GT, which tops the range and currently holds the Nurburgring SUV lap record. The latest update now sees a 4.0-litre biturbo V8 replace the previous V6 in the Cayenne S, offering more power and torque and a 0-100km/h acceleration of 4.7 seconds. However, that same engine, tuned to perfection for the Cayenne Turbo GT, has given it a crazy 0-100km/h slingshot time of 3.3 seconds. For context, that is 0.1 seconds quicker than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Porsche’s most aggressive performance car. Crazy.
Our route took us down the highway and up towards the winding roads of Arthur’s Seat and down to Sorrento, allowing the Cayenne Turbo GT’s rear spoiler to deploy itself and the V8 to burble and growl. This is where Cayenne really hits its stride, and shows us that indeed, it has still got it. While it’s certainly not a wolf in sheep’s clothing by any means, it’s always a little bit of a shock to the brain when an SUV as large as Cayenne lurches forward and feels as stiff, yet nimble and highly composed as this car does.
“Performance is in our DNA For us performance doesn’t mean zero to 100,” offered Daniel Schmollinger, Managing Director and CEO of Porsche Cars Australia, when we brought up said composure and brilliance of Cayenne. “It doesn’t mean top speed only. For us, the yardstick is always the race track. And being fast on a racetrack and being benchmarked on a racetrack means all your components need to be perfectly in balance.”
It may be large, but indeed Cayenne has all the monikers of a sports car: fast acceleration, strong braking, and a composed and dynamic chassis. “So it’s the combination of all little things that only a real sports car manufacturer can take care of,” says Schmollinger. “That makes the difference.”
As part of the new update, Cayenne now gets the new Porsche Driver Experience, which is the brand’s new cockpit control layout and interior design, which allows for more room for storage and a more refined layout that throws to its analogue past as well. At the centre is a digital 12.6-inch instrument cluster, as well as a very cool optional 10.9-inch display for the passenger. This means the passenger can control some elements of the infotainment system (think: AUX control 2.0) but can also tune into performance and driving data.
The updates list goes on and on, and extends to new lighting, air quality and antipollution filters, an updated suspension system for more performance in all terrain (and a sharper and more noticeable difference between the driving modes), inductive charging for your smartphone and new Active Parking Support equipment with 3D surround view and a more refined cockpit and infotainment system—including a more interactive screen scenario one that stretches across the passenger side and displays more performance and driving data (and acts as an AUX2.0). Porsche has also extended the colour and personalisation options, including really elegant new interior leather options.
In short: it’s a lot. But as we found out, amid a long road trip, these small updates make a huge difference when you’re spending a lot of time in the car. What’s more, this new update is a seriously aggressive move against its rivals and once again proves why Porsche Cayenne is the Grand Daddy and an icon of high-performance SUVs, and remains, to some extent, untouchable.