I was at dinner with some fellow enthusiasts last week, and the discussion turned to auto brands that execute all of their products pretty well. There was admiration for Genesis’ excellent luxury cars and EVs. One person placed a bet on a Volvo dark horse, citing gorgeous cabin materials and a nice driving experience. Even Chevy got a name-drop, thanks to the Corvette Z06 and Silverado ZR2 at one end and the cheap and cheerful Trax at the other.
In my mind, though, the real blue chip is Porsche. Everything from the automaker offers a blend of interior polish, exacting engineering, and sporting dynamics that make P-cars enjoyable to own and drive. That’s even true of the company’s “family cars,” like the freshly updated 2024 Cayenne, which goes on sale in the summer of 2023. Though still a third-gen offering, the new Cayenne’s revised powertrains, new infotainment experience, and tweaked styling keep it relevant and engaging. Prices are up, natch, but it’s not hard to understand why folks with the coin usually shop at Porsche dealers.
A vehicle’s ratings are relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.
|Quick Stats||2024 Porsche Cayenne S Coupe|
|Engine:||Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-Liter V8|
|Output:||468 Horsepower / 442 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH:||4.4 Seconds|
|On-Sale Date:||Summer 2023|
|Where To Shop:||Porsche.com|
Exterior differences between the 2023 model and its replacement are slight, as is often the case with Porsche. The tweaked front fascia incorporates a power-dome hood and slightly higher fenders, and the front bumper air intakes and headlights have been redesigned to emphasize the car’s width. Thin, full-width LED strips comprise the taillights, which have an exposed, three-dimensional appearance for more visual interest, and the regular 2024 Cayenne moves the license plate from the hatch to a reshaped rear bumper – the coupe had it there all along.
The slightly more modern (but still familiar) design ethos carries over into the cabin design. The Cayenne’s interior gets some Taycan-inspired styling, headlined by a hoodless 12.6-inch curved digital instrument cluster. And as on the EV, a toggle to the right of the steering wheel now handles gear selection, making space in the center console for a cooled phone compartment with wireless charging. The dash gets a standard 12.3-inch center touchscreen, as well as an optional 10.9-inch passenger display that can stream video; a lateral filter keeps the driver from being tempted to watch TV instead of the road.
Personally, I don’t love the freestanding, minimalist gauge display as much as I would a more traditional hooded dash, and I may never forgive Porsche for turning the satisfying, built-in key fob on the left of the steering wheel into a boring pushbutton. But otherwise, the new Cayenne is just as appealing as its predecessor, with responsive infotainment software joining excellent cabin materials even in base form – though my tester’s full leather interior was all the more posh.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
All that’s old is new again, as Porsche has decided to give the mid-level Cayenne S a little upgrade courtesy of a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that makes 468 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. That’s up 34 hp and 37 lb-ft only over the previous, V6-powered Cayenne S, and it’s also a bit more power than the 453-hp 2023 GTS that used a different tune of the same engine.
Speaking of which, the GTS, Turbo, and Turbo S E-Hybrid have been discontinued for now, though I’d be shocked if the hotter Cayennes didn’t make a comeback within a few months. If you just can’t wait, Porsche still offers the Cayenne Turbo GT, and its twin-turbo V8 now makes a healthy 650 hp, up 19 from last year. At the other end of the spectrum is the base Cayenne, whose tweaked single-turbo 3.0-liter V6 makes 348 hp and 368 lb-ft, up a respective 13 and 36 from 2023. That engine also shows up in the plug-in Cayenne E-Hybrid, which gets a 174-hp electric motor for a total of 463 ponies and 479 torques.
I spent most of my time driving a 2024 Cayenne S Coupe, and at the turn of the key – grrr, push of the button – the engine comes to life with a muted, cammy grumble I wasn’t expecting from a Porsche. Some credit likely goes to my tester’s $3,220 sports exhaust system, but it’s clear that the new V8 gives even volume models of the SUV some snap-crackle-pop. A quick stint in the V6-powered E-Hybrid with the same exhaust option proved that bending eight cylinders in half always sounds better than six – the latter sounds fine, but the former is a thrill.
Accompanying that music on all Cayennes is the newly standard Porsche Active Suspension Management system, bundling adaptive dampers with steel springs at no cost or an optional two-chamber air suspension for $2,390. My tester rode on air, and Porsche says the system offers a softer ride in Comfort mode and sharper handling in Sport and Sport Plus, compared to both the standard steel suspension or last year’s three-chamber setup.
I’d love to have driven the base suspenders for comparison, but the air springs were commendably smooth on bad pavement, giving the Cayenne S an even-keeled, planted demeanor when flying down the highway (not to mention some real off-road chops).
Every Day Is A Winding Road
The dual-purpose suspension is also a delight when it’s time to aim away from the express lanes, as I did on Highway 150 between Santa Barbara and Ojai. One of Southern California’s lesser-known driving roads, Highway 150 is a challenging mix of tight, first-gear hairpins and expansive full-throttle sweepers, rising 1,100 feet from Route 101 and then falling 400 in Ojai. The hilly route presented little challenge to the V8-powered Cayenne, which exploded out of corners thanks to a razor-sharp throttle in its most aggressive setting. Porsche quotes a 4.4-second sprint to 60 miles per hour; I’d be surprised if it isn’t faster.
The Sport Plus mode also ensured the transmission stayed alert and ready to downshift, either at the prompting of the accelerator or during hard braking for a corner. These automated gear changes were seemingly telepathic, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still fun to use the wheel-mounted paddle shifters at every opportunity. Convincing the car to hand over complete manual control was a bit of a challenge – you have to press down on the dash-mounted gear selector through two stiff detents, then hold for a longer time than I expected. But do so and the Cayenne’s eight-speed transmission obeys all but your most sadistic whims.
Highway 150’s bobbing, broken pavement was a great test for the Cayenne S Coupe, which has a firm ride in Sport Plus but still offers just enough compliance to make it usable on a spirited drive. My well-equipped S boasted $3,590 worth of Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), which uses active sway bars to eliminate roll in exchange for its stiff cost of entry. My more Luddite tendencies think the air suspension would do just fine on its own, but then again, I grinned like an idiot the whole time I was behind the wheel of that loaded tester.
Porsche figured out long ago how to make electromechanical steering feel natural, giving the Cayenne a firm, communicative tiller that made it easier for me to push hard through a corner and trust the front wheels to let me know if I was approaching the limit. And even though the limit is high, Porsche’s flagship SUV is also perfectly happy zipping around at 5/10ths, a pace that allowed my co-driver and I to take in the lush jungle greenery around Lake Casitas while also enjoying the Cayenne’s handling verve. It’s that balance that makes every drive in a Porsche feel special – your hair doesn’t have to be on fire to have fun.
Green Landscape, Green Porsche
After several brilliant miles in the Cayenne S Coupe, I took a turn in the conventional-roofline Cayenne E-Hybrid. Thanks to a larger 25.9-kilowatt-hour battery (up from 17.9), the new E-Hybrid should achieve at least 25 or 30 miles of all-electric driving when it’s rated by the EPA (and remember, an all-electric Cayenne is on the way). A faster 11.0-kilowatt onboard charger juices the E-Hybrid in 2.5 hours on a household 240-volt outlet, less time than last year in spite of the larger battery.
The E-Hybrid I drove was about 400 pounds heavier than the coupeified S, which made it a bit less thrilling. It still benefits from the same preternatural steering as its siblings, and the electrified model handles its weight well enough to be plenty of fun when hustling. But somehow, the 4,941-pound Cayenne S Coupe hid its weight on these roads, while the 5,348-pound E-Hybrid felt every ounce its weight.
As marvy as the Cayenne is, it does come with one big drawback.
The Cayenne E-Hybrid’s gas engine awakes from its slumber with a little shaking, but otherwise, the powertrain integration between the two energy sources is smooth and poised. And the E-Hybrid is an excellent highway companion, with even more room than the rakish coupe. If I planned on charging my Porsche each night, I would be mighty tempted by a nicely equipped E-Hybrid for daily duties – at least until my neighbor cold-started his V8-powered S on Saturday morning to incite my envy.
As marvy as the Cayenne is, it does come with one big drawback. Prices are up across the board, with the base model rising $7,000 to $80,850 including destination. The S is $97,350, a $4,200 increase from 2023, and coupe versions of any Cayenne are between $4,000 and $6,700 more expensive than their counterparts. Admittedly, the standard adaptive dampers and longer list of luxury features blunt that price hike – Porsche says the new Cayenne is actually cheaper than last year’s version when equipped similarly.
On top of its $103,750 base price, my Cayenne S Coupe tester carried an eye-watering $49,630 just in options, for a total as-tested cost of $153,380. That’s way too much money for a 468-horse Cayenne. But it’s possible to exercise restraint with the Porsche configurator – 20- or 21-inch wheels instead of 22s, no torque-vectoring rear differential or PDCC, and a $1,200 Bose audio system instead of the admittedly brilliant $7,000 Burmester unit. Better yet, go for the less stylish but cheaper and more practical conventional model and save six large.
Do so and you’re left with a much more palatable $125,000 SUV that still includes air suspension, a full leather interior, a thick-rimmed GT Sport steering wheel borrowed from the 911, and all that baked-in Porsche handling goodness. Naysayers will correctly point out that a hard-loaded BMW X5 M60i is about $20,000 cheaper and that a base X5 M is about the same price as my theoretically optioned Porsche. But thanks to a suite of comprehensive updates – and a carryover sense of self – the Cayenne still feels like a special, unique proposition in the luxury crossover space.
No one ever said blue chip investments were cheap, after all.