Auto123 reviews the 2020 Porsche Cayenne S Coupe.
With the Cayenne Coupe, Porsche continues to push the boundaries of the SUV game. Of course, the boundaries in the Porsche world are a little different than those from your average manufacturer, because Porsche is a performance brand first and foremost and we all know how up-in-arms the world’s Porschephiles were when the Cayenne first arrived.
Here’s the thing, though – in coupe version, I think the Cayenne actually makes… more sense.
After all, performance brands have historically been best known for their two-door cars. Those have been their bread and butter until five or ten years ago, when even they began to diversify and when we started seeing stuff like performance crossovers and four-door coupes.
Which, of course, this Cayenne Coupe most definitely is, with a swooping rear deck that looks fantastic. Porsche has managed to make it so it doesn’t end in a strange, abrupt, upswept way as it does on vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe or the BMW X6. It’s as if the designers started adjusting the angle of the rear deck a little further back in the roofline, so the angle of the rear hatch is slightly less severe and able to form a better taper with the rear fascia.
Either way, it’s the best-looking of the bunch, even when dressed in the somewhat tame bronzy-grey exterior colour that my tester is.
It should come as no surprise, of course, that the Coupe has less rear-seat headroom than does the “wagon” version. What is perhaps surprising is that it’s not different by all that much. The Coupe only loses about 40 mm of rear headroom to the wagon as Porsche has lowered the rear seats and punched a couple of bubbles into the rear headliner. I also had no trouble getting my three-year-old into her forward-facing child’s seat.
Cargo space takes a bit more of a hit, as it drops from 772 to 625 litres with the rear seats up, and from 1,708 to 1,540 litres with the rear seats folded. The main issue there is the height of the load area, so you can’t load taller items in the Coupe.
The model, by the way, starts at a higher price than a standard Cayenne: $95,000 for the Cayenne S plays $103,000 for the S Coupe.
Price difference there may be, but up front it’s same old, same old (with a few exceptions, of course). So you get a small-radius steering wheel, perfect driver-seating position (if one that I find a little snug compared to the X6) and cool details like centre console-mounted hand-holds for the passenger, the Sport Chrono clock atop the dash and that gorgeous, absolutely breathtaking chocolately-brown interior base colour. Brown leather can go very wrong in the car world, but it can also look fantastic, as it does in various Genesis products, BMW products and right here in this Cayenne Coupe.
The only complaint I have – more of a nitpick actually – is that there’s a little too much of it here, almost to the point that it creates a feeling of blandness. I would have liked, for example, to have seen the upper dash or at least the A-pillars finished in the black seen in other parts of the cabin. Of course, Porsche allows for all kinds of colour combinations so I’m sure with a few tweaks, this would work out just fine.
I’m also less enamoured with Porsche’s decision to kill all the buttons that used to sit around the shift lever in the older vehicle. Your climate controls and chassis adjustments are all now controlled by a touch surface with haptic feedback. I admit that back when the centre console was more loaded with buttons, I may have asked for just a few less. This new treatment, though, I find to either be overly sensitive or not quite responsive enough, and it attracts dust like a magnet.
Speaking of digitization, the gauge cluster is now almost completely digitized, though you know Porsche was never going to completely forsake the analogue world and so they’ve left us a proper mechanical tach, sat right there in the middle of the cluster. Of course, the displays either side of it can be modified to display anything from your GPS map to your trip computer to your speedometer, and the way they’re controlled with delicate spherical wheels on either spoke is right on.
Porsche’s PCM infotainment interface is highlighted by a 12.3” touchscreen display and it works responsively and is full of good info. Trouble is, you do have to surf through quite a few menus to get at it and the colour palette is somewhat bland. That’s likely a move not to distract too much from the driving – it’s a Porsche, after all, and it has much more important things to do than look colourful – but when you see what competition from the aforementioned Genesis and BMW are doing, it starts to fade a little.
The drive sure doesn’t, though.
Power from the twin-turbo V6 is rated at 434 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, both figures that sound much, much smaller than they feel. In the Sport and Sport Plus drive modes, the Cayenne Coupe springs forth off the line to the tune of 0-100 km/h in 5.0 seconds, which also somehow feels faster from behind the wheel. Maybe it’s the driver position, maybe it’s the noise; either way, this thing rocks and I often had to remind myself that this isn’t the fastest Cayenne Coupe in the stable.
So it’s fast in a straight line and it should come as no surprise that it can scythe through corners in a manner that completely justifies the Porsche emblem on its elegant snout. Quick left-right-left transitions, long sweepers, sharp hairpins with heavy braking - it’s all taken in stride by this sportiest of sporty SUVs. You have to wonder just what the heck Porsche was thinking, building a vehicle for the masses and making it so good that most of them will never come within five- or six-tenths of its overall abilities.
That’s especially the case when you spin the weird-looking dial that springs off the wheel hub, which is how you choose between those aforementioned drive modes.
Selecting “S” immediately firms up the dampers and weighs up the steering in addition to modifying the shift points of the 8-speed automatic transmission and sharpening throttle inputs. The result is a mid-size SUV that feels like some of the best sports sedans did not ten years ago, and that is a darn fine achievement.
It's also the reason why I think when it comes to the Cayenne, it’s the Coupe version for me. All the rival coupe variants, like the GLE and the X6, just seem silly to me for some reason, but because this is a Porsche and because it’s just so darn effective at being a Porsche, well, I want my SUV to look as much like a Porsche sports car as possible. If you want practicality, get the wagon version. But while at first I felt the Coupe was even more of an affront to cars like the 911 because it was trying so hard to be one, my biases have now been corrected. Porsche has nailed it here.
We like less
Cost of entry is more than that of the standard Cayenne S, but with less space