Definitely A Porsche, Also An SUV

We hit the roads of SoCal in the facelifted 2024 Cayenne range.

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August 10, 2023

THE Cayenne isn’t the soul of Porsche, but it is certainly the backbone, accounting for 30 percent of all Porsches sold last year—and if you combine that figure with the Macan, SUVs claimed nearly two-thirds of the company’s total sales. The flip side of this perspective is that the Cayenne’s success is the reason Porsche’s current sports cars are the masterpieces they are. But it’s that role as the brand’s workhorse that causes people of both perspectives to overlook just how good the Cayenne is in its own right, not as a revenue generator or a way to preserve the sports cars we love, but as a Porsche.

Fortunately, Porsche is well aware of just how good the Cayenne is. With the 2024 model year refresh (the standard models designated at the 9YA.2 generation and the coupes known as 9YB.2), the Cayenne gets even better with upgraded tech, a new powertrain for the Cayenne S, and a range of other improvements.

Tech Brief

Headlining the Cayenne’s mid-cycle updates is the replacement of the previous Cayenne S’ 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with a new 468-horsepower, 442-pound-foot twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission made by ZF. The new S claims a 0-60-mph time of just 4.4 seconds and a top track speed of 169 mph when fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package. The boosted V8 gives an increase of 34 horsepower and 37 pound-feet over the previous S’ V6.

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Although it gets the technological and interior updates shared with the rest of the Cayenne range, the Turbo GT carries forward largely unchanged mechanically, although it has been retuned slightly to increase output by 19 horsepower to 650 horsepower, enabling the Turbo GT to blast to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 189 mph.

The Turbo GT comes with standard Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes, rear-axle steering, the Sport Exhaust system with titanium tailpipes, and 22-inch GT Design wheels. While the U.S. usually has to do without the special models sold in Europe, this time it’s the other way around: The Cayenne Turbo GT is no longer available in Europe.

The standard Cayenne continues with a 3.0-liter turbo V6 engine now good for 348 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque, a 13 horse and 36 lb-ft increase over the 2019-2023 base model. That same V6 is also used in the Cayenne E-Hybrid, in combination with a 25.9-kWh battery that’s about 45 percent larger than the previous Cayenne hybrid’s, and the total system output is now 463 horsepower. The Cayenne E-Hybrid also comes with an 11-kW onboard charger to reduce charging time to under 2.5 hours.

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Billed as “a ground-breaking display and control concept,” a central upgrade to the 2024 Cayenne’s cabin is the Porsche Driver Experience, starting with a fully digital, 12.6-inch customizable instrument panel display. This display can show various views and information, including the optional Night Vision Assist overlay or the 3D driving assistance system. There’s even a mode that puts Porsche’s iconic five circular analog gauges back where they belong.

Keeping with the digital-meets-analog theme, all the main controls the driver needs to access are arrayed on or around the steering wheel. The steering wheel is borrowed from the current 992-generation 911 and includes a mode switch as standard on all models, allowing the driver to choose between Normal, Offroad, Sport, and Sport Plus.

The central 12.3-inch display is the main interface for the Porsche Communication Management system, offering navigation and multimedia features. New for the 2024 Cayenne is the optional 10.9-inch passenger display integrated into the dash. This touchscreen display lets the front passenger operate the navigation, select media, or play videos—and a unique screen filter means the driver can’t see it from their angle.

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Despite the obvious focus on the displays with the new Taycan-esque interior, Porsche has also put a great deal of effort into making the most important driver controls available with physical buttons rather than buried under layers of menus on-screen. That’s a small but significant quality of life improvement that adds up over time.

Other upgrades for the 2024 Cayenne include new two-valve dampers that allow (the now standard on all models) Porsche Active Suspension Management to have independent control of both rebound and compression (both were adjusted in unison on previous models), an optional two-chamber air suspension in place of the previous single-chamber system, and an actively cooled wireless device charger in the center console area.

Pricing for the Cayenne starts at $79,200 (not including delivery fees), while the Cayenne S starts from $95,700, the Cayenne E-Hybrid starts from $91,700, and the coupe-only Turbo GT starts from $196,300. The Cayenne, Cayenne S, and Cayenne E-Hybrid are also available in coupe forms for another $5,000-$7,000 over the base price of the standard Cayenne.

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The Drive

The “necessary evil” perspective many, both within and without the Porsche community, take toward the Cayenne is more than a bit overstated. While some would like to see Porsche make nothing but pure sports cars, there’s nothing inherently un-Porsche about making the sportiest possible version of a range of other types of cars, too. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that the Cayenne does a better job of being a sports car than the 911, Boxster, or Cayman do of carrying five passengers.

It’s an argument backed up by a fantastically tuned chassis setup, a new (optional) twin-chamber air suspension, the two-valve dampers that now control both rebound and compression, an inimitably Porsche steering feel, and the flexibility offered by a range of powertrain modes all conveniently controlled from the steering wheel-mounted selector knob. All of these and more were on prime display during our drive day through the mountains and highways surrounding Malibu, California.

Although the Cayennes we were driving were European-spec models, meaning many of the infotainment system’s smarter functions were unavailable, the core of the Cayenne driving experience was ever-present. Starting the day with some easy highway cruising, the Cayenne proved itself a comfortable, easy-going SUV happy to trundle along in traffic. Breaking free of the mid-morning Starbucks crowd, we made it into the warren of canyons surrounding Malibu, where we were able to explore more of the Cayenne’s dynamic ability.

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Even in base form, the Cayenne is plenty fast—faster than most drivers will be able to keep up with. In updated Cayenne S form, it’s much less like you’re driving a V8-powered SUV and much more like you’re behind the wheel of a badass V8-powered hot hatch. Acceleration is brisk, braking is precise, steering is engaging, and passengers are making constant use of the well-bolstered seats and convenient handles. Even on roads narrower and twistier than you’d think ideal for a five-passenger SUV, the Cayenne feels at home.

The Turbo GT is even faster, of course, and for those who foresee the need to use a vehicle that cannot only tow your track car to the track but also run a session on track itself, it’s a brilliant choice. Even so, the Cayenne S is more than quick enough for most drivers. This being the Cayenne, the story isn’t over with the construction of a nimble, satisfyingly balanced sports vehicle. It has to be a practical daily companion—yes, even the Turbo GT—that’s ready to pick up the kids from school, make a grocery run, take the dog to the park, or perhaps do all three. We only had a day to test it, but in our six or so hours of seat time with the Cayenne, it proved a comfortable, welcoming place to be, and one we’d be glad to take on the morning commute or a multi-state road trip.

The new optional passenger display seems like it would be especially useful on longer drives, allowing the front-seat passenger not only to watch their own entertainment but also to help find the next gas, lunch, or sight-seeing stop with the onboard navigation.

Other features added as standard equipment as of the 2024 model year that will help the Cayenne excel as a daily driver include Lane Change Assist and Lane Keep Assist, keyless entry, and the aforementioned actively cooled 15-watt wireless smartphone charging tray.

The Verdict

Although it would take months to truly suss out the strengths and potential foibles of the Cayenne, after spending a full day driving the new lineup, it’s clear that Porsche has improved on the existing Cayenne with subtle but significant upgrades that make a clear impact to the experience of driving and living with the most useful of Porsches.

That’s right, the Cayenne is the most useful Porsche. Despite the amazing abilities of the Taycan, Panamera, Macan, and all of the sports cars, it’s the Cayenne that has the greatest breadth of them all, from off-roading to corner carving to raiding the nearest retail megacomplex. While it’s true there’s no electric Cayenne yet, it’s expected to arrive in 2025-2026—and when it does, it’s going to add one more ability to its outsized arsenal.

Rather than seeing the Cayenne as the boring but profitable savior of Porsche’s sports cars, it’s more accurate to see it as simply the largest and most capable of Porsche’s performance machines and proof the company can engineer nearly anything into a blisteringly fast, rewarding vehicle.

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