In-depth reviews

Porsche Cayenne review – ride and handling

The Cayenne’s driving demeanor varies quite substantially. GTS and Turbo models drive well, but hybrids feel cumbersome

Evo rating
  • Best large SUV to drive this side of an Aston Martin DBX; does have a Porsche ‘feel’; beautifully built
  • Hybrid models feel cumbersome and heavy; coupe model adds nothing to the package

There’s a feeling to all-forms of Porsche that somehow seems so well-judged from the moment you settle into the firm driver’s seat. Critical touch points – the size and thickness of the steering wheel, the firm pedal response and the damped slickness of the transmission selector, they all purvey a quality beyond just materials, one that tells of painstaking development. Despite sharing a majority of its components with the Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg and Bentley Bentayga, the Porsche Cayenne’s feel is instantly distinguishable, and the package is all the better for it. 

Despite the variety of models within Porsche’s current range, there’s still a consistency to certain controls and their weights which is rather gratifying, starting with the steering itself. The rack isn’t overly fast, but the weight is quite heavy for this type of car, and with that movement comes impressive accuracy. 

All models on the PASM sport suspension have a firm edge to the ride, but wheel control over sharp road intrusions is impressive and the suspension never feels out of step or control even with what is admittedly a lot of weight and a lofty centre of gravity. 

The GTS is the best example of this in the range. Although it rides on 21-inch wheels, it strikes an impressive balance between control and comfort, even if luxury car levels of isolation from the road-surface aren’t on the menu. When fitted with the optional air-suspension, all models find a good rhythm with the road surface certainly, but up the wheel size and the reduction in tyre sidewall can be problematic as it introduces a brittleness, especially on hybrid models. 

The Turbo S e-hybrid isn’t quite so sorted, as despite employing quite literally all of Porsche’s hardware tricks to keep the handling in check, its sheer 2.5-ton mass is always at the head of proceedings, with the body incapable of managing the weight on both lateral planes. Under hard acceleration, there’s a hesitation driven not by the powertrain’s lack of response, but the body’s physical desire not to move forwards. Enter into a corner and in dry conditions it really does feel as if the tyres are peeling off the rims, such are the forces involved. In greasy conditions the tyres just give up the ghost entirely, leading to some pretty terminal understeer that forces you to pootle around at low speeds like you’re driving a 700bhp Jeep Wrangler. 

The Turbo S e-hybrid also struggles with its carbon ceramic brakes, with the blending of regenerative and friction braking knocking your confidence in the components you certainly feel you need to lean on most. Apply brake pressure and the regenerative brakes are the main device, however once you’re deep enough into the travel to call in the ceramics, they bite quite suddenly, making the braking difficult to modulate.

Body roll is contained – that’s the 48V active anti-roll system working – but in countering the body’s movement it intensifies the disconnection between the driver and the car. Turn into a corner, load the chassis and instead of feeling that corner dig down into its suspension travel, thus creating grip, the movement is counteracted, making front wheel skitters across the surface creating some pretty terminal understeer.  

The Cayenne is best when kept in its simpler forms, and compared to all mainstream premium rivals it still rules class when it comes to on-road dynamics. Looking further up the stream of big-money SUVs, the new Aston DBX shows it a thing or two in delicacy and feel, but is a far more expensive machine.

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