Car Reviews

2019 Porsche Cayenne First Look

Third generation loses weight, gains curves and staggered width tires

Third generation loses weight, gains curves and staggered width tires

The Macan has become Porsche’s best-selling vehicle by a large margin, but the Cayenne started it all. Arriving in the North America for the 2003 model year and now in its third generation, the midsizer has proven high-end SUVs are here to stay. For 2019, the Cayenne receives new turbocharged engines, a lighter body, and other updates that hint at improved performance.

Porsche says the new Cayenne is “designed to be the sports car within its segment.” A redesigned front end with larger air intakes and more aggressive creases along the hood help the SUV look the part. “For the design it was important to have fresh, new styling but keep it Cayenne,” says Stephan Lenschow, Cayenne body product manager. “So the front, we have the typical Porsche design DNA. The grill is wider, and then we try and we reduced the roofline toward the back. So we have more of like a coupe—or  911-style. In the last generation, we didn’t have very much possibility to make our own door styling because we shared the platform with the VW Touareg. Now have completely new doors, our own doors, with a little bit more ‘Coke-bottle’ design.”

The wheelbase remains unchanged from the previous generation, but Porsche increased the Cayenne’s overall length slightly by about 3 inches to 194 inches, and the coefficient of drag is 0.35.

Despite a small increase in length, the Cayenne hasn’t gained any weight. In fact, it loses up to 143 pounds (65 kg), depending on the configuration, thanks to a lighter chassis. Much like the new 911 and Panamera, the new Cayenne makes extensive use of aluminum. All of the body in white, including the doors, roof, hood, and rear hatch are aluminum, and the ratio of aluminum to high-strength steel is roughly 50-50, says Lenschow. Use of lightweight materials, including a lithium-ion polymer starter battery that saves 22 pounds (10 kg) by itself, also helps with weight distribution, which in base configuration is approximately 55 percent front and 45 percent rear.

Producing a mixed metal body is no mean feat because the properties of steel and aluminum preclude welding them directly together. At the Bratislava, Slovakia, plant where the Cayenne will be made, Lenschow says 680 robots use over 630 special “float drill screws” and nearly 557 feet of bonding agent to create each SUV, along with approximately 6,800 weld points—between MIG (metal inert gas) and laser welding. Porsche’s mixed metal approach not only results in lighter weight, but it also results in increased torsional rigidity, which is up by approximately 20 percent over the previous generation.

At launch, Porsche will offer just two versions of the Cayenne. The base model now receives a turbocharged engine in the form of a 3.0-liter V-6 with a single turbo. Producing 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, the engine makes 40 more hp and 37 more lb-ft than its predecessor. Hitting 60 mph should take 5.9 seconds in standard form or 5.6 with the Sport Chrono package, Porsche says. That’s way ahead of its estimate for the previous Cayenne, which was 7.3 seconds, or 7.2 seconds with Sport Chrono. Top track speed is 152 mph (245 km/h).

For the Cayenne S, Porsche brought out a new 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 making 440 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, up 20 hp. Top speed is 164 mph (264 km/h). Now, the Cayenne S is estimated to crack the 4-second mark in its run to 60 mph, estimated to take 4.9 seconds, or 4.6 seconds with Sport Chrono.

All Cayennes come standard with an eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission that now promises quicker response times in lower gears. Also improving performance is new braking technology that Porsche claims is first in the world. Available as an option, these high-performance Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) consist of a cast-iron disc with 70 micrometers of tungsten-carbide coating. Once bedded in, the surface of the brakes shine like a mirror, but they have better performance over steel brakes, with less wear and a longer life. Karl Heess, Porsche director for Product Line SUV, says PSCB reduce brake dust by as much as 50 percent (over conventional steel brake discs) and extend the life of the disc by up to 35 percent. They are more expensive than steel discs but still up to 50 percent less than Porsche’s ceramic brake option.

For the first time, Cayenne gets staggered front and rear tire sizes ranging from 19 to 21 inches in diameter.  This makes it the last vehicle in Porsche’s lineup to follow in the footsteps of the 911, which famously staggered the width of its tires to account for the mass of the rear-mounted engine. When asked why Porsche would do this on a front-engine SUV, Heess replied, “The same reasons—for agility, stability, performance, and yes, for optics.”

For 19-inch wheels, width is 8.5 inches in front and 9.5 inches for the rears. Opt for 21-inch wheels, and the widths are 9.5 inches and 11 inches, respectively. Cayennes with optional 21-inch wheel and tire packages also receive slightly wider composite fender flares.

Rear-axle steering is also an option and helps reduce the turning radius of the Cayenne at low speeds for better maneuverability.

Lenschow and Heess independently admitted that the focus was to improve Cayenne’s on-road performance without sacrificing its off road-ability, which is why all-wheel drive is standard on the Cayenne, and when drivers venture off-road, they can opt between different modes including Mud, Gravel, Sand, or Rocks. Wading depth is 20.7 inches, and the Cayenne can attack boulders of a reasonable size with an approach angle of 27.1 degrees, a breakover of 21.1 degrees, and a departure angle of 24.1 degrees.

Porsche Active Suspension Management brings variable damping as standard on the Cayenne S and optional on the base model, which comes with traditional coil springs and dampers. Buyers can now choose a new air suspension with a third air chamber that allows for more specific calibration of the suspension settings.

“You can combine the three chambers to one volume so you have great comfort,” Heess says. “The system will choose what situation you drive, the right combination of the volumes [each chamber is a different size]. In Sport Plus, you have only the small volume, so you have a high rate for the spring. If you drive in the city in Comfort mode, all three volumes are combined, so you have a lot of comfort.”

The option of air suspension also gives Cayenne a range of ride heights. “If you drive very sporty, you have to only use one chamber of the volume,” Heess says. “In high speed, at max velocity, you are on the lowest level for the car.” The lowest ride height is 1.1 inches lower than normal, while the highest is 2.2 inches (and speed limited). Air suspension can also be utilized independently front to rear, for load leveling, or when towing (and the Cayenne is rated to tow up to 3.5 ton/7,700 pounds).

Also new is Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with stabilizer bars controlled via a 48-volt electrical system instead of a hydraulic setup. Heess is particularly proud of this new system: “We have more with the electric anti-roll system. We have more dynamism. We are quicker to compensate for rolling. If the car is loaded with two persons, we can compensate in Sport Plus up to 0.7 g.”

Inside the cabin, the Cayenne receives a new 12.3-inch touchscreen that originally made its debut on the new Panamera. Near the shifter, touch surfaces control some of the most in-demand functions. Porsche spent a lot time on Cayenne’s seats. Up front there is a standard Comfort seat and a new optionally sport seat with integrated headrest. The second-row seats fold nearly flat, and they can slide approximately 6 inches. With the rear seats up, cargo room increases almost 15 percent compared to the old model.

A number of safety systems are available on the Cayenne, including lane change assist, lane keeping assist with traffic sign recognition, traffic jam assist, adaptive cruise control, and night vision assist, which can see pedestrians and animals even if the driver can’t.

Despite all of these helpful features, Porsche is confident that its new Cayenne is the best driver of the segment even with a host of new challengers. “You will be amazed,” Heess says. “I think it’s the same level as Macan. It’s really the sports car for the SUV. I don’t think you will find better—but I’m a Porsche guy.”

The 2019 Porsche Cayenne arrives in dealerships midway through 2018. The Cayenne is available to order from $66,750 USD, and S models start at $83,950 USD.