When Porsche introduced the world’s first mainstream ultra-luxury SUV in 2002 there were some raised eyebrows.
A sports car manufacturer? Knocking out a 4x4?
A questionable decision, many thought, metaphorically scratching their chins and literally suspecting the car would at best end up a sideshow in the brand’s line-up.
Not so though. When the first Cayenne rolled off the production lines in all its chunky splendour, it soon became apparent that Porsche had hit upon something.
The buying public agreed and the vehicle sold well, confounding all those earlier assumptions from the naysayers.
In fact, we have now reached a stage where the car is jockeying for position as the brand’s all-time most popular vehicle.
So, to get up to date, just over 20 years after the first Cayenne hit the grit, the latest version has arrived.
Porsche says the 2023 model has undergone a comprehensive upgrade – one of the most extensive in the brand’s history, apparently – with more power added to all engine and trim variants.
Externally, the latest Cayenne, while conforming to its classic shape, has been fitted with newly arched wings that emphasise the car’s width.
Inside, it looks as luxurious as ever, but with a freshly invigorated tech set-up.
Let’s get down to the driving
Credit where it’s due, that extra power is obvious when you get behind the wheel.
The thing about the Cayenne is that it feels like a sports car. Just a really big, comfortable one.
The car tears along at a decent lick, and, due to its size and ride height, there is a noticeable absence of speed-related hysteria inside the cabin.
That doesn’t stop it from feeling more than a little bit exciting though.
Any buffeting that may have been present in older models has been minimised with a new shock absorber set up.
There are three Cayenne variants – a standard version, the E-Hybrid and the S, with each increasing in power in that order.
The S has a maximum speed of 273 kph and will get you to the ton from a standing start in around 4.7 seconds.
Power and thrills all there then, but the Cayenne has also become more driver focused.
Many of the functions used most frequently are now located on or next to the steering wheel, allowing for a vast, centre console with a whole heap of uses – not least, lighting up in a particularly pretty way.
It’s what the manufacturer is calling the new Porsche Driver Experience.
A key feature of this is the mix of digital and analogue elements, which will be welcomed by anyone who has ever prayed for a simple button when trying to put information into an overly sensitive touchscreen.
The legacy of the Cayenne is beyond doubt
Since it first appeared, almost every luxury car manufacturer has created their own version – Jaguar introduced the F-Pace in 2015, Lamborghini’s Urus arrived in 2017, Rolls-Royce gave us the Cullinan in 2018, and, most recently in 2022, Ferrari unleashed the Purosangue.
The list goes on.
To mark the 20th anniversary of its creation last year, Porsche held a series of events – notably Camp Cayenne in the UAE’s Hatta region – all designed towards celebrating the car’s success and, no doubts, generating enthusiasm ahead of the new model.
This course of action appears to have worked, but the interest was probably there already.
As for the latest version, there are evidently plenty more capable SUVs out there if you’re going into rough terrain, but an off-road capable, heavy car that still drives like a track tearaway?
That’s a hard-to-beat combo whichever way you look at it.