The original Cayenne was the first production Porsche with four doors. Despite some detractors, it’s been a high-performer from the start – not every variant was brilliant, but enough of them were, which justified the Cayenne’s existence many times over.
One of the first sports-oriented SUVs, the Cayenne is credited with sending Porsche into orbit financially and, in part, with foreshadowing the current wave of like-minded offerings from other manufacturers. The third-generation Cayenne was introduced for the 2019 model year, and now there’s a new body style available, the Coupe, that might just be more Porsche than ever.
It’s surprising that a sportier take on the Cayenne, which made its debut in 2002, is just arriving on the scene.
Later this year, three different versions of the 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe will hit dealers across Canada: the base Coupe, the S Coupe and the Turbo Coupe. If the pattern established by the manufacturer holds fast, more iterations will follow – a plug-in hybrid, for example, has already been confirmed as the fourth model in the product rollout.
The upshot of the Cayenne Coupe is this: It’s the same engineering that underpins the Cayenne, but it’s presented in a more hunkered-down form with slightly different dimensions and a few interesting tweaks. Each version of the Coupe is more expensive than the corresponding Cayenne model, but the tweaks and some packaging differences between the two model lines are the cause of the discrepancy.
When placed side-by-side, it’s easy to differentiate the Coupe from the classic Cayenne: On the new variant, the front windshield is shallower, owing to a roofline that’s 20 millimetres lower, and the rear hatch is similarly angled. The wheelbase is identical, but the Coupe is 18 millimetres wider across the rear haunches, giving the impression that it’s more muscular and set closer to the ground. The Coupe also has a unique rear fascia, a fixed rear spoiler and a second adaptive spoiler that extends when the speedometer crests 90 km/h.
This last feature, the first use of adaptive aerodynamics on a production SUV, helps create more downforce at the back for greater cornering capability. There’s also a laundry list of performance-oriented options to choose from, including no fewer than three different “lightweight packages” that include a carbon-fibre roof, carbon-fibre diffuser and 22-inch aluminum wheels. Check all the right boxes and the Coupe tips the scales at 22 kilograms less than the equivalent standard model.
Of the three models, the Turbo Coupe is, unsurprisingly, the most exhilarating. (All three versions feature turbocharged engines; confusingly, only one is called the Turbo.) The twin-turbo V-8 unspools a whopping 541 horsepower, rockets from a full stop to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and goes on to hit an Autobahn-approved top speed of 286 km/h.
Here’s the thing: The first drive of the Cayenne Coupe did not take place in Germany (with its unrestricted-speed stretches), but in neighbouring Austria, where the local constabulary tends to be less freewheeling. The scenery in the Styria region is unquestionably beautiful and the narrow roads have solid character – but it’s just not the place to unleash a large vehicle with significant horsepower.
A full summary of the performance capabilities will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, what can be said is this: The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is incredibly well-engineered and better than many modern sports cars. The steering, handling, braking and engine response are far better than should be expected from any kind of an SUV – and yet, here we are.
The third-generation Cayenne has plenty of swagger and some may actually prefer the boxier shape of the SUV. For sure, though, when fitted with the lightweight package, carbon-fibre roof and carbon ceramic brake package, the Coupe presents as a serious performance machine.
To compensate for the sloping roofline, the rear seat in the Coupe has been lowered by 30 millimetres to preserve headroom; passengers around six-feet tall will find it surprisingly spacious. The level of comfort in all versions tested was exceedingly high. The new design does shave off around 145 litres of cargo space, but would this really matter to the typical Cayenne customer?
All three engines develop strong torque from low in the rev range, making them excellent choices in their own right. Most observers prefer the middle-of-the-road S Coupe (and its 434 horsepower), but a strong case could just as easily be made for the Turbo (as noted elsewhere) or the base Coupe – with “just” 335 horsepower, but at a more palatable price. All models come fitted with the same AWD system, eight-speed automatic transmission and Sport Chrono package.
The Cayenne Coupe is a two-headed monster when it comes to technology. First, there’s the abundance of advanced engineering that makes the drive experience more engaging: Available features include active torque vectoring, rear-wheel steering and an air suspension system. Then there’s the feeling of being absolutely in control, courtesy of the customizable instrument panel, the 12.3-inch centre console screen and the logical placement of the controls.
The verdict: 9.0
A well-engineered addition to the Porsche fleet, perhaps no more desirable than the regular Cayenne.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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