2019 Porsche Cayenne First Review
Nearly 15 years after Porsche surprised its loyalists with the announcement of a brand-new crossover called the Cayenne, it is delivering a third-generation follow-up. Despite concerns that a sports car company would never be able to sell a family vehicle, the company’s venture into unchartered territory is a smashing success—to date, more than 770,000 Cayennes have been sold worldwide.
The 2019 model year marks the arrival of a completely redesigned Cayenne that doesn’t stray from the automaker’s original formula. Like its predecessors, Porsche’s five-passenger crossover continues to focus on driving dynamics, technology, and luxury in that specific order.
Familiar, yet fresh
Nobody will mistake the all-new Cayenne for anything but a Cayenne. Despite looking strikingly similar to the outgoing model (proving that Porsche doesn’t want to offend any of its loyal followers), every panel has been re-sculpted. A closer examination reveals the front fascia, with its signature horizontal grill, is more pronounced and the rear now features an illuminated light bar connecting the taillamps. The wheels have also grown in diameter to better fill the wheel wells for a more aggressive stance.
The Cayenne rides on a new chassis from its parent Volkswagen Group, which is called the MLB platform and is shared with the Audi Q7. The new SUV is slightly longer and lower than its predecessor, which improves aerodynamics and handling. The wheelbase remains unchanged, but there is more room within the cabin and cargo area.
Important news is that the new Cayenne has lost weight, even in the face of increasingly stringent safety requirements and more standard equipment on the new model. Losing mass delivers improvements in acceleration, fuel efficiency, and handling. In standard trim, the all-new 2019 model is more than 120 pounds lighter than that outgoing model, and a whopping 400 pounds lighter than the first-gen Cayenne.
Rising its luxury game
It’s no surprise the Porsche redesigned the cabin of the Cayenne to mimic the Panamera—the two appear very similar in layout. Large flat-panel multifunction displays dominate the real estate in front the driver, with the only analog gauge being a large circular tachometer set in the middle (the speedometer and auxiliary gauges are all digital). A 12.3-inch touchscreen, mounted high atop the center console, is used by the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system to display and control the infotainment features and functions.
Countless other buttons are cleverly disguised beneath a black panel between the front passengers, which is only backlit when the ignition is on. They look clean and futuristic—the automaker’s objective—but lacking a physical knob or switch means that drivers must remove their eyes from the road to actuate. Thankfully, Porsche has retained traditional switches and controls for the windows and mirrors, and the HVAC vents may be moved and closed by hand (the Panamera requires the driver to use the infotainment interface). Helpful console- and door-mounted grab handles, now a Cayenne signature, are retained in the new model.
Passengers in both rows will enjoy the accommodations if there are only four on board. The Cayenne seats a fifth, but the center seat in the second row isn’t sculpted to comfortably support a human’s spine, although it fine for temporary use. The front seats are very comfortable with generous legroom and nice side bolstering. There is adult-sized legroom in the second row, too, and the seats split/fold to increase the size of the cargo hold.
Standard Cayenne models used to arrive with a Volkswagen-sourced V6 that was naturally aspirated and slightly lethargic. That changes with the 2019 model, which debuts with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 340 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. The new engine completely changes the character of the base model, delivering a strong punch off the line (Porsche conservatively estimates a 0-60 mph sprint of 5.9 seconds) and power to pass on the highway.
Those seeking more power will want to consider the Cayenne S. It arrives with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6, the second turbocharger more than makes up for the smaller displacement. This engine is rated at 440 horsepower and 402 lb.-ft. of torque and is about a second quicker to 60 mph. Porsche and fits these models with larger brakes to accommodate the increased performance. Those wanting to really fly will want the Cayenne Turbo and its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that boasts an impressive 550 horsepower and 567 lb.-ft. of torque. Its 0-60 sprint is just 3.9 seconds and it doesn’t run out of steam until it hits 178 mph. Larger brakes and an aggressive wheel and tire package are standard on the Turbo.
White calipers announce new technology
Porsche has been painting its brake calipers for years, with each color representing a different type of performance braking system. In general, the automaker has stuck with silver, black, red, and yellow. The 2019 Cayenne introduces white brake calipers to define its new Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) system, which is comprised of traditional iron rotors with a tungsten-carbide coating. This exterior layer increases friction for shorter stopping distances. Most important for consumers, however, is that the PSCB upgrade will increase rotor life by an estimated 30 percent and significantly reduce unsightly brake dust.
The new brakes certainly feel different. Compared to the stock iron rotors on the Cayenne, and even the optional carbon-ceramic (PCCB) upgrade, the new PSCB system delivers a pronounced aggressive initial bite that gives the driver additional confidence. However, it does take a few miles to get used to the unique pedal feel to eliminate jerky stops. Expect the optional PSCB system to add a few thousand dollars to the sticker price.
Dynamics to please enthusiasts
Without question, the Cayenne is engineered with on-road driving dynamics as its primary mission. Independent suspension is complemented with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which is a three-mode (Normal, Sport, or Sport plus) active damping system designed to optimize the on-road ride. Working with PASM is Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC). The innovative 48-volt active stabilization system helps to prevent body roll in corners. With an available rear-axle steering system that turns the rear wheels up to three degrees in either direction, and aggressive wheels of up to 21-inches in diameter, the Cayenne corners better than most sports cars.
The Cayenne is also offered with a new adaptive 3-chamber air suspension system. With more volume of air than its predecessors, it promises to deliver a smooth ride on the open road and better absorb impacts on irregular road surfaces. As an added benefit, the air suspension can raise the vehicle to increase ground clearance when needed. The air suspension delivers one of the best rides we have ever felt in an SUV. It never felt squishy or floaty, which is a common complaint of some systems, and its performance over potholes was exemplary.
Porsche is also boasts that it is the first automaker to introduce an active rear spoiler to the segment. Offered as standard equipment on the range-topping Turbo model is Porsche Active Aerodynamics (PAA), which is a high-mounted aerodynamic aid on the trailing edge of the roof. It continuously optimizes the airflow over the Cayenne to improve fuel efficiency, handling, and braking—the latter is achieved by raising the spoiler to 28.2 degrees, mimicking the effect of an air brake on a jetliner.
Off-road capabilities limited only by tires
The 2019 Cayenne is fitted with a permanent all-wheel drive system as standard fitment, which is biased to feed more torque to the rear wheels for a sporty rear-drive feel. By default, the AWD starts in its On-road program that should work very well in inclement weather (e.g., rain, snow, slush). However, if the driver chooses to venture off the paved path, the Porsche is fitted with four Off-road programs (Mud, Gravel, Sand and Rocks) to tackle more aggressive environments.
With the system in Gravel mode, we drove the Cayenne up a rock-strewn path that didn’t pose a legitimate challenge to its AWD system—we are betting that most crossovers could accomplish the same. Seeking a better test, we meandered off the course and headed down a steep path covered in larger boulders. Putting the air suspension in its highest mode gave us 9.64 inches of ground clearance (normal ride height is 6.37 inches), which was more than enough to clear the impediments.
Unlike some automakers that offer knobby off-road tires on SUVs, the vehicles we tested were fitted with Pirelli P-Zero performance tires. The summer-compound rubber delivers impressive grip on smooth pavement, but we’d suggest all-season or winter tires for those in harsh climates.
The 2019 Porsche Cayenne will arrive in the States late next year in three different trim levels. The standard Cayenne starts at $66,750, the Cayenne S begins at $83,950, while the Cayenne Turbo has a $125,650 base price. Expect Porsche to add GTS, Hybrid, and Turbo S models in the future, and quite possibly a diesel, as it fills out the Cayenne model range.