The verdict: The 2024 Porsche Cayenne nails every point on the spectrum of the driving experience from sedate to sporty, and its updated cockpit brings welcome technological advancements with only minor complaints.
Versus the competition: Few luxury SUVs are anywhere near as engaging to drive as the Cayenne, and it doesn’t mistake technology for luxury in the way that some competitors do — but it doesn’t come cheap.
Most SUVs struggle to exist in multiple worlds. Focusing on practicality can negatively impact performance and vice versa. I was recently one of three judges in a comparison test of mainstream compact SUVs, and the two most fun-to-drive entrants — and they were legitimately fun to drive — finished in last and next-to-last place.
The alchemy that goes into making an SUV engaging to drive with minimal sacrifice to practicality may or may not involve invoking eldritch gods, but whatever it takes, Porsche is close to mastering it after decades of practice with its Cayenne SUV. For the 2024 model year, Porsche gives the Cayenne subtly updated styling, ups the power across the lineup and refines the suspension to improve handling. The cockpit is also all-new and borrows heavily from the Taycan electric sedan. Not new: All versions of the Cayenne come standard with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission and, with the exception of the coupe-only Turbo GT, are available in both SUV and four-door “coupe” (read: sloped roofline) body styles.
I recently traveled to Los Angeles to spend some time behind the wheel of the updated Cayenne (per Cars.com’s ethics policy, we pay for our travel and lodging at such manufacturer-sponsored events). Given a choice of European-market Cayennes to take out for the day, I grabbed a Cayenne S coupe, which turned out to be closest from a features standpoint to the model that’ll be sold here. I wanted to try out the new V-8 engine in the Cayenne S, and while I would’ve preferred the more popular SUV body style, sometimes you take what you can get. For what it’s worth, about 30% of Cayenne sales since the coupe’s introduction in the 2020 model year have been coupes, according to Porsche. Porsche sells far fewer plug-in hybrid Cayennes, regardless of body style.
With 468 horsepower and 442 pounds-feet of torque, the Cayenne S gets an additional 34 hp and 37 pounds-feet of torque out of its new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 compared with the previous S variant’s twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6. Power feels more than ample; press the accelerator pedal, and you can feel the force building before it comes on in a flood. There’s a bit of a delay in its power delivery, but it’s not overly frustrating, and it never hampered passing or merging. Want to skip the delay? Opt for the Sport Chrono Package and get access to Sport Response mode, which for 20 seconds primes the turbos and transmission for more immediate response. The active exhaust system burbles and pops for a pleasant soundtrack in the Cayenne’s most aggressive driving mode, Sport Plus, but in its quieter setting, it won’t annoy the neighbors.
Driving enjoyment in a Porsche is about more than just going fast in a straight line, and despite nearly 5,000 pounds of bulk, the Cayenne delivers. The optional air suspension that was on my test vehicle is new, and Porsche says it provides greater differentiation than the old version between Normal, Sport and Sport Plus driving modes.
There wasn’t a previous-generation Cayenne to validate that claim in the moment, but I can say that the new air suspension does an incredible job of making the Cayenne feel comfortable in Normal then dialing up the performance as you move through Sport into Sport Plus. Even in Normal mode, there’s very little body roll in corners, and it lessens as the modes get more aggressive; regardless of driving mode, the isolation from bumps and road imperfections is outstanding. Even with my test car’s optional 22-inch wheels (20s are standard) making the ride feel firm, it was never harsh, and as the suspension firmed up, the degree of control increased. Steering feel is excellent and incredibly communicative, making the Cayenne feel nimble and far smaller than it is. The optional rear-axle steering helps with this, too, particularly in lower-speed maneuvers.
The eight-speed automatic isn’t new but it bears mentioning simply for how good it is. It was never in the wrong gear and is capable of seamless five-gear kickdowns under hard acceleration. The paddle shifters are fun to use, but the transmission behaves so well when left to its own devices that they become one less thing to worry about.
The optional carbon-ceramic brakes have incredible stopping power along with good, linear pedal feel. They also provide so much initial bite that it can be difficult to come to a smooth stop in traffic; unless you’re taking your Cayenne to the track, I have a feeling the standard (and larger for 2024) brakes will suffice.
All in all, the S model feels like it might be the sweet spot of the Cayenne lineup, with more power and performance than the base SUV, but not the extra bulk of the E-Hybrid’s plug-in hybrid powertrain or the significantly higher price tag of the Turbo GT. I certainly had more fun driving the Cayenne S than driving things like the BMW X3 M Competition or Audi RS Q8.
Taking From the Taycan
Driving performance isn’t the only thing Porsche aimed to improve with the new Cayenne. Inside, a new 12.6-inch digital instrument panel and 12.3-inch touchscreen display increase the level of technology considerably. The gauge cluster is highly configurable but also easy-to-use. The same goes for the center touchscreen, which includes standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity (or, at least, it will; our Euro-spec cars had some issues with the feature here in the U.S.). The display takes some time to boot up, but once it does, it’s very responsive. All of this will look familiar to those who have seen or been inside a Taycan, and it’s a welcome improvement overall. Front passengers can also have an optional 10.9-inch dashboard touchscreen for streaming videos, controlling navigation and more — it remains invisible to the driver, however, to prevent distraction.
Despite the improvements, Porsche didn’t mistake technology for luxury. Mercedes-Benz has been the biggest offender in this area of late, with giant, confusing screens and unnecessarily complex controls, but in the Cayenne, everything is straightforward to use and materials are high-quality throughout. Ease of use, comfort and materials are what truly make a vehicle luxurious — at least to me. Tradition helps, too; while the turn-key ignition in the Cayenne has been replaced by a push-button starter, it remains to the left of the steering wheel per Porsche tradition.
One quibble with the interior is the almost delicate, dash-mounted gear selector that lacks a substantial feel I think the Cayenne deserves. It does, however, free up space on the center console for a new climate control panel that has a combination of touch-sensitive controls and rocker switches. The switches feel great, and the touch controls respond well enough that they’re not frustrating, but the entire panel moves whenever you press an “individual” control. It’s the one area of the Cayenne’s interior that feels cheap.
It’s not surprising but still worth noting that the coupe’s rear visibility leaves something to be desired. It’s not Tesla Model Y bad, but it could be better. But that’s the price you pay for style — if you can call a coupe SUV stylish. I prefer the SUV’s lines to the coupe’s, but I will say the Cayenne coupe looks better to me than the BMW X6 or Mercedes-Benz GLE coupe.
Backseat space, even in the coupe, is abundant. The sloping roofline cuts into rear-seat headroom considerably, but even then, my hair was only brushing the roofline, and I’m 6-foot-1. I’d be comfortable back there even on a long road trip (but I’d still rather be behind the wheel).
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More to Come — and More to Come Out of Your Bank Account
As of this writing, we’re still waiting on official fuel economy estimates for the 2024 Cayenne lineup. Suffice to say, my enthusiastic driving wasn’t very fuel efficient. The previous Cayenne S with the twin-turbo V-6 was rated at 18 mpg combined, and it would be surprising if a more powerful V-8 version bested that. We’re especially looking forward to finding out how the upgrades to the E-Hybrid, including a larger battery pack and more power, affect its all-electric range, which was previously 14 miles.
Pricing is available, however, and the new Cayenne doesn’t come cheap. Standard equipment has improved — Porsche Active Suspension Management, safety tech like lane departure steering assist and lane change assist, a 15-watt wireless device charging pad and Comfort Access keyless entry are all newly standard — but prices are up across the board. The Cayenne S coupe I drove has a base price of $103,750 (including destination). Porsche takes pride in the configurability of its cars and its customers’ ability to build them precisely to their liking; there are literally tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of options available and, with Porsche’s paint-to-sample option, you can spend more than $10,000 on the paint alone. Optional features on my test car totaled nearly $50,000, for an as-tested price of more than $150,000.
With many people facing difficult economic times, it feels wrong to recommend something with a six-figure price, but I’m nonetheless enamored with the Cayenne S. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.
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