2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe first drive review

The segment-bending 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an SUV in a track suit

The Coupe is a logical evolution of the Cayenne that makes zero effort to hide its sporty genes.
The Coupe is a logical evolution of the Cayenne that makes zero effort to hide its sporty genes.
The Coupe is a logical evolution of the Cayenne that makes zero effort to hide its sporty genes.

Highs

  • Sports car-like handling
  • Useful tech features
  • Seriously quick
  • Surprisingly spacious

Lows

  • Same power outputs as standard Cayenne
  • Options are expensive

The new 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe joins a segment surrounded by a constellation of controversy.

Porsche, like many of its rivals, is bending the commonly accepted notion of a coupe by using the term to denote a model with four doors. This practice splits observers into two camps. The first argues the four-door coupe trend badly needs to be checked rather than cultivated. The second combatively pushes for the opposite. Its manifesto states automakers can call their SUV-fastback cross anything they want as long as they keep their promise of delivering a relatively stylish car that drives well. The Cayenne Coupe lushly serenades the members of this latter group with the song of a swoopy roof line.

At launch, the Cayenne Coupe will come in three different flavors. The base model, which packs a turbocharged V6, starts at $75,300. The mid-range Cayenne Coupe S carries a base price of $88,600, while the Cayenne Coupe Turbo sets buyers back $130,100. Those figures represent increases of approximately $10,000, $5,700, and $6,000, respectively, over the standard Cayenne.

As a trade-off, it comes standard with more features including the Sport Chrono package, which adds a quartet of driver-selectable driving modes, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, Porsche’s active suspension management technology, 20-inch alloy wheels, and speed-sensitive power steering. The list of options includes several equipment packages which replace steel parts with carbon fiber to shed weight, adaptive cruise control, and – if you’re feeling adventurous – an off-road package.

More form, less function

The Coupe is based on the third-generation Cayenne, and the two SUVs look a lot alike when viewed from the front. Park the two next to each other, and even a well-trained car-spotter would have a difficult time telling them apart when looking at both straight-on. However, let your eyes wander further and you’ll note stylists completely re-invented the Coupe’s proportions to give it a more assertive design. Its roof line peaks above the front passengers, and it slopes into a tall rear end characterized by thin, high tech-looking LED lights connected by a light bar, and a spoiler that automatically extends at speeds above 55 mph. Its rear track is wider, meaning the back wheels are spread further apart. Though certainly opinion-splitting, the fastback-like design gives the Cayenne Coupe a sportier stance, and an overall look that’s less utilitarian. It’s essentially an SUV in a track suit.

Slip behind the wheel, and everything around you will look and feel familiar if you’ve spent time in other recent additions to the Porsche portfolio. The Cayenne siblings share nearly every part the driver touches, sees, or interacts with. This includes the three-spoke steering wheel, the digital instrument cluster, and the 12.3-inch touchscreen that displays the infotainment system. It’s a different story out back, where the Coupe comes standard with a two-seat bench positioned lower than in the regular Cayenne to compensate for the lower roof line. Porsche offers a three-seat bench at no extra cost, and every Coupe boasts a massive, fixed glass roof that floods the cabin with natural light. This feature creates a sense of space and openness we didn’t think was compatible with the slanted roof line.

Though certainly opinion-splitting, the fastback-like design gives the Cayenne Coupe a sportier stance, and an overall look that’s less utilitarian.

The trunk floor isn’t any lower than in the Cayenne, so cargo capacity inevitably takes a hit. The Coupe offers 22 cubic feet with four passengers on-board compared with 27 cubes in the model it’s based on, but buyers aren’t likely to mind. It’s an unabashed expression of form-over-function design modeled after a big, tall sports car, not a grocery-getter in which every cubic foot counts.

The Coupe competes in a growing niche of the SUV world dominated by the BMW X6, which has gone through two generations in the last 11 years, and is about to return for a third. Mercedes-Benz entered the segment in 2015 with the GLE Coupe, so what took Porsche so long? Stephan Lenschow, the engineer in charge of the model’s body, told Digital Trends that the firm wanted to make sure the transformation came without compromise. The first- and second-generation variants of the Cayenne weren’t developed with a fastback body in mind, but the third-generation model was. The building blocks were already there, waiting for the proverbial green light from executives. They approved the project because motorists in every major global market (including the United States and China) are buying SUVs faster than car companies can build them.

Family brains

In 2019, buyers expect more from a Porsche than all-out performance; they want cutting-edge technology, too. The Stuttgart-based firm delivered by giving the Coupe the same connectivity features and electronic driving aids found in other models, including the Cayenne and the Panamera. The center console is dominated by a gorgeous, 12.3-inch touchscreen that contains a wealth of information. It displays the infotainment system, but it also gives the front passengers access to functions like the climate control settings, the seat adjustments, and car-related configuration options. It’s a software that sounds and looks daunting due to the sheer amount of information it contains, but Porsche made it intuitive and almost smartphone-like to use, so navigating the various menus is a straight-forward task. Apple CarPlay compatibility is available, but Porsche doesn’t offer Android Auto – at least not yet.

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe review
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Passengers can access Amazon Music via the touchscreen, and Google Nest devices are able to send information about the user’s home (like data from smoke detectors, and images from security cameras) directly to the car for added peace of mind. Finally, online navigation with real-time traffic information helps users avoid lengthy delays. About the only thing it doesn’t do is say “

The driver faces an analog tachometer flanked by a pair of configurable, seven-inch high-definition screens. We like this setup; it’s a modern take on Porsche’s traditional, information-rich instrument cluster found in classic models. Buttons on the steering wheel let the driver change the information displayed on either screen. For example, the right screen can display navigation directions, which keeps the map in the driver’s line of sight even if the passenger is using the main screen to change the radio station. Alternatively, it can show how the all-wheel drive system splits torque between the front and rear axles in real time, or the temperature of the coolant and the oil, among other information.

Buyers expect more from Porsche than all-out performance; they want cutting-edge technology, too. The company delivered.

Compatible with Android and Apple devices, the Porsche Connect app lets owners remotely check whether the Coupe is locked (and lock it if it’s not), get maintenance alerts, and send a destination to the navigation system. It represents Porsche’s mission to make its cars as connected as they are quick.

An SUV in a track suit

Mechanically, the Coupe is identical to the Cayenne. We wish Porsche had given it a little bit more power to further set the two models apart, but that’s not in the plans for the time being, so the entry-level engine is a turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 tuned to deliver 335 horsepower between 5,300 and 6,400 rpm and 332 pound-feet of torque from 1,340 to 5,300 rpm. The Cayenne S ships with a twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V6 rated at 434 hp from 5,700 to 6,600 rpm and 405 lb-ft. of torque over a broad band that stretches from 1,800 all the way up to 5,500 rpm. Finally, the flagship Cayenne Turbo benefits from a 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbocharged to a mighty 541 hp and 567 lb-ft. of torque.

2020 Porsche Cayenne
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Gasoline-electric hybrid power is coming very soon, Porsche confirmed during the launch event. In the meantime, an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and all-wheel drive come standard regardless of how many cylinders are under the hood. In its quickest configuration, the Cayenne Coupe takes 3.7 seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop, and it keeps accelerating until the speedometer shows 177 mph.

We’ve driven all three generations of the Cayenne over the years, and each one has stood proud as the best-handling SUV in its respective era. The Coupe inherits the sporty genes passed on from generation to generation like a sacred recipe from the Cayenne, and it handles better than a car this big (and this heavy) ought to; it’s a true Porsche sports car. The electric, speed-sensitive power steering doesn’t have a ton of feedback, but it’s nicely weighted and it’s direct. The Cayenne Coupe goes where you point it. Brake discs the size of the wheels on an early 356, Porsche’s first series-produced car, bring the Cayenne Coupe to a stop with confident authority. You can almost hear the calipers say “don’t worry; we got this!” after you press the pedal.

The mid-range Cayenne S is the best option for buyers who want an SUV that handles as well as it goes.

We loved the way the Turbo pulled us to the back of the driver’s seat, and it’s gifted with one of the better-sounding turbocharged eights on the market. It’s heroically quick. But, after driving the three variants, we concluded the mid-range Cayenne S is the best option for buyers who want an SUV that handles as well as it goes. It’s plenty quick in normal driving conditions, and it’s lighter on its feet than the Turbo because it has a smaller engine. It’s the one we most enjoyed throwing into a corner on the winding roads near the border between Austria and Slovenia.

Porsche put a tremendous amount of engineering wizardry into the suspension system. Even the standard steel setup found in the base and S models delivers a smooth, comfortable ride around town and on the highway, yet it keeps body lean in check under hard cornering. Striking a balance between these opposite ends of the same spectrum was easier said than done, but it was essential to make the Coupe an all-around performer, and that’s a key component in the composition of the Porsche character.

Our time behind the wheel was too short to measure real-world fuel economy, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t tested the Cayenne Coupe yet. We expect its mileage will be on par with the Cayenne’s, so 18 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg in a mixed cycle for the Cayenne S model. The plug-in hybrid model scheduled to make its debut before the end of 2019 will be the efficiency champ of the lineup.

Rivals

While the number of SUVs in the Cayenne Coupe’s price range grows annually, its two main competitors are the BMW X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.

– BMW X6 ($63,550) – The X6 is a good option for buyers on a relatively tight budget. It’s markedly cheaper than its rivals, though the entry-level model comes with rear-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive, and it’s not as luxurious inside as the Cayenne. The second-generation X6 is also beginning to get long in the tooth, it was released in 2014, but BMW is widely expected to release a new model by the end of 2019.

– Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe ($71,350) – Both the 43- and 63-badged variants of the GLE Coupe offer more power than a comparable Cayenne Coupe for less money. They stand out with a gorgeous interior, and they’re generously equipped, but they don’t handle as well as the Porsche on a winding road.

Peace of mind

Every Cayenne Coupe comes with dual front, side, and knee airbags for the front passengers in addition to rear side airbags, and curtain airbags that stretch from the A- to the C-pillars. Cruise control, parking sensors on both ends, and automatic emergency braking come standard regardless of the variant chosen. Many other electronic driving aids are available at an extra cost, including Porsche’s InnoDrive technology (which is like adaptive cruise control on steroids), a surround-view camera, a head-up display, lane change assist, and night vision assist.

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe review
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

While Porsche hasn’t released warranty information yet, it’s reasonable to assume that, like the standard Cayenne, the Coupe will come with a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty, and a 12-year corrosion warranty. Porsche will also pay for the first service, which the Cayenne requires when it’s a year old, or when it has covered 10,000 miles.

How DT would configure this car

If we were spending our own money, we’d start with the mid-range Cayenne S Coupe and add the $4,900 performance package, which bundles an adaptive air suspension, rear axle steering, and a sport exhaust system. We’d keep the four-seater layout because it suits the car well, but we’d add adaptive cruise control, which is a $2,000 option. Our total would be $96,750.

Conclusion

Is it a coupe? Is it a coupe-like SUV? Is it a fastback? We could quibble over semantics until the 2020 Cayenne Coupe enters the realm of classic cars without agreeing on a definite answer. What’s certain is that, whatever you choose to refer to it as, it’s a logical evolution of the Cayenne that makes zero effort to hide its sporty genes. Significantly, it lives up to the badge on its nose with tech features that are smart and useful without being intrusive, a build quality that borders on flawless, and, of course, a price tag to match.

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