Car reviews - Porsche - Cayenne - Coupe
Sleeker styling comes with minimal practicality compromise, maintains and builds on Cayenne’s many strengths
Room for improvement
A lot of driver assist and safety tech is optional, driver’s seat set a little too high, a couple of very un-Porsche cabin rattles
Porsche broadens Cayenne range – and emotional appeal – with Coupe body style
12 Dec 2019
WITH the Cayenne Coupe, Porsche has finally developed a competitor to the BMW X6 that established the luxury coupe-SUV genre more than a decade ago.
More recently, Mercedes-Benz entered the fray with its GLE Coupe and the Q8 from Audi that, courtesy of Volkswagen Group membership, is mechanically related to the Porsche.
Priced from $128,000 plus on-road costs, the Cayenne Coupe is tantalisingly $800 less expensive than the equivalent Q8 and a modest $3000 more than a comparable X6.
You can also easily spend three times that on an optioned-up flagship variant. In fact, you’ll need to tick plenty of options boxes to match the standard equipment level of competitors – and avoid being rinsed when it comes to resale.
But the fact remains that few cars satisfy on so many levels as a carefully specified Cayenne. And the Coupe adds more than a frisson of extra drama and emotion.
First drive impressions
Porsche is expecting one in five Australian Cayenne customers to go for the new Coupe body style tested here, along with an uptick in overall Cayenne sales due the broader choice tempting people who might otherwise opt for established coupe-styled SUVs such as the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Audi Q8 and Range Rover Velar.
In terms of body panels, only the bonnet, front guards and front door skins are shared with a regular Cayenne. The windscreen is more steeply angled, resulting in a 20mm drop to the roof’s leading edge before it swoops sharply downward to form a coupe-like silhouette.
New rear doors and more prominent rear haunches accommodate an 18mm increase in rear track width and overall, the Coupe is 13mm longer than the corresponding wagon. The rear lip of its fastback-style tailgate integrates an adaptive spoiler that automatically extends up to 135mm when travelling faster than 90km/h or can be manually activated.
The coupe-SUV genre is polarising, but to our eyes the Cayenne is better-executed than most and lends the car a voluptuous look that gives it a clearer visual link to the iconic sportscars with which it shares a showroom.
Inside, a notable difference is the standard-fit fixed glass roof with electric blind that helps mitigate the loss of front headroom, while the rear seats are set 30mm lower beneath a ceiling that has been strategically scalloped above the two outboard occupants’ heads to both maximise headroom and provide them with a more hunkered-down, sporty feel.
For your 186cm-tall correspondent, rear headroom was adequate rather than ample in both the base and mid-spec S, with heaps of legroom. Interestingly, the plusher Alcantara ceiling of the Turbo seemed to rob a critical couple of millimetres and we felt our head brushing against it.
Porsche offers the Cayenne Coupe as a four-seater, with a no-cost upgrade to five seats. The latter is little more than replacement of a central storage tray with a cushion and installation of another seatbelt. Due to the humped nature of this central position, transmission tunnel intrusion and the lack of ceiling sculpting above, it is only really usable by shorter passengers.
Up front there is plenty of headroom, but we did find ourselves prodding at the seat adjustment button during the launch drive on country roads around Canberra, as for us the hip point of the lowest setting never felt quite right relative to the surrounding window frames.
Switching from squared-off wagon tailgate to a fastback design inevitably robs the Cayenne Coupe of boot space, which takes a 145-litre on-paper hit with the rear seats in place (170L with them down).
We suspect much of this loss is above the parcel shelf as all petrol variants still have more than 600L of capacity with the seats up and 1500L with them folded (the plug-in hybrid loses another 100L to battery packs).
Otherwise, the Cayenne Coupe poses few surprises. Porsche says the third-generation Cayenne that launched in Australia 18 months ago was developed with both body styles from the outset, and it shows.
Even at entry level, the Cayenne Coupe’s interior feels considerably more upmarket and special than a BMW or Audi. Most touch points are either quality leather, leatherette, upholstery or genuine metal and the majority of switchgear is satisfyingly tactile.
We’re unsure whether the short throw and high-pitched click of the electric window controls feels expensive or cheap. By comparison the cool, smooth metal and precise action of the manual paddle-shifters is an absolute delight.
The hi-tech five-dial instrument cluster and big central touchscreen are both impressive in their depth of features and intuitive enough to easily operate on the move. Touch-sensitive haptic controls cascading either side of the gear selector work well and are less bewildering than a sea of buttons, but prone to fingerprint smudges.
But we can’t help but wonder why Porsche doesn’t include more driver assist and active safety tech as standard. None of the cars tested were fitted with adaptive cruise control or lane-keep assist, for example, which respectively cost $3570 and $1220 extra on even a top-spec Cayenne Coupe that nudges $300,000 but is standard on many a sub-$30,000 small hatch or SUV these days.
As with the Cayenne wagon, ride quality is taut without descending into discomfort. Entry models with steel springs and adaptive dampers ride well, even on the Coupe’s bigger 20-inch wheels. Body control is exceptional, which also helps make twisty roads more comfortable for passengers.
We found the S on air suspension with 21-inch wheels rode worst and the Turbo, probably due to its extra weight and standard fitment of active sway bars (officially named Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), delivered the highest level of ride comfort despite rolling on huge 22-inch alloys.
Two stages of extra firmness and cornering control come with selecting Sport or Sport Plus driving modes on the rotary steering wheel-mounted controller, or are separately activated using a switch in the centre console. Sport Plus also lowers the ride height on models equipped with air suspension.
The 20-second boost button at this dial’s centre can be used for fun or just blasting past slower traffic on country roads, with the effect increasingly dramatic the more you spend on the four engine variants offered.
All models we drove at the launch were fitted with around $6000 worth of sports exhaust. The aural delights of this addition was never in question on the V8-powered Turbo, but we were surprised at how tuneful the biturbo V6 of the S was at higher revs with the two-mode exhaust set to loud.
Even the base 3.0-litre single-turbo V6, developing 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, is all the engine anyone would reasonably need from a performance standpoint.
The 324kW/550Nm 2.9-litre biturbo V6 of the S is both smoother at prosaic speeds and more characterfully zingy when extended, while the 404kW/770kW 4.0-litre biturbo V8 of the Turbo is just bonkers.
The headline 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds says all you need to know about this model, along with its bellowing tailpipes. It’s more than a bit profligate, and perhaps a bit obnoxious though.
No examples of the even faster but less environmentally offensive 500kW/900Nm Turbo S E-Hybrid were available on launch, so watch this space for a test of that variant.
As with the regular Cayenne, the Coupe can bludgeon its way along a twisty road faster and with more capability than a car of this size and weight ought to. We’re sure the 18mm wider rear track has a marginal advantage at the very limit, but we’d rather not go there on the public highway.
Grip and traction are never in doubt, and all models tested even felt surefooted and supple enough to retain a sense of calm on gravel roads. However, on two variants we drove these surfaces elicited cabin rattles that were decidedly un-Porsche.
With optional rear steering fitted and its clever suspension, the Turbo in particular is almost otherworldly in its athleticism (it also makes the Cayenne as manoeuvrable as a far smaller car at low speeds). But beware – the sensation of speed, or rather lack of, and its ability to quickly obtain license-losing velocities can be as perilous as it is addictive.
At all other times, progress is comfortable and quiet. If you tick all the right combination of option boxes – and there’s the rub – the Cayenne has a staggering breadth of abilities, being useful as a family suburban runabout or on long motorway trips yet way more satisfying on a back-road blast than the laws of physics suggest it has a right to be.
Porsche has maintained all of these qualities and packaged them into a sleeker shell with the Coupe, while apparently sacrificing little in terms of everyday practicality.
And the fact it exists has generated so little controversy that it is clear we’ve finally moved on from the shock, horror that Porsche is making SUVs.
Model release date: 1 December 2019
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