After a long, long day in multiple classrooms at a driver training facility that provided a deep, deep dive into the innards and outtards of the 2019 Porsche Cayenne, we can safely predict two things:
One, Porsche will be profoundly disappointed if the new Cayenne isn’t recognized as the best SUV ever, given its performance on the road, the surprising emphasis on its performance off-road, and its general level of luxury, comfort, safety, and electronic sophistication.
Two, it’s very expensive—to build a new car at this level. That’s because global safety regulations dictate ever-increasing, pricey updates where, for example, changes must be engineered into every car, regardless of its destination, to accommodate Japanese pedestrian head-injury concerns. Plus, the market compels the third-generation Cayenne (generation one lasted from 2002 to 2010, two from 2011 to 2017) to be better everywhere: More powerful yet smaller engines that offer more horsepower and torque, and also better mileage. The package must be lighter, though probably larger to better accommodate passengers and multiple sets of golf clubs. The level of complication, especially electronic, increases exponentially, yet must remain more reliable than ever. Aerodynamic technology must allow the Porsche Cayenne Turbo to reach 177 mph, and remain stable and relatively safe.
By all accounts—well, the company’s accounts, anyway, as we don’t get to drive the Cayenne for a few more weeks—Porsche has hit its target in every area. And in the one subjective area that confounds the Germans because they can’t quantify it on a spreadsheet: This is arguably the first pretty Cayenne ever. Of course, there are tons of pretty SUVs out there—even Subaru got it all figured out with the new Crosstrek—so it was more of a necessity than a pleasant happenstance. Finally, the Cayenne looks premium.
The 2019 Porsche Cayenne is all-new, meaning not that we haven’t seen some of its bits and pieces before—the basic platform is shared with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga. But Porsche engineers stressed that they took this platform and made it their own, making multiple wholesale changes to better suit the business plan which now calls for three Porsche Cayenne models: The base Cayenne (starting price is $66,750), powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 with 340 horsepower. The Cayenne S ($83,950) gets a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 440 horsepower. These are very similar engines despite the displacement difference. The piston bore is the same, but the stroke is slightly shorter in the 2.9-liter engine to better suit a modified crankshaft. Compression ratio and a few other specs are different, too.
So we’re looking at three models to start, far fewer than the 2017 lineup, where we have the Cayenne, Cayenne Platinum, Cayenne S, Cayenne GTS, Cayenne Turbo, Cayenne Turbo S, and Cayenne S E-Hybrid and Cayenne S E-Hybrid Platinum. By comparison, the 2017 Cayenne started at $60,600, and the Cayenne Turbo S topped the line at $161,600. Yes, there will be a Hybrid.
And no, nobody would say if a diesel version might come to the U.S. For many of us, the Cayenne Diesel was our favorite model: torque and, driven conservatively, 30 mpg on the highway. But don’t hold your breath. Apparently there was some issue with German diesels recently, which every company that builds diesel engines wishes you would forget ASAP.
The 2019 Cayenne is 2.4 inches longer than the current model, and all other dimensions, except for height, are marginally increased. Height is reduced by a third of an inch. Weight is down considerably, averaging about 4,500 pounds depending on model and trim. There are apps galore, including one that helps plan, and then records, your off-road excursions, presumably so you’ll have something to show the insurance company. Name a safety feature and it’s either standard or optional, from night vision to “maneuvering assist with rim protection” to voice activation that lets you say, “I am cold,” and the cabin temperature rises by two degrees. You can also get rear axle steering—to a maximum of three degrees—for an extra $1,620.
The Turbo is the only model with a rear motorized roof flap that extends not only to add rear downforces, but extends even more to act as an “air brake” when the car perceives you are trying to make a hard stop from high speeds. At 168 mph, for instance, Porsche says the air brake alone helps the Cayenne stop nearly seven feet shorter than it would otherwise. The Turbo also has grille flaps that open and close, depending on when you need cooling or increased aerodynamics. All told, if you click most every option box on the Turbo order sheet, you can likely top $170,000, and that includes the $5,810 Burmester sound system.