2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe First Drive: Porsche’s Sportiest SUV
Better late than never. Years after its German rivals launched cut-down versions of their mainstream SUVs, Porsche has finally got around to building a Cayenne with a lower roofline and faster D-pillars. The Cayenne Coupe arrives in the U.S. this fall with three powertrains, additional standard equipment, and a host of options, ready to take the fight to the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. And on first impressions, it’s the best of the bunch.
Let’s skip the arguments over door counts and simply acknowledge that four-door coupes—and four-door SUV coupes—exist. (If you follow the logic that differentiates a two-door sedan from a two-door coupe, which is that the former has a taller, more formal roofline than the latter, there is no reason why any four-door vehicle with a low roof and swept rear pillars could not be described a coupe.) They exist, and customers like them: Porsche expects the coupe to account for at least 20 percent of Cayenne sales.
The Cayenne Coupe shares powertrains, suspension components, electrical architecture, and much of its body structure with the regular Cayenne. In terms of sheetmetal, however, only the hood, front fenders, front door skins, and lights are carried over from the regular Cayenne. The A-pillars have been laid back, there’s a new windshield, and the roofline is 0.8 inch lower, sweeping gracefully rearwards into 0.7-inch-wider rear quarter panels to create a greenhouse with echoes of the iconic 911. The large rear hatch features a fixed spoiler at its top edge and an active spoiler that tucks away under the lower edge of the rear window.
In terms of layout and design, the interior is virtually identical to that of the current Cayenne. However, to compensate for the lower roofline, the rear seat has been lowered 1.2 inches. Six-footers will fit back there, but the setup means that unlike in the regular Cayenne, the Coupe’s rear seat does not slide fore/aft, as there’s no room for the mechanism. The backrest can still be reclined, however. The Coupe comes standard in four-passenger trim, with a cubby and a large fold-down armrest between the passengers. A regular three-passenger bench is available as a no-cost option.
Three models will be available at launch. The entry-level Cayenne Coupe will be powered by the 335-hp, 332-lb-ft 3.0-liter single-turbo V-6 and priced from $75,300. The Cayenne S Coupe gets the 434-hp, 405-lb-ft 2.9-liter twin turbo V-6 under the hood and starts at $88,600. Top of the range—for now—is the Cayenne Turbo Coupe, powered by a 541-hp, 567-lb-ft version of Porsche’s versatile twin-turbo V-8. Reaching for the top shelf won’t be cheap, though—the Turbo Coupe will cost you $130,100 before you tick a single option box.
Although more expensive, the three Coupe models are no quicker than their regular Cayenne counterparts. Instead, they get more standard equipment in addition to sportier sheetmetal, including speed-sensitive power steering, Porsche Active Suspension Management, and the Sport Chrono package. A glass panorama roof is also standard, its dark coloring cleverly disguising the fact the roofline doesn’t sweep down from the B-pillar as dramatically as the greenhouse. Base Coupe and S Coupe models roll on 20-inch wheels, while the Turbo Coupe comes equipped with 21s and Porsche’s trick tungsten-carbide coated PSCB brakes, which generate up to 90 percent less brake dust.
As with all Porsches, the Cayenne Coupe options list is long and pricey. Highlights include the PDCC active roll control system, which uses 48-volt electrics and super capacitors to twist the roll bars in the opposite direction to cornering forces, reducing roll, and the four-wheel steering system, which turns the rear wheels up to 3 degrees (in the opposite direction to the fronts below 49 mph to improve agility and in the same direction at higher speeds to improve stability). Porsche’s mighty PCCB ceramic composite brakes are also available.
One option unique to the Cayenne Coupe is the Lightweight Sport package. In addition to visual tweaks inside and out, this package replaces the heavy glass panorama roof with a clear-coated carbon-fiber panel and swaps the standard alloy wheels for 22-inch forged items. On the Turbo Coupe, the package also includes the addition of a sports exhaust system. Depending on which of the three variants of the package are chosen, weight saving range from 39 pounds to 48 pounds.
Porsche even offers an off-road package that adds extra underbody protection and upgrades the infotainment interface to show steering angle, transverse gradient, and longitudinal incline in the rough stuff. Although it’s nice to know Porsche engineers care, the reality is few if any U.S. owners will ever contemplate taking their Cayenne Coupes off the tarmac. In fact, most are likely to spend their days mooching quietly around America’s wealthier suburbs. The Cayenne Coupe—capable of 151 mph with its least powerful engine under the hood—is a vehicle whose capabilities will be rarely tested.
That least powerful engine is the 335-hp single-turbo V-6. The 434-hp twin-turbo V-6 in the S Coupe (pictured above) is crisper at low revs and zings happily to 6,600 rpm. It’s the value choice in the lineup, though in this spec Porsche’s sportiest SUV is still merely satisfyingly brisk rather than pin-your-ears-back fast. Porsche claims the S Coupe is a second quicker than the base car to 60 mph, taking 4.7 seconds for the sprint, and is 12 mph faster with a top speed of 163 mph.
With its storming 541-hp V-8, the Cayenne Turbo Coupe the real deal, however. This 5,024-pound Porsche SUV punches hard out of corners and surges ecstatically along the straights—all the way to 177 mph if you’re lucky enough to live near an autobahn. A more closely stacked set of ratios than in the six-cylinder cars allows the eight-speed automatic to make the most of the engine’s rich seam of midrange torque (peak output of 567 lb-ft is available from 1,900 rpm to 4,500 rpm), enabling enthusiastic drivers to play with weight transfer and chassis balance. It’s a grin-inducing thing to hustle along a twisting two-lane, lunging from apex to apex, accompanied by a growling rumble from the exhaust.
The Cayenne Coupes we sampled on the winding roads of southeastern Austria, near the border with Slovenia, were all lavishly equipped. All rode on 22-inch wheels and the anti-roll system. We’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve sampled similarly equipped Coupes on roads and freeways we know well in Southern California, but in conjunction with the air suspension, the setup appears to offer extraordinarily taut body control without an unduly jittery ride.
At first acquaintance the Porsche Cayenne Coupe seems a more coherent, more concise take on the sporty SUV concept than its German rivals. It rides better than the BMW X6 and feels more agile than the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. Given Porsche’s conservative approach to 0–60 times, the Turbo Coupe promises to be quicker than either the X6 M or the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63. Sporty? You bet.
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