While we at Vicarious endeavour to review machines as comprehensively as possible, in a weird twist of fate, I’ve managed to drive no fewer than four distinct variations of the new 2024 Porsche Cayenne in each California, Germany and Southern Ontario this year. It’s given me a more thorough experience than usual, and during that time, in all those different settings a few indisputable truths became evident.
Powertrain Choice: Passing the famed sign denoting the start of an unrestricted portion of the Autobahn, I rolled on to the throttle, smoothly accelerating from a cruising speed of 120 km/h to north of 200 km/h where the big Porsche contentedly motored along, the trucks in the right lane flashing past as if they were in reverse. Had this been the Cayenne Turbo GT model, we could’ve flown past at more than 300 km/h, but this was a base trim with its 3L V6 pumping out 348 horsepower.
This brings the first indisputable truth which is that no matter which of the six different powertrain configurations selected, the Cayenne is capable of proper high-performance driving.
New for 2024, Porsche has replaced the twin-turbo V6 in the Cayenne S trim with a 4-litre turbocharged V8 that presents nearly as much oomph as last year’s Cayenne GTS model. When asked why they brought back a V8 for this model in an era when V8s are dying faster than flies in the fall, the answer was simply “because that’s what our buyers want.” Fair enough. And it’s easy to understand why since the bigger engine delivers not only a smoothness, but that lovely V8 burble from its exhaust, and it has those in-cabin harmonics that one associates with a premium performance vehicle. Its 468 horsepower doesn’t hurt either, giving it an appreciable bump in urgency compared to the base Cayenne.
Those with a hunger for super-car-hunting performance will want to splash out for the Cayenne Turbo GT whose 650 horsepower V8 rips off a sizzling 0-100 km/h time of 3.3 seconds.
Astonishingly, the Turbo GT isn’t the most powerful Cayenne as the new Turbo E-Hybrid dispenses with a jaw-dropping 729 horsepower from the combined efforts of its gas engine and electric motors. This is the pinnacle of the plug-in Cayennes that also include a Cayenne E-Hybrid and Cayenne S E-Hybrid with power outputs that help round out the very broad model line.
Road (and track) Manners: Approaching its terminal velocity, that base Cayenne remained stable, providing a completely stress-free drive despite its elevated speed, a trait common to each of the models experienced. The Cayenne E-Hybrid adds an element of further calm with the mass of its battery pack helping to keep the SUV’s centre of gravity low, and enhancing the feel of it being stuck to the pavement. While coasting, or at urban speeds, its electric-only mode not only increases efficiency dramatically, but offers a silent and vibration-free driving sensation too.
This isn’t to say the Cayenne can’t make the hairs on one’s neck stand up. Driving the Turbo GT in anger around the canyon roads of Southern California can make even seasoned driving enthusiasts quickly forget they’re piloting a 2,245 kg (5,000 lb) SUV instead of a true-blue sports car. The forward thrust is one thing, but the massive carbon ceramic brakes vaporize speed with ferocity while the giant, sticky summer tires and full-time all-wheel-drive cling to the pavement in a way that surely breaks several laws of physics. It’s no surprise the Turbo GT holds the Nürburgring record for the quickest SUV lap time.
Spending a week with the Cayenne S driving around in a Southern Ontario winter, it’s the solidity of the structure, the unflappable handling composure, and the precision of the steering that constantly impressed, even with my test unit fitted with squishy winter tires.
Interior: The Cayenne’s cabin presents the second indisputable truth that, like every contemporary Porsche, it’s fastidiously constructed of quality materials. The Cayenne’s 2024 update sees a new dashboard layout very similar to the EV Taycan’s modern, all-digital layout. The driver faces a configurable digital display that can be set to a driver’s preference for classic round dials, a map-centric look, or even a minimalist output with just the essentials.
The central infotainment system features bright, crisp graphics and good responsiveness. For the most part, it’s a system that’s effective and intuitive, but I did become frustrated every time a CarPlay message came in and the audio system would start playing music from my phone rather than revert back to the radio station I had previously been enjoying. If I’d had a passenger riding with me, they could’ve played DJ on their own 10.9-inch touch screen presented on the dash in front of them.
Climate controls are managed through a horizontal haptic panel augmented by a few knurled toggle switches and a volume knob for the audio system. Serious audiophiles will want to spring for the Burmester system since even the upgraded Bose Surround system is disappointingly muddy in its sound reproduction.
The base seats offer good support for spirited driving, yet all-day comfort. The upgrade Adaptive Sport Seats ramp up the comfort further, though the side bolstering is aggressive enough to make climbing in and out a bit more challenging.
2024 Porsche Cayenne S
2024 Porsche Cayenne S
2024 Porsche Cayenne S
2024 Porsche Cayenne S
Rear seat room is ample for two, and suitable for three for moderate distances, hindered mostly by the centre tunnel that requires the middle passenger’s legs to be splayed. Opt for the Cayenne Coupe variants with their raked roof line and rear passengers (limited to two) will forego some headroom, and the cargo capacity shrinks from 772 L to 592 L.
Pricing: The third indisputable truth about the new Cayenne is that it’s an expensive machine. Starting at just over $95,000 for a base model, it’ll quickly crest six figures by simply adding a few basics that are standard fare on many cars costing a third what the Cayenne does. The Premium Package adds essentials like the panoramic sunroof, heated front and rear seats and adaptive cruise control and will surely be a default for anyone shopping the new Cayenne.
The sheer configurability of all new Porsches does mean that a buyer can get exactly the features (trims, colours, and performance) they desire with their new machine and means a Cayenne can be expensive, but still a good value.
At the other end of the Cayenne line-up, a Turbo GT starts at a cool quarter million and can quickly exceed $300,000 with some customization, and that’s before sales and luxury taxes.
The sweet spot for me is the Cayenne S ($115,000) and Cayenne S E-Hybrid ($123,000) that balance impressive performance with decent value, as long as one doesn’t get carried away with the options.
Conclusion: When Porsche announced more than two decades ago that an SUV was coming with the storied brand’s crest on its nose, it was met with outrage from the sports car faithful worried what it would mean for the future of the beloved brand. But since the first version of the Cayenne, Porsche has ensured the Cayenne delivers on the promise of being capable of impressive road (and track) performance, while adding the benefit of a practical interior, and even decent off-road and towing capability. The Cayenne and its smaller Macan sibling have each enjoyed the best-selling Porsche title over the years, which keeps the company with the resources to continue delivering the exceptional sports cars the company has always been known for.
The 2024 Cayenne line-up reaffirms that not only has this model long since earned its rightful place within the Porsche line-up, it continues to be a true Porsche with class-leading driving dynamics, build-quality and style. Now it just happens to offer more diversity of drivetrains than ever before ensuring there’s a Cayenne that suits anyone’s desires – and no matter where it’s being driven — as long as they’ve got the resources to afford it.