The 2019 Cayenne sports familiar Porsche powertrains with copious thrust, a slew of electromechanical handling aids, and a sense of poise and composure that’s unattainable by some sports cars we know and love.
The ride’s uniformly firm and sometimes stiff, and ultimately a sports car can stick and grip and corner better than this behemoth, so we converge on a performance score of 8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Each of the three powertrains on tap for the first 2019 Cayennes can push the SUV to 60 mph in under 6.0 seconds. Base models churn away with a 3.0-liter single-turbo V-6 that belts out 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, for a 0-60 mph time quoted at 5.9 seconds (it’s 5.6 seconds with Sport Chrono, which remaps throttle and transmission settings for quicker responses). Base models top out at 152 mph. This single-turbo V-6 works hard behind a wall of acoustic glass to motivate the SUV’s substantial 4,377-lb curb weight.
Tuck into a Cayenne S and its twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 ups the blast to 440 hp and 406 lb-ft. It’s a similar design, a slightly destroked V-6 with an extra turbo, so it’s not a surprise that it puts out slightly less torque while it pulses out 20 hp more than the previous twin-turbo V-6 Cayenne. Porsche pegs 0-60 mph runs at below 5.0 seconds, and top speed at 164 mph.
The Cayenne S surge of authority gets handed its jock by the raucous V-8 roar of the Cayenne Turbo. Its 4,795 lb of heft gets offset by 550 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque. It slingshots to 60 mph in less than 4.0 seconds (3.7 seconds with Sport Chrono) and stretches its legs up to a top speed of 177 mph. The speed’s great, but its whuffling V-8 exhaust seals the deal, even though by some claims, it’s not the fastest SUV on earth.
Every one of these powertrains moves power through a paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic and an all-wheel-drive system that can split power between the front and rear wheels, then again between the rear wheels when outfitted with the available torque-vectoring differential. Porsche’s AWD system biases power to the rear, in a progressively higher ratio in Sport and Sport+ drive modes.
The meaty tires (summer rubber’s a must-have option) don’t look off-road ready, but the Cayenne can ford through 19.7 inches of water, and can hold oil pressure on a 45-degree incline. With the right tow packages, it can pull up to 7,700 pounds.
Porsche Cayenne ride and handling
Porsche imbues the Cayenne with excellent handling and a firm ride, even the base SUV with a front strut and rear multi-link suspension, 19-inch wheels and tires, and electric power steering.
With any powertrain, the Cayenne can upgrade to an air suspension with adaptive dampers, big 20- or 21-inch wheels with all-season or summer tires, active roll bars that cut down on body lean, and rear-wheel steering that betters its ability to park easily without voiding its high-speed stability. With the optional Sport Chrono package, the Cayenne gets a set of drive modes that change its mood from comfortable and economical to sporty, to thrill-seeker.
So far, we’ve driven all the powertrains, but each came in a Cayenne fitted with torque-vectoring, summer tires, air suspension, and 21-inch wheels. The air suspension enhanced its ability to pick around rubbly Greek mountainsides, given that it increases ground clearance from 7.5 inches to 9.6 inches, and that it works with traction modes that help the tires grip through gravel, mud, sand or rock.
On paved roads, the Cayenne can seem almost mellow, in its comfort settings. The ride and steering always have a certain degree of heft and stiffness, because it’s a Porsche and needs to feel more like a 718 or 911 than it does like, say, a Maybach. With all the optional systems, the Cayenne had almost no body lean, but the lighter amounts of compliance offered by the taut suspension and performance-minded tires created a lot of head toss.
On the flip side, the Cayenne’s steering cuts a clean, telegraphic path on almost any road. The rear-steer setup lets it move the front wheels 3 degrees in the opposite direction of the rears at low speeds, and that helps it carve much tighter lines through very sharp corners (and, okay, in mall parking lots). It helps the Cayenne feel small, when by any objective measure, it isn’t.
The Cayenne’s brakes are outstanding, even if you don’t get the spendy carbon-ceramic stoppers, a $9,080 option.
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