What sort of bizarre world have we inherited that we find ourselves criticizing Porsche for sacrificing the practicality of one of its models in the name of style? Porsches aren't exactly paragons of practicality. But here we are, faced with the curious creature pictured here, the 2020 Porsche Cayenne coupe, a vehicle that one of us has already called Porsche's jumping-the-shark moment.
We drove three different versions of the not-really-a-coupe SUV through the towns and over the hillsides of eastern Austria trying to decide whether the Cayenne coupe, a less practical version of the Cayenne SUV, is the ultimate sacrilege-a frivolous, heavy Porsche-or if it is a partial corrective step for the sacrilege of Porsche building a semipractical, heavy SUV lo those many years ago. At some point, we decided to stop pondering such matters and instead focus our attention on piloting this broad-of-beam, fat-tired vehicle down the narrow, paved goat paths of rural Austria without falling off the side of a mountain. Nothing focuses the mind on what's important quite like the possibility of being squashed by an oncoming MAN semi truck.
Joining the Club
It would have been easier to build up some righteous indignation about the vehicle if Porsche hadn't presented it to us with such candor. Typically, during the introduction of these sorts of "lifestyle" versions of an existing model, carmakers fire up their hyperbole machines. But Porsche's reps quite matter-of-factly noted that the mechanical elements of this somewhat sleeker SUV are identical to those of the standard Cayenne. So much for our plan to catch them obscuring the paucity of the model's changes in a cloud of obfuscation.
So, yes, the Cayenne coupe, which goes on sale in the United States in the fall, feels and drives pretty much exactly as the new-for-2019 Cayenne does. It drives, in other words, like the Porsche of SUVs. It is more composed and precise and competent over the road than most any premium SUV you'd care to mention. That list of vehicles would include similarly style-oriented ute-like things such as the BMW X6, the Mercedes GLE coupe, and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. In terms of driving satisfaction, the Cayenne coupe's strongest competitors are those that share its basic Volkswagen Group MLB Evo platform and powertrain componentry, such as the Audi Q8 and the Lamborghini Urus.
The Cayenne coupe forms a sort of bridge between the Audi and the Lambo, in fact. Like the Q8, the base-level Cayenne coupe is powered by an Audi-designed turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6. In the Porsche, it makes the same 335 horsepower as in the Audi but less torque (332 lb-ft versus 369). The base Cayenne coupe-like all Cayenne coupes, Cayennes, Q7s, Q8s, Uruses, and Bentley Bentaygas-uses an eight-speed automatic transmission. We expect it will provide straight-line performance similar to the Q8's, which is to say competitive but not particularly zesty. But predictably, regardless of the options, the Porsche Cayenne coupe is the sportier-driving of the two. With a curb weight in the neighborhood of 4800 pounds, the base coupe is a heavy thing but it feels as though it has its mass under better control than the Audi.
At the top end of the Cayenne coupe lineup is the Turbo, which of course borrows the twin-turbo 541-hp 4.0-liter V-8 from the noncoupe Cayenne Turbo. That can't quite match the output or the aural drama of Lambo's version, which was developed by Porsche and makes 641 horsepower. We would be surprised if there weren't eventually a Cayenne Turbo S coupe that came close to or fully matched that output. But for now, the lineup consists of the base version, the Turbo, and the tweener, the Cayenne S coupe, which is powered by the twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 familiar from the Audi RS5 and here making 434 horsepower. The S is the sweet spot of the coupe's range. It never feels burdened by the Cayenne's mass and carries an entry price more than $40K less than the Turbo model.
Have It Your Way
About the price: These things, like other Porsches, are expensive. The base vehicle starts at $76,550. The S rings in at $89,850. And the Turbo is a whopping $131,350. Those prices range between $5500 and $9600 more than those of the equivalent conventional Cayennes. But the coupe models get more standard equipment, including the Sport Chrono package that, besides the dashtop chronograph, brings what Porsche calls Performance Start (a launch-control system) and the drive-mode selector on the steering wheel with Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual settings. The coupe also provides a more permissive stability control setting called PSM Sport, adaptive dampers (a.k.a. PASM), and eight-way power-adjustable front seats (18-way chairs for the Turbo) as standard.
And because this is Porsche, there is an absurdly long list of optional equipment. The loaded examples we drove carried between $34,910 and $56,400 in extras. Among the biggest-ticket items were carbon-ceramic brakes for $9080; a $7000 Burmester audio system; the $4900 Performance package with adaptive air springs, rear-axle steering, and a sport exhaust; the $3590 active anti-roll bars; and $2000 for adaptive cruise control. Potential buyers should note that most of these options cost slightly less on the considerably more expensive Turbo model. You also can get a six-disc CD changer for $560, but you can't have a factory tape deck for any amount of money.
The heavy money, though, is in the Lightweight Sport package. For $14,440 (or $11,570 on Turbos), you can take between a claimed 39 and 48 pounds off a roughly 5000-pound vehicle. The package includes 22-inch forged alloy wheels, which are lighter than most other 22-inch wheels but almost certainly heavier than smaller wheels. Porsche also removes some sound-deadening material and adds a microsuede headliner and sporty body addenda. But the showstoppers are the carbon-fiber roof and the houndstooth fabric seat inserts. The carbon roof replaces the standard fixed glass piece. No body-color metal roof is offered. We suspect that has much to do with the fact that the roofline of the coupe is not as low as it appears. (In fact, Porsche claims it's only 0.8 inch lower than the regular Cayenne's.) You see, the body panel above the rear side window plunges down at a faster angle than the rear portion of the roof does. It's an optical illusion that gives the coupe a sportier look without making the rear seats useless. If the roof were painted the body color instead of being made of glass or this dark carbon fiber, the effect would be lost. As for the houndstooth seat inserts, they are a sort of self-conscious riff on vintage Porsche goodness. We think they look great.
A Style Statement
And for the most part, the whole vehicle looks pretty great. Sure, maintaining adequate headroom meant ditching the rear seat sliders, so coupe buyers will forgo that comfort amenity. They'll also lose five cubic feet of cargo space because of the faster back glass and the hatch-mounted adaptive spoiler. Can you deal with that and do you prefer the look of the coupe over the regular Cayenne SUV? Then maybe this isn't such a silly thing, comparatively speaking. The only thing we didn't like about the vehicle, apart from the price, was the Porsche Surface Coated Brake option. We dig the mirror finish on the rotors and the promise of dramatically reduced brake dust, but these brakes are grabby, making smooth stops a chore. And the available Lane Change Assist system added a quiet and disconcerting inconsistency in steering response whenever the SUV strayed too close to the lane lines.
But the coupe version of the Cayenne is exactly as Porsche promises: It's a Cayenne with less cargo space and more style. No hyperbole needed.
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