2024 Porsche Cayenne S E3
The third-generation Cayenne has been treated to a mid-life update. One of the most altered models is the Cayenne S, now powered by a thumping V8...
Words James Fossdyke
Photography Barry Hayden
THE BEST, DONE BETTER
We drive the new V8-powered Cayenne S.
You don’t have to like what the Cayenne represents, but you can’t help but respect what it has done for its maker during the past two decades. A trailblazing performance SUV, the model was initially met with alarm from Porsche purists, but the brand held firm in its belief a sports utility vehicle carrying the famous Stuttgart crest would be a massive sales success and has reaped the reward for its decision. There’s no denying SUVs are now Porsche’s money-spinner — since the Cayenne’s introduction, more than 1,250,000 units have been sold. In 2022 alone, Porsche main dealers shifted more than 300,000 examples of the E3-generation Cayenne. This is even more impressive when you appreciate the model was already five years old.
All this means the arrival of a new Cayenne is big news, even when the new Cayenne isn’t especially new. Essentially, Porsche has launched a ‘facelift’ for the E3, albeit a fairly comprehensive one. The exterior design is tweaked, the interior completely revamped and changes have been applied to Cayenne’s engine range. Suspension components have been fettled, too.
The Cayenne S is one of the most radically altered variants in the new line-up, having been effectively subjected to a heart transplant. Gone is the old V6 petrol engine, in comes a thumping great V8. The S already offered one of the most appealing blends of performance and practicality in the Cayenne range, but will the V8 version prove even better?
From the outset, it’s clear to see Porsche hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel. The Cayenne’s exterior has been subjected to the lightest of updates — only the most tuned-in Cayenne aficionados will notice the new bonnet, the exaggerated front arches and the new rear bumper. Certainly, few will spot the new colour palette or the fresh range of twenty-, twenty-one- and twenty-two-inch alloy wheels.
INSTEAD OF HAVING THE IGNITION SWITCH BY YOUR KNEE AND THE GEAR LEVER ON THE CENTRE CONSOLE, BOTH ARE NOW CHEEK-BY-JOWL IN THE DASHBOARD EFFICIENCY ON THE ROAD
Arguably the most important exterior update is found right at the nose, where the Cayenne gets Matrix LED headlights as standard. HD Matrix LED lights (boasting thirty-two thousand pixels) are an option, expanding the capabilities of the system with a selection of clever features. For starters, not only will the system pick out other vehicles and dip beam accordingly, but in a bid to maintain driver focus, it will also highlight the occupied lane on a motorway. Additionally, the lights will flash in the direction of hazards, such as pedestrians walking in the road, warning each party of the other’s presence.
This is an indicator (no pun intended!) of Porsche’s priorities for the Cayenne, which has clearly been given a technology overhaul. Chief among the upgrades is the addition of a new digital instrument display lifted from the Taycan EV. This swish user interface replaces the old ‘hybrid’ display, which combines digital and analogue readouts. In our opinion, the switch doesn’t add a great deal to the driving experience — we liked the old display. The new digi-dials looks a bit odd without a hood reaching over the binnacle, but the graphics are sharp, easy to read and intuitive to configure. The same goes for the optional head-up display, which feels a little small by modern standards, but is crisp and offers a choice of different visuals, including a somewhat superfluous mock full instrument cluster.
The most interesting addition to the revised Cayenne’s interior, though, is the optional passenger display. This trick bit of kit is designed to allow the passenger to watch TV shows on the move, or to simply have a personalised array of vehicle operating information displayed. This feature can be configured while the host Porsche is in motion, but don’t be concerned the driver might be distracted — there’s a film covering the display, preventing the driver from seeing it. In truth, this film also makes the display look a bit odd for the passenger. Moreover, with the digital instrument cluster and a massive central touchscreen a few inches away, it all feels a tad unnecessary.
As we’ve already suggested, there’s more to the Cayenne’s overhaul than just infotainment systems. For starters, the inclusion of the new instrument cluster has led Porsche to reposition the ignition and gear controls. Instead of having the ignition switch by your knee and the gear lever on the centre console, both are now cheek-by-jowl in the dashboard, between the central touchscreen (which, surprisingly, hasn’t really changed) and the new instrument cluster. Both items have morphed significantly, with the ignition switch becoming a conventional button. The gear lever, meanwhile, has turned into a Taycan-style toggle.
Moving these items has, of course, afforded Porsche more space on the centre console. Consequently, the company has installed a new climate control panel, which combines conventional switchgear with digital readouts and soft buttons, all integrated into the same slightly flexible plastic trim panel. It features a glossy finish, making it a magnet for grubby fingerprints. This detracts from the premium feel of the interior, but the inclusion of physical switches for temperature control is certainly welcome at a time every other manufacturer seems to be dedicated exclusively to touchscreens.
GO WITH THE FLOW
With new air vents in a new housing, Porsche has also changed the Cayenne’s dashboard design, although it feels just as solid and upmarket as before. It’s superbly engineered, every material carefully selected, every panel fitting neatly alongside its neighbour. As is the case with all new Porsches, the updated Cayenne presents a masterclass in cabin design.
It’s just practical as earlier Cayennes, too. This is evidenced by a cavernous 698-litre luggage bay. Fold the back seats and the available space swells to an almost ridiculous 1,708 litres, but doing so will deprive you of those useful rear pews. And useful is the word, because two adults will be very comfortable back there — head- and leg-room are both more than sufficient. The super-comfortable seats make this cabin a pleasant place to spend time. Elect a panoramic roof and it’s an even more of a pleasant place to be, primarily because the standard black headlining makes things a bit dark back there.
Of course, all this is true irrespective of which version of the Cayenne you choose. The S, however, has been given a powerplant update, and it’s a biggie. As mentioned earlier, the old V6 petrol engine has gone. In its place is the four-litre, twin-turbocharged, petrol-powered V8 previously reserved for the GTS and Turbo models. In the S, the bent-eight is tuned to produce a chunky 468bhp, thereby delivering four horsepower more than the Cayenne E-Hybrid, which combines the standard Cayenne’s three-litre V6 with an electric motor.
Naturally, the shift to V8 power has dramatically changed the S’s character, making it feel a much meatier proposition than before. From the moment the engine rumbles into life, to the second it gurgles to a stop, this version of the Cayenne feels more special and more spectacular than its immediate predecessor. The way the updated S burbles at idle and then roars to its 6,800rpm crescendo sets it apart from the standard Cayenne and the E-Hybrid, despite the fact performance doesn’t greatly increase.
As before, every Cayenne comes with a semi-automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive as standard equipment, but the new S bellows its way from standstill to 62mph in a brisk five seconds flat. And if you shell out for the Sport Chrono package — standard if your S has the Coupe body style — this time is cut to 4.7 seconds. That’s plenty quick enough, but the heavier, cheaper and only marginally less potent E-Hybrid is almost as fast, hitting 62mph in 4.9 seconds.
The differentiator, then, is the character of the powertrain, though S buyers will pay the price at the pumps. Indeed, Porsche has published an official fuel economy figure of close to 22mpg. Compare this to the base Cayenne’s 23.3-26.2mpg. Granted, the difference is only around ten percent, and in the real world, our test suggested the two models would return remarkably close fuel economy due to the V8’s improved low-down grunt. As ever, it seems smaller engines are helpful for lab tests, but they don’t always help improve efficiency on the road.
Let’s be honest, fuel efficiency is not the primary aim of the Cayenne S. Nor is it a particular priority for those likely to buy a performance SUV. More important is the way this Porsche rides and handles. Unsurprisingly, it excels. Porsche’s engineers have tuned the suspension with new damping technology, adding an extra valve, thereby separating compression and rebound. The control software monitors when the damper reaches the top or bottom of its stroke, at which point the second valve is primed to deal with the forthcoming opposite movement. Apparently, Porsche considered combining this technology with a road scanning system, but dismissed the latter as ineffective.
The result of this new-fangled damper wizardry is highly impressive. Admittedly, our test took place on the relatively smooth roads of Austria and southern Germany, and we should highlight the fact our test Cayenne S was fitted with optional Sport Chrono and the £1,760 adaptive air suspension package, but we suspect most buyers will pick these options anyway. And if they do, they’re in for a treat, because the way this Porsche soaks up bumps in Normal driving mode is little short of brilliant.
At high speed, the ride is soft and cosseting, but never crosses into the realm of floating on its springs. It’s something the manufacturer’s engineers imaginatively refer to as Porsche Comfort. It’s designed to let you feel what the wheels are doing without transmitting the data into jolting movements. While the outgoing Cayenne was already very capable in this department, the new E3 is even better.
Yes, bigger potholes produce a bit of a thump at low speed, but overall, the ride is exceptionally good.
Importantly, it isn’t compromised when you switch to the Sport suspension setting, which is designed to reduce body roll, but does so without massively impacting comfort. There’s a bit more movement in the seat when you hit a bump (at any speed), but it’s far from intolerable. In fact, even if you didn’t sample Normal mode, you’d think this was a comfortable Porsche, particularly on the motorway. Only when you switch to Sport Plus does the Cayenne S really feel firm. Even then, you’re subjected to an acceptable level of stiffness.
In so many sports cars, choosing the stiffest suspension setting is like force-feeding Viagra to the dampers, but not in the Cayenne. Body roll is eliminated at all but the most outrageous cornering speeds. Porsche reckons the Cayenne S will stay more or less flat at almost 1g of lateral force, and though the public road isn’t necessarily the safest place to test this, the way the S handles suggests there’s truth in the claim.
Not that the Cayenne is imprecise in its less aggressive settings. Even in Normal mode, there’s still plenty of poise. The trademark Porsche steering feel has been retained. And while it’s true to say the Sport setting hunkers the Cayenne S down a little and makes the vehicle feel a touch more agile, most buyers will be happy enjoy the ride in Normal mode, although we suggest switching to Sport for more exciting stretches of road. Unless you’re planning a track day (at which you’re almost certainly going to be driving the only Cayenne present), you’ll probably want to leave the Sport Plus setting alone.
While we’re on the subject of having fun, we should give special mention to the brakes, which are now slightly bigger than they were in the previous Cayenne S. The difference isn’t huge — so much so you probably wouldn’t notice if you weren’t told a change had occurred. Feel is adequate, rather than exceptional, but this Porsche can stop with miraculous alacrity. Hopefully, owners won’t need to carry out too many (if any) emergency stops, but the fact they can have great confidence in the Cayenne’s brakes makes driving much more enjoyable. And the new Cayenne is a very enjoyable car to drive and to travel in, particularly if you’re sat in an S. Until the updated GTS and Turbo models arrive, this is the most exciting Cayenne in the range, albeit not necessarily the most sensible. The new-generation Cayenne in general, though, would be an entirely rational purchase.
The revised E3 carries on where its predecessor left off, offering all the comfort, dynamism and practicality recognised for making it so popular, but adding new technology and, in the case of the S, more character. It’s a cracker.
UNTIL THE UPDATED GTS AND TURBO MODELS ARRIVE, THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING CAYENNE IN THE RANGE, ALBEIT NOT NECESSARILY THE MOST SENSIBLE
Above Newly revised Cayenne S is truly a ‘go anywhere, do anything’ Porsche.
Above Acceleration is swift, the benchmark sprint to 62mph taking just 4.7 seconds in a Sport Chrono-equipped Cayenne S (working on the assumption you don’t encounter a river on your route).
Above Revised versions of the Cayenne GTS and Turbo are on the horizon, though we can’t help feel the S has everything you could possibly want from a Porsche SUV.
Above Typical of all new Porsche interiors, cabin design and materials are of a high standard.
Right Optional integrated passenger infotainment display screen is hidden from the driver’s view.
Below Total amount of luggage space on offer is ludicrous, especially if you fold the rear seats.
Above Extra shove comes from a V8 developing close to 470bhp, replacing the V6 powering the Cayenne S of yore
Below Taycan-style digidash replaces analogue clocks.
- Model 2024 Porsche Cayenne S
- Price UK Cayenne from £67,400, Cayenne S from £80,800
- Powertrain 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 petrol, eight-speed Tiptronic S
- with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive,
- Automatic Brake Differential (ABD) and Anti-Slip Regulation
- Economy 21.2-22.8mpg
- CO2 emissions 282-303g/km
- Top speed 170mph
- Acceleration 0-62mph 4.7 seconds (with Sport Chrono Package)
- Max Power 468bhp at 6,000rpm
- Max Torque 443lb-ft at 2,000-5,000rpm