THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, Ont. — Porsche is a sports car company with a history of innovation. Most of those advances have come on the engineering front. But perhaps the most significant was the arrival of the Porsche Cayenne.
When one of the world’s most revered sports car companies announced it was going to produce an SUV, the cries of protest were heard around the world.
“How could they betray us? This is the end of the company. Is nothing sacred any more?”
There were some, this scribe included, who ventured that those who were complaining the loudest had probably never owned a Porsche. They were fans who would someday love to get one.
In the meantime, many existing Porsche owners were flocking to their dealer to put a deposit on a new Cayenne. They were tired of having to go elsewhere for a family conveyance.
It took 53 years for Porsche to sell one million vehicles. It has sold almost 800,000 Cayennes in the 15 years since it was introduced. The hugely profitable Cayenne allows Porsche to remain what is widely believed to be the most profitable car company in the world. Cayenne and Macaan (its newer and smaller sibling) sales fuel the sports car side of the business.
The Cayenne started a trend among high-end luxury and sports car makers that continues to this day, Everyone from Rolls Royce and Bentley to Maserati has a jacked up four-door utility vehicle in its arsenal. The mid-size luxury utility vehicle segment where the Cayenne does battle with Audi Q5, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90 has grown 43 per cent in the last five years and that growth is expected to continue into the 2020s.
Porsche definitely started something.
The first Cayenne, known internally as E1, was launched 15 years ago. Within its first year, Porsche sales doubled. The E1 got a face lift in 2007. The second generation (E2) appeared as a 2011 model and it got a mild makeover for 2014.
Rolling into Porsche stores as you read this, is the third-generation Cayenne, the E3. The looks are familiar — after all, this is the company that has whittled away at the 911 profile for half a decade with the most recent version looking not unlike the original — albeit having bulked up somewhat.
The conservative redesign includes new LED headlights at both ends, and an elegant light strip across the rear. Every body panel in between, is new and made of aluminum. The 2019 Cayenne is slightly longer, taller and wider than the old, and boasts an extra 100 litres of cargo room. Yet it is the 125 kilos lighter than the outgoing model and 215 kilos less than the first generation.
Don’t let the familiar look fool you. The 2019 Cayenne is completely new. It has a new chassis, new engine, new transmission and a new suspension. The interior has been heavily remodelled. The diesel option is gone — forever — as Porsche has announced it will concentrate on hybrid and electric power.
The first Cayennes to cross the Atlantic and offload at Autoport are the $75,000 base models with a turbocharged, 335-horsepower V6, eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. It will be followed by the Cayenne S with a different V6 with two turbos and 434 horsepower. Then the Cayenne turbo with its 541-horsepower, twin-turbo V8.
This latest Cayenne boasts five fundamental changes:
- New double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension
- Mostly-aluminum body
- New base engine
- New transmission
- New wheels
Porsche is renown for the wide variety of wheels offered as an option. But from now on, the Cayenne will ride on staggered wheels — different sizes front and rear. The standard fronts are 225 mm wide, the rears 275 mm. Atop the option and performance ladders rest 315-mm wide rubber wrapped around 22-inch wheels.
The new tires and wheel sizes were chosen to work in tandem with the new suspension, and lower overall weight. The first impression is of a much sharper turn-in, and greater agility. That matches up well with the additional performance afforded by the new 3.0-litre turbo V6, which chops a remarkable 1.7 seconds from the 0-100 time. The base V6 Cayenne now accelerates from rest to 100 in the same time as the first generation equipped with a turbocharged V8.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is sourced from ZF, replacing the Aisin unit used previously. The result is smoother, faster shifts. The new engine and transmission also yields clear improvement to the performance of the standard automatic start/stop system.
Inside, in addition to a new look, you’ll find a new PCM (Porsche communication management) system starting with a much larger high-res haptic screen. The redesign has resulted in the removal of 18 buttons from the previously crowded centre console. A pair of 20-cm displays flank the centrally-positioned speedometer.
The front seats are power adjustable and the rears can be manually adjusted in 10 ways.
Although you rarely see a Porsche towing anything, the new Cayenne is capable hauling up to 3,500 kg.
After several hundred kilometres of driving the new Cayenne on a wide variety of surfaces and roads during the launch here, I can report it is smoother, more agile and faster than the equivalent version of the outgoing model. The entire vehicle feels as though carved from a block of granite.
The $75,550 price is slightly higher than the outgoing model. But that brings more or improved equipment, from the powerful new engine to the larger staggered wheels and park assist.
The 2019 Porsche Cayenne continues at or near the head of the pack it helped create.
- Model: 2019 Porsche Cayenne
- Engine: turbocharged, 3.0-litre V6, 335 horsepower, 332 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel, all-wheel-drive
- Transmission: eight speed Tiptronic
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): NA
- Length: 4,918 mm
- Width: 2,194 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,895 mm
- Weight: 1,985 kg
- Price: $75,500 base, $88,930 as tested, including freight
- Competition: Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE
- Standard equipment: 150-watt, 10-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio, rear view camera, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, partial leather seats, heated steering wheel, eight-way power-operated heated front seats
- Options on test vehicle: Premium package (dynamic LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, power steering plus, lane change assist, automatic dimming mirrors), $7,110; 20-inch Cayenne design wheels, $1,970; heated rear seats, $600; front and rear park assist, $1,360; brushed aluminum interior package, $1,140