ATLANTA, Georgia—I’ve come to expect big things from every Porsche I drive. As far as building products that blend unbelievable driving capability with luxury and daily use, the brand has no peer. So despite the Cayenne S being an SUV, its reputation as the sportiest of its breed and Porsche’s own history had set my expectations high.
They were met. I spent time driving the Cayenne near the brand’s headquarters in Atlanta, and I managed to work into my time with the vehicle miles spent pushing hard on twisty rural Georgia roads. There, I found the Cayenne S has enough power, grip, and braking to handle what I was throwing its way—with seemingly plenty in reserve.
My route climbed a local mountain and back down again, the Cayenne’s $3,490 Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) option making a speedy descent completely drama-free. The forged-iron discs are coated in tungsten carbide, which the automaker claims to reduce brake dust by 90 percent. The calipers identified by their white calipers, and they not only look great but also identifies the system’s place among the Porsche brake family. (Black calipers are the standard brakes, silver or red denote S-level stoppers, lime green are reserved for regenerative hybrid brakes, and yellow indicate the fitment of carbon-ceramics.)
The combination of mighty 10-piston front calipers and four-piston rears provides immense stopping power, and there was essentially no brake fade whatsoever despite the Cayenne’s near-4,500-pound curb weight. The pedal calibration is impeccable as well, allowing you to smoothly and comfortably control of your rate of deceleration.
The Cayenne S was as impressive while cornering. Our test car had adaptive air suspension, as well as Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM). The suspension’s damping is uncanny, delivering negligible body roll and overall neutral handling with only the slightest amount of understeer. Plus, the air suspension keeps comfort to a maximum, even in max-attack situations. But if you want to dial out stiffness, a button on the center console is conveniently located to do so.
While the twin-turbo, 2.9-liter V-6’s 434 horsepower and 406 lb-ft may seem like trifling amounts in today’s output-addled marketplace, let me assure you that those numbers translate to alarming speed and quickness, with grunts and snorts from the exhaust rewarding freeway passes and hole shots. Yet after exercising all the Cayenne S’s abilities, once I returned to suburban Atlanta, the SUV transformed from hot (and admittedly heavy) hatchback to a luxurious and refined cruiser. Another way this Porsche rewards its owner: Pulling up to the valet stand at my hotel, the attendants surprisingly prioritized me ahead of others in the queue.
The interior was wrapped in sumptuous black leather; that option costs $3,750. The seats are soft, comfortable, and supportive, allowing for a fatigue-free day of driving. To spruce up the cabin even further, our example had the textured aluminum option for $1,000, and it’s a nice way to break up all the black. A compass display was fitted to the dash for $330, which is not only useful and handsome but also brings with it off-road-oriented functions for the couple of buyers per year who might give that a go.
The only issue I had involved Apple CarPlay. My phone connected immediately when I plugged into the USB port in the center console and worked flawlessly at first. But when I started the Cayenne the next morning, I couldn’t get CarPlay to display on the screen. Telling the Porsche to forget the phone and reconnecting didn’t work, nor did performing a factory reset of the infotainment unit. Yet once the Porsche say for a few hours, CarPlay worked again. I’ve experienced this same problem in Porsches before, and it was resolved the same way.
Additional options and extras on this Cayenne S’s pile included the Moonlight Blue Metallic paint for $800, 21-inch “RS Spyder Design” wheels for $3,830, adaptive cruise control for $2,000—one of the most competent systems I’ve used—and the $7,330 Premium Package Plus. That bundle is comprised of customizable ambient lighting, lane-change assist, an auto-dimming mirror, fancier LED-matrix “Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus” headlamps, keyless entry, ventilated and heated power seats with memory, and four-zone climate control. The Bose audio system included in the Premium bundled was also further upgraded to the top-spec Burmester setup, which sounds incredible—as well it should for $7,000. Thus equipped, the already plenty comfortable and feature-laden Cayenne S is made even more so.
With a starting sticker of $84,150, the Cayenne S is already expensive. Our loaner’s heavy ladling of options pushed that tag to a lofty $117,110, and either number is pricey enough that logic must be ruled out as part of a purchase. But for those who value a complete package that holistically blends performance, technology, and luxury in a way that few other vehicles can match, it strikes an appropriate note.
Indeed, the Cayenne S is one of the most comprehensively great SUVs I’ve driven, and whether you’re into road trips, canyon roads, or city streets—or all three—it executes flawlessly.
2019 Porsche Cayenne S Specifications
|ENGINE||2.9L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6; 434 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 406 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||193.6 x 86.3 x 66.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.6 sec|
|TOP SPEED||164 mph|