Porsche has rejuvenated its large luxury Cayenne SUV in this third generation guise. The styling represents a mere gradual evolution - with over 770,000 sales on the board with this model since 2002, you wouldn't really expect much else. But the changes inside and beneath the skin are genuinely far-reaching. If you're buying in this segment, you have to consider this model.
Most of the engineering here is shared with Porsche's Panamera luxury 'Gran Turismo' model - but there are differences. Rather courageously, Porsche has decided not to include diesel power in this third generation Cayenne range, which means that the line-up kicks off with a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit developing 330bhp. Next up is the Cayenne S, which gets a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 good for 434bhp. At the top of the range is the Cayenne Turbo, which this time round swaps a 4.8-litre V8 for a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 putting out a potent 533bhp. That makes it pretty much as fast as the Cayenne Turbo S in the previous generation line-up. This flagship model gets a ZF eight-speed auto gearbox rather than the twin-clutch auto of the equivalent Panamera. That's so as to preserve this SUVs prodigious 3,500kg towing capacity.
The Hybrid version of this SUV is also subtly different from its Panamera counterpart. Whereas a Panamera S E-Hybrid mates its electric motor with a 2.9-litre V6, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid uses a 3.0-litre V6 - but from that point, most of the petrol/electric engineering (and the power it all produces) is much the same. The hybrid Cayenne's engine puts out 335bhp, a figure then bolstered by a further 134bhp from the electric motor, so total system power amounts to 469bhp. Optional extras (fitted as standard at the top of the range) include a new three-chamber air suspension system, an active anti-roll system and rear-wheel steering, but some enthusiasts might feel that these features detract a little from the purity of the driving experience. Most seem to agree that this now sets the class standard. It's also worth mentioning that this Cayenne is just as happy as its predecessor off the beaten track. A spare set of off-road wheels and tyres might prevent some costly refurbishment work to the standard alloys though.
Porsche hasn't been brave enough here to fundamentally alter the way this Cayenne looks, but it has made its styling a bit sleeker and more chiselled. In comparison to the old model, this one's slightly longer, lower and wider. What really matters though, is what lies beneath the panel work - the hybrid steel and aluminium MLB platform we've already seen used in the Audi Q7 and the Bentley Bentayga. This Cayenne adopts it in shorter wheelbase form, which means that it has 100mm less length between its wheel arches than those competitor models.
The interior is completely different from the previous generation model, Porsche having moved many of the controls to a touch-sensitive fascia panel, with other features accessible via a 12.3-inch colour touchscreen in the centre of the dash. There are also a pair of configurable 7.0-inch screens in the instrument binnacle, though here, we'd still prefer a full screen set-up like Audi's 'Virtual Cockpit'. In the back, a slightly lower seating position preserves headroom, despite the more sloping rear roof line but to be frank, leg room isn't very much better than you' get in the supposedly much smaller Macan model. The boot though, is usefully larger this time round.
This is the Cayenne Porsche always threatened it would build. A cutting-edge benchmark in the luxury SUV segment. The technology on offer here is awesome but if you like your driving, we're not sure that loading this car up with rear wheel steering, air suspension and big wheels (as many owners will) is the best way towards showcasing its class-leading status as the ultimate driving machined in the large part of the luxury SUV segment.
However you specify this car though, there's nothing else quite like it in this class. Certainly it took the German brand some time to get this model right: early Cayennes were rightly forgettable. But this lighter, faster, greener and better looking MK3 version is hugely impressive, in many ways the most astonishing car of its kind we've yet seen.Click here to find out more about our Porsche Cayenne range