2019 Porsche Cayenne S: A Little Too Tame

Strong points
  • Great performance and handling
  • Supportive seats
  • Enviable fit and finish
Weak points
  • S version lacks character
  • Some controls are hard to reach
  • Price escalades quickly
Full report

What is arguably the sportiest midsize luxury SUV on the market got a full redesign for the 2019 model year, and in typical Porsche fashion, the many variations of the Cayenne hit the market one after the other.

Base and S trims of the 2019 Porsche Cayenne were available first, followed by the Turbo and the E-Hybrid. The Turbo S E-Hybrid variant is about to arrive, as is the new Porsche Cayenne Coupé set to rival the BMW X6 and Audi Q8. We can expect a GTS edition to eventually arrive as well.

Usually, a mid-grade version of a luxury vehicle represents the best all-around proposition, with a still-affordable price tag, more features and a little more firepower under the hood. In the case of the Cayenne S, we’re not so sure.

Of course, this SUV has proved its worthiness many years ago. Powerful, fast and yet off-road capable, the Cayenne has always been a popular model in the company’s line-up, and sales of the new generation have more than doubled so far in 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. Maybe our expectations are just a little too high.

The Cayenne S is powered by a twin-turbo, 2.9-litre V6 engine that develops 434 horses as well as 406 pound-feet of torque that peaks from 1,800 to 5,500 rpm. Zero to 100 km/h takes just 4.9 seconds with the Sport Chrono package, top speed is limited to 265 km/h and towing capacity can reach 7,716 pounds (3,500 kilograms). Those are impressive numbers.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

And yet, something’s missing. The Cayenne S lacks doesn’t sound mean enough and lacks the character that would make it nastier than the BMW X5 or the Mercedes-Benz GLE. For about the same price as this version of the Cayenne, we can get a V8 engine in the X5 xDrive50i and in the GLE 580 4MATIC. If we’re really feeling thrifty, we could get a 475-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT for twenty grand less.

Obviously, the Cayenne Turbo and its 541-hp twin-turbo V8 fixes this, but costs a lot more money.

During our test, we averaged 12.0 L/100 km, which isn’t bad, and slightly above the combined city/highway rating of 11.8 L/100 km. On the other hand, if we’re concerned about fuel economy, we could also choose the Cayenne E-Hybrid, which is more efficient and can be plugged in. Come to think of it, this PHEV version of the SUV boasts 455 horsepower, almost identical performance and an almost identical price as those of the Cayenne S. Why not take the E-Hybrid and look like an environmentally friendly hero?

We have nothing to complain about regarding the Cayenne’s handling abilities. The SUV bites into corners and clings to the pavement, especially in Sport mode. The available rear-axle steering increases agility at higher speeds and manoeuvrability in shopping-mall parking lots. Despite the optional air suspension, though, the ride is tad too stiff in normal driving.

Although interior fit and finish are excellent, the Slate Grey upholstery, dashboard and door panels accentuated our test Cayenne’s relative tameness, but that’s a subjective opinion. There are some more exciting hues to choose from as well as two-tone layouts. The trademark centre console grab handles remain, and the driver gets a five-gauge instrument cluster—the centre one is analog, the rest are digital displays that can also switch over to the navigation map, among other things.

The infotainment system includes a big and wide touchscreen with haptic feedback, which looks and feels very modern. The button zones are a little small and some functionalities are buried in submenus, but overall, the system works well. Apple CarPlay integration is standard, but Android Auto isn’t available at all.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

The temperature and fan speed rocker switches are easy to use, but the main menu buttons at the top of the centre stack are harder to reach. The location of the volume dial is the biggest ergonomic flaw, sitting right behind the shift lever. There aren’t any wheel-mounted buttons to skip songs, but that problem can be partially solved by assigning the hotkey to do so.

The 2019 Porsche Cayenne starts at $76,700 before freight and delivery charges, but that’s for the base trim with “only” 335 horsepower and a 0-100 km/h dash of 5.9 seconds. At the other end of the spectrum, the Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupé is listed at $187,100.

Of course, a plethora of options will raise the price by a shocking amount if we can’t control ourselves. The Cayenne S costs $94,100, and our tester wore nearly $30K of extra stuff. Ventilated front and heated rear seats are optional, as are a surround-view camera system, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof, an intelligent key, LED-Matrix headlights and 21-inch wheels. Yeah, Porsches don’t come cheap.

The Cayenne offers a solid ride and impeccable road manners as well as a comfortable and versatile cockpit. It can also head off the beaten path and bring us to the cottage, provided we don’t choose 22-inch wheels and ultra low-profile performance tires.

However, the competition is getting more aggressive, more sophisticated and more luxurious. The Cayenne’s exterior design isn’t as extroverted as the second-generation model was in its time, and the S trim might be a little too tame. Well, it is to us, anyway. If we’re smitten by Porsche’s redesigned SUV, the E-Hybrid would be our choice for the price. Or the Turbo if we could swing the higher monthly payments.

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