If Porsche fanatics had their way, the pitchfork-wielding minority would probably have never permitted the German carmaker to release an SUV into the market. Fifteen years and more than 770,000 units later, the 2019 Porsche Cayenne ushers in a third-generation take on Zuffenhausen’s biggest sporty utes, a model that has been indisputably effective in forging Porsche’s long-term financial success.
Though its mildly reworked sheetmetal appears strongly related to the previous generation, much — in fact, essentially everything — is new with this latest entry-level Cayenne. For starters, gone is the naturally aspirated VR6 base engine, replaced with a single twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, a gain of 35 hp and 37 lb-ft. The new mill, which also powers the Macan S, can launch the Cayenne to 60 mph in as little as 5.6 seconds (1.6 seconds quicker than before).
While pure acceleration isn’t on my mind as I tackle some of Sonoma County’s most treacherous tarmac in the 2019 Cayenne, the Ozarks-like torque plateau starts at a mere 1,340 rpm, making it awfully easy for the new eight-speed automatic to find the power’s sweet spot and propel the 4,377-pound SUV swiftly through the curves ahead.
The torque converter-equipped gearbox doesn’t have the same snappy predictive engine speed tachometer wizardry as Porsche’s PDK transmissions, but the updated ‘box, built in collaboration with ZF (unlike the previous Aisin mashup) uses a wider range of gear ratios to get the Cayenne hustling quicker. Conversely, at 70 mph, the engine is spinning at a mere 1,500 rpm in top gear, a nice relaxed tempo for long-distance cruising.
While the base model starts at a seemingly realistic $66,750 (including $1,050 destination), extras will cost you dearly. Carefully equip your Cayenne, and you might be able to get away with a minimally appointed example for less than $75,000, but a properly posh example will require quite a bit of extra dough. Also, we’re just talking about the base Cayenne here. A Cayenne S ($83,950) or Turbo ($125,650) will set you back even more.
If you’re willing to pay the premium, though, the new Cayenne delivers precisely what cargo-hauling Porsche fanboys consistently insist they want: an SUV that satisfies the sport part of the equation while offering a level of functionality and people-moving they can’t get in a 911 or 718. It may not be for everyone, but the new Cayenne’s improvements go a long way towards making it future-proof against less driver-focused competitors. If you can swallow the MSRP, Porsche’s Cayennes prove that speed and driver satisfaction needn’t be sacrificed for utility.