Have we just reached peak SUV? Porsche has introduced an example with a rear wing that lifts up at speed, just like a race car. That ought to get the kids to school on time.
The “active” rear wing is standard equipment on the new 2019 Porsche Cayenne Coupe, one of a new genre of sleek four-door fastback SUVs. They come with a price premium over the SUV wagon on which they’re based, even though they’re less practical due to the smaller boot and sloping roof line.
According to marketing experts, this new niche is driven largely by image. A regular SUV is increasingly seen as a family car. However, an SUV that favours style over practicality apparently says to the outside world the driver is single, unencumbered with kids or, worst-case scenario, only has a young family with small children. In other words, young... 'ish'.
Cars like this are further proof not all buyers are pragmatic. And car companies are happy to charge a premium for a variant that, in essence, doesn’t cost more to build than the regular model.
To be fair, the Cayenne Coupe doesn’t give away too much usable space. The rear seat has been lowered to match the sleek roof line, so headroom for back-seat passengers is the same as the SUV wagon.
It comes with four seats as standard, but if you want to be sensible about it, you can order the five-seat option at no extra cost.
The cargo area takes a bit of a hit, though, if you plan on carrying large boxes. Compared to the SUV, the cargo volume of the Cayenne Coupe has been trimmed by up to 170 litres, depending on the variant, to between 600L and 1540L. If you’re carrying luggage or shopping, you don’t miss out on much.
Porsche believes the Coupe version will appeal to about one in five Cayenne customers.
When it arrives in local showrooms in early 2020, there will initially be three models: the Cayenne Coupe powered by a single-turbo V6 ($128,000), the Cayenne Coupe S powered by a twin-turbo V6 ($166,000), and the flagship Cayenne Coupe Turbo powered by a twin-turbo V8 ($254,000).
The above prices exclude on-road costs and are between $10,000 and $12,000 dearer than the Cayenne wagon equivalent.
A plug-in hybrid variant is expected to be added to the Cayenne Coupe range later next year, and will likely cost about $148,000 plus on-roads if the above pricing is a guide.
Every model is paired to an eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive. To help justify some of the price premium, the Coupe variants are slightly better equipped than their wagon equivalents.
Warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres and service intervals are 15,000km/12 months. There is no official capped-price service program, but most Porsche dealers publish cost estimates for routine maintenance.
In round numbers, the cost of servicing ranges from $700, $1200 or $2200 per visit, depending on distance travelled. This is among the dearest in the business.
On the road
Let’s start with dessert, the Cayenne Coupe Turbo.
With a 0–100km/h time of 3.9 seconds, it’s one of the fastest vehicles of its type – and on the road. Given that it weighs 2.2 tonnes, it’s an engineering marvel to move such a huge mass at such an epic velocity.
It can reach 60km/h from a standing start in just 2.0 seconds flat, thanks in no small part to the epic twin turbo 4.0-litre V8 (404kW/770Nm).
We know it only takes that long because we checked using our own precision timing equipment on the way to matching the 0–100km/h claim. Thankfully, it has brakes the size of pizza trays that will pull it up in a shorter braking distance than most cars on the road.
One downside: you still need to burn plenty of fossil fuel to move this 2.2-tonne mass (25kg heavier than the Cayenne SUV due to extra standard equipment) this rapidly. The official fuel consumption average is 11.3 to 11.4L/100km when you're not flooring it.
But, of course, not every owner explores the potential of cars like the Cayenne Turbo – just as most four-wheel drives never leave the tarmac and most utes have empty trays.
The appeal, even in normal commuter driving, is the deep rumble of the V8 and the ease with which you get a surge in acceleration. It’s knowing what is at your disposal rather than using it all the time.
The grip from the tyres is profound. They are a large part of the reason performance SUVs now feel more car-like and less ponderous than before.
As with the wagon, the Cayenne Coupe has an all-aluminium body. However, it also has the option of a carbon-fibre roof, which is 21kg lighter than the standard version that comes with a panoramic sunroof.
Because the roof line is sleeker than the wagon, the Cayenne Coupe has a lower centre of gravity. I wouldn’t like to take a blindfold test and then be asked to pick the difference, but the physics behind this is pretty straightforward: the Coupe should thread through corners with a little more agility than the Cayenne wagon, which has the bulk of its body weight positioned slightly higher.
To exaggerate the point, would you rather attempt a slalom in a low-slung hatchback, or in a ute with a large camper mounted on top of it? You get the idea.
The regular Cayenne is already one of the SUV benchmarks for handling corners, the Coupe refines that even further.
Downsides? As glorious as the V8 engine and sports exhaust sound, both are a little muted – even though Porsche has intentionally removed some of the sound-deadening to give drivers the full chorus. A Mercedes-AMG V8 sounds angrier and louder, so Porsche could turn up the volume if it so desired.
The sloping windscreen pillars can block the driver’s front three-quarter view in corners and obscure pedestrians at crossings. Wide pillars are, unfortunately, the trade-off for stronger crash-protection structures and affect many new cars, but it’s especially so in the Cayenne Coupe due to the angle of the windscreen.
Stepping down to the next model in the range, the twin-turbo V6 Cayenne Coupe S (324kW/550Nm), was not an anti-climax, despite having comparitively less power than the V8. This is the engine shared with the Audi RS5 and it’s an absolute gem; although, as with the V8, it’s a little too quiet, even in Sports mode.
There’s no denying its capability, however. It covers ground with ease and is only marginally slower than the V8 (0–100km/h in 5.0 seconds). It’s deceivingly quick because there’s less fanfare from under the bonnet. Fuel misers will appreciate the savings at the bowser, though, with a claimed fuel consumption average of 9.2 to 9.2L/100km when taking it easy.
The balance is equally impressive and feels a touch less nose-heavy than the V8, thanks no doubt to the smaller and lighter engine. If the budget only stretched this far, you wouldn’t be disappointed.
The biggest surprise for me, though, was the base-model Cayenne with the single-turbo V6 (250kW/450Nm). Despite having less grunt on paper, it honestly didn’t feel any slower or less powerful than the twin-turbo V6, even though its official 0–100km/h claim is 6.0 seconds. It also uses the same amount of fuel as the twin turbo V6, according to the average consumption figures.
The test car was equipped with optional air suspension, which clearly enhanced how it handled, so we can’t tell you how the regular suspension behaves.
However, as much as I enjoyed the twin-turbo V6, the standard Cayenne with the optional air suspension would be the pick if you don’t want to splash out. Rarely is the cheapest option a standout when presented with two choices.
If money is no object, of course the flagship Cayenne Turbo is hard to beat. It might be expensive, but there are really only two other SUVs that are faster than it on the road.
One of them is a Lamborghini – and it doesn’t even get the Porsche’s fancy race-car-style rear wing.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling