I have to confess from the outset that I am not a big fan of SUVs in general, as these big, heavy vehicles are not the most efficient use of materials in relation to their passenger and luggage carrying capability.
However, if you must go down the SUV route, and Porsche needed to do so to generate the revenues to support its sportscar range, then the Cayenne is the best drivers' car of this ilk.
Now they have added the Cayenne Coupe to the range and I have to confess that I liked it straight away. As the Porsche Cayenne starts off with a sleek nose, the new Coupe version wears its fastback credentials in a fairly comfortable and authentic way. Here at last is a full-size SUV Coupe that does not look contrived or just plain ugly. If anything it exudes a sense of self assured calmness missing from its two major German rivals.
In contrast to the bluffer, more vertical front ends that feature on its BMW and Mercedes rivals, it helps that the Cayenne has a pointy nose to start with. This means that the relatively sleek front and fastback roofline are not at odds with one another, and so create a harmonious visual composition that does not look like an afterthought from the Frankenstein school of design.
If you think the Coupe is longer aft of the rear wheels you would be right, and the tape measure says by 13mm. But the lower, sleeker fastback roof emphasises this modest increase, while the rear track is also a tad wider and the shoulder area of the car above the rear arches has been extended by 18mm to deliver a more muscular stance.
Other new components are the new tailgate glass and rear bumper moulding incorporating the licence plate. These visually reduce the height of the rear, reinforcing the lower, wider look that is supported by the standard 20-inch alloy wheels. These can go as large as 22-inch if you tick the box on the options list.
On the face of it the 20mm shorter front windscreen and lower roofline should make for a lower drag coefficient. However, as the fastback shape is actually less efficient aerodynamically the result is a Cd of 0.34, unchanged from the normal Cayenne.
Because the sloping roofline also denigrates the pattern of the departing airflow at the rear the aerodynamicists had to clean this up and find a way to reduce lift over the rear axle at high speed.
Their solution is not dissimilar to that of the Panamera Turbo, and here the powered active rear wing extends aft by 135mm over 90km/h. The resulting 23kg of downforce at 250km/h effectively reduces lift over the rear axle to zero. At the front aerodynamic lift at speed is countered by a combination of the small front lip spoiler and the weight of the motor.
As a measure of the fine-tuning done in the wind tunnel the Gurney flap on the extending rear wing of the Turbo is larger than that on the base and S models, reflecting its greater performance potential.
From the front seats nothing has changed and the Coupe’s view forward is identical to the normal Cayenne. However, the rear seats are positioned 30mm lower in the cabin, which makes up for the lower roofline. That said because the drop in the roofline happens aft of the rear seat occupants heads the perceived sacrifice in headroom is not at all apparent until you look around.
A wonderful sense of light and space is provided by the standard 2.16 sq.m panoramic roof whose 0.92 sq.m transparent area with powered blind more than counters the effect of the lower roofline. For those who value driving dynamics more than daylight a carbon-fibre roof option will be offered later in the year. Removing some 21.0kg from the highest point of the car to lower its centre of gravity, this package is accompanied by 22-inch forged alloy wheels.
Dynamically, the Cayenne has moved on in one significantly way from the early production cars we drove at the end of 2017. On the launch event in Crete I found it easy to provoke the Turbo into power oversteer exiting tight bends on perfectly dry roads on the mountain section of our test route. This was a characteristic alien to the previous model with its different underpinnings and 4WD system.
Yet, on the streaming wet Austrian roads it was difficult to get anything more than a hint of traction loss at the rear when booting the throttle out of bends in the potent 550hp Turbo Coupe.
Where power oversteer could be ‘entertaining’ to the keen and experienced driver, it would also be quite frightening to a normal driver like an unsuspecting soccer mum, so clearly the engineers have been working on the traction management algorithm to tame the beast inside.
We never wish for rain on a driving event as it makes photography hard and limits our ability to extend a car in the twisty bits. However, with its formidable 4WD system the Cayenne Coupe proved able to maintain a very rapid pace across the demanding twisty sections of the mountain road test route.
Trailing braking into bends revealed very secure front-end bite, and you can then roll into the throttle to balance the car through the bend and then rocket out the other side with very confidence inspiring grip and balance. This speaks volumes for the Cayenne Coupe’s sure-footedness and predictable handling in foul weather conditions.
How rapidly you leave a bend is of course dependent on the engine you have up front. We drove the base Cayenne first, and quickly warmed to the adequate thrust of the 340 horses it provides from 5,300-6,400rpm. This is backed up by 450Nm of torque from 1,450-5,300rpm.
Unlike the entry-level naturally aspirated V6 motor that was out of its depth in the first and second-generation Cayenne models, the single turbo 2,995cc V6 motor has palpably brisk and willing performance, its snappy acceleration bolstered by the close ratio eight speed automatic gearbox that is standard equipment across the board. Its eight forward ratios are stacked to achieve top speed in sixth gear, with seventh and eighth being over-driven for restful and economical cruising.
The base Cayenne is able to reach 100km/h in a decent 6.0 sec (0-60mph in 5.7 sec), taking 13.9 sec to pass 160km/h (100mph) on its way to a 243km/h (152mph) top speed. Importantly, this engine has a smooth willing character and does not feel stressed in the process despite the 2,030 kg (DIN) kerb weight.
Jumping into the Cayenne Turbo Coupe was a revelation. Firing up the 3,996cc twin-turbo V8 feels like summoning the God of Thunder, which is one way to describe the soundtrack of this bent crank motor.
Making a stonking 550hp between 5,750-6,000 rpm and 770Nm of torque from 2,000-4,500 rpm, the Turbo trickles along at town speeds in a most docile way in a high gear. But drop the hammer and it feels like Godzilla on the rampage, turning into a growling, snarling monster able to effortlessly punch past slower traffic and leave so-called performance cars floundering in its wake.
Despite the Turbo Coupe’s 2,200kg kerb weight the twin-turbo V8 delivers bombastic supercar killing performance, with 100km/h coming up in just 3.9 sec (0-60mph in 3.7 sec), and 160km/h in 9.6 sec on its way to a 286km/h (179mph) Vmax.
The Cayenne S Coupe sits between these two extremes, its 2,894cc twin-turbo V6 developing a healthy 440hp from 5,700-6,600rpm, with 550Nm of torque from 1,800-5,500rpm. That allows it to reach the 100km/h benchmark in 5.0 sec (0-60mph in 4.7 sec) and pass 160km/h in 11.4 sec, before topping out at 263km/h (164mph).
I tend go by gut feelings as far as design is concerned, and when I first laid eyes on the Cayenne Coupe in Shanghai, I instinctively liked it. The fact that it drives marginally better than the already very accomplished Cayenne is simply icing on the cake. Best car in its class? Easily!