Car reviews - Porsche - Cayenne
V8 engine returns to refreshed Cayenne S to make the mid-grade model great again.
6 Dec 2023
By PHILIP LORD
BEYOND Melbourne’s freeway network and beginning a dive into the bust of the Mornington Peninsula in this, the latest Porsche Cayenne, I’d begun to wonder if the company had invested in a little sly product placement. I don’t think they did, but lost count of just-superseded Cayennes in the traffic, at about eight. They seemed to be everywhere.
The new Cayenne is of course, on the face of it, not quite so new; it is a refresh of architecture that began pounding the tarmac in 2017. The ‘refresh’ though, runs deep.
Subtle changes have occurred outside: front end, rear apron, headlights, bonnet, guards and tailgate are new or redesigned, while inside there’s a reconfigured digital dash with elements shared with new Taycan. The dash is now a fully digital, free-standing, 12.6-inch curved display with customisable cluster views.
Then there’s a whole lot more that’s occurred under the skin, starting with the return of the V8 engine in Cayenne S, missing since 2014. It has returned with more than just a nice V8 burble. Power is up 25kW to 349kW at 6000rpm and an extra 50Nm is now available, with 600Nm at between 2000 and 5000rpm.
The eight-speed automatic remains but Porsche says it has been ‘revamped’.
Brake rotors are now 410mm front and 358mm rear, up 20mm and 28mm respectively.
Standard equipment in the $179,500 Cayenne S SUV (there is also a 4-seater Coupe model) is extensive. Highlights include a panoramic roof, comfort access, privacy glass, adaptive air suspension, park assist functions, head-up display, Bose surround sound audio, adaptive cruise control with emergency assist and lane keep assist and a whole lot more.
The Cayenne S we drove was fitted with 21 options totalling $54,280, making for a total price of $233,780 (plus on-road costs). Too long to list here, the highlights included two-tone leather interior ($8170), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($6870), 21-inch RS Spyder Design wheels in high-glass black and tinted HD-Matrix LED headlights.
Warranty is three years/unlimited, with servicing due at 12 month or 15,000km intervals.
On start-up there’s nothing quite like the sound of a V8 coming to life, and Porsche like many recent (mostly German) brands make sure that there’s plenty of theatre about it. Nobody standing near who knows anything at all about cars will mistake the cold start crackle for anything but a high-performance V8.
Yet beyond the start-up sequence the engine settles into a discreet burble; selecting the rocker gearlever on the left of the instrument cluster to ‘D’ it was then just a matter of nosing the Cayenne out into the traffic, using the signature shouldered guards (think traditional 911) to serve as useful marker points to um, not mark the paint. Side mirrors are large, the vision to the sides (when making a sharp 90-degree turn, for example) is better than many SUVs for gaining clarity about what you’re just about to run over and vision to the rear is mostly... awful, as it is with just about all new vehicles. There’s the rear camera view to guide you though, of course.
At first blush on the freeway, with traffic ranging from log-jammed to then almost none at all, the Cayenne S settled into a smooth, easy travelling partner. The V8 is quiet, the transmission smooth, the brakes progressive. The only complaint is that the engine-stop feature is a bit slow to restart the engine; the work-around is to anticipate moving on by slightly lifting off the brake pedal, which gets the engine fired up, nothing unusual there.
Seats are supportive, the new instruments are easy to read, and luckily Porsche hasn’t followed the trend of displaying supporting information in fonts of an almost unreadable size to fit everything on there. While I did fumble around trying to find different instrument views, in the main the menus just simply worked with minimal distraction. Even the touch controls in the centre for climate control were not as difficult to find or adjust while driving as I imagined they would be.
It’s hard to find fault with the interior; it is very well put together with materials of seemingly better quality than some competitors. The only criticism, if you can call it that, was the inconsistency of grain in material; from none at all in the leather on the seats to a bit of a grained surface on the plastic used on, for example, the rear seat hinges. But even these had a rubberised coating, instead of old-fashioned, hard povo plastic. Nice result.
Rear occupant space is ample while the boot is easy to get to and offers an easy to load squared off 772-litre space. The spare is under the boot floor, an inflatable space-saver.
With a few engaging twisting roads to play with, the Cayenne S comes alive, especially in Sport or Sport + modes. It is refreshing to drive a new vehicle, especially a large SUV, where the steering responds so well to inputs. Want to adjust your line mid-corner to avoid a rather nasty pothole? No problem, the Cayenne will thread its way exactly as you wish, within reason.
While the rest to 100km/h claimed figure is 5.0sec, it feels a bit slower than that punting this two tonnes-plus SUV up a steep climb, but it’s still not leaving you wanting for a whole lot more (there’s always the slightly insane Cayenne Turbo GT for that) and elsewhere, it feels suitably fast.
With the all wheel-drive grip, excellent air suspension (that remains firm but somehow compliant with it) there’s much to like about this set-up. Fuel consumption on an easy mostly highway run averaged 9.5L/100km, not bad when you consider the claimed average consumption is 12.4L/100km.
Even though the base Cayenne V6 is a good if not startling entree to Porsche SUV ownership and the bonkers Turbo GT a lovely, theatric last-gasp take on the very best of internal combustion performance, the sweet spot is certainly the Cayenne S V8. It offers a generous dose of the Porsche experience in terms of its performance and handling with all the practicality of a large SUV thrown in.
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