I‘m Glad I Was Wrong about the Cayenne Coupe

by Andrew Maness

June 8, 2024

I love being proved wrong. There are many ways to learn something, but being proved wrong, especially by way of new firsthand knowledge, it’s the best. With that in mind, I am pleased to say I was wrong about the Cayenne Coupe and wrong about the turbocharged 3.0L V6 that powers the base model.

I’ve never much cared for the four door “coupe” trend and when Porsche introduced it to the Cayenne line in 2019 I wrote it off as more unnecessary hair splitting done in order to sell a grown up’s SUV to people that think being a grown up is lame. While there may be some truth to that, it’s not the whole story. Maybe it’s the minor visual tweaks Porsche made to kick off the 3rd generation of the Cayenne, maybe it’s looking at it every day for a week, but the Coupe has edged out the regular Cayenne as the one I’d go for. Whether you choose the traditional body style or the coupe, the high-output version of the V6 comes standard and let me be very clear, it is more than adequate. Is it memorable? Not so much. Very few V6s are, regardless of whether they’re turbocharged or not. However I’d say that’s hardly the point of an engine in a luxury SUV these days, even if it is a Porsche. If you’re looking for character from underneath the hood, and ultimately from the exhaust, there are better places to seek it than from an SUV where smoothness should be the headline. As much as I have long appreciated the engineering marvels that occupy the category of “high performance practical vehicle” there has always been a little voice in the back of my head reminding me that there’s a whole lot of smoke & mirrors BS going on in these things in order to create a semblance of the sensations delivered by true sports cars. I won’t go so far as to say they’re dishonest vehicles, but at the very least they’re constantly trying to trick you.

The original crop of models in this category came about by simply stuffing the hottest motors into the newly minted and very profitable luxury SUVs of the early ‘Aughts. I know I’m not alone in still desiring a 1st gen Cayenne Turbo, X5 M or ML55. They were effectively sleepers, mostly enjoyable in a straight line and not wildly expensive compared to the traditional performance sedans of the time. Then progress took its course and here we are in 2024 with crossovers and SUVs that offer near exotic car capability for the same eye-watering prices. Let me just say, I’ve driven them all and I’d rather live with this base Cayenne Coupe. I will most likely amend that statement once I drive the new Cayenne S E-Hybrid later this summer seeing as it adds a 130-kW motor and 25.9-kWh battery to an already great package. I think it's safe to assume that the electric drive system will not only add some extra giddy-up, but also smooth out the minor, yet perceptible, turbo-lag that exists at the outset of acceleration on the one I just drove. Until I’ve had time in that vehicle, this is my pick of the litter.

The top of the line Turbo GT is an amazing thing, as is the Turbo S E-Hybrid, I wouldn’t want to live with either for a few reasons, but primarily knowing I could get 90% of what I need from a Cayenne for a fraction of the price. I don’t often talk about what vehicles cost because I’m rarely writing about vehicles where that’s actually a consideration for the would-be-buyer. When it comes to the Cayenne however, the value proposition is worth mentioning because it varies wildly as you climb the model ladder. With an MSRP of $203,800 the Turbo GT falls into the “I can, so should I?” category of nonsensical emotional purchases. If it was my money the answer would be

“I wouldn’t.”

Devoid a single option the Cayenne Coupe starts at $84,300 and the loaner I spent a week was optioned up to $104,060. If you were thinking about getting a Turbo GT I just saved you over $100k, because let's be honest, you can’t get them at MSRP, so you’re welcome. Speaking of honesty, let’s take a look in the mirror for a second shall we? Ask yourself why you want a Cayenne in the first place. If the answer is anything other than “I need an SUV and I just really like the way Porsche’s drive” you’re better off going with something else. The Cayenne is not a class leader in storage space, it can certainly be beat on price and it’s not the most luxurious vehicle in the segment either. It is however far and away the most fun SUV there is and remember, this is the base model I’m talking about. It should come as no surprise given that the base Cayman, Boxster and 911 have long been great value propositions. I still think the Panamera is best equipped with a V8, but that’s a story for another day. I happen to be someone who “just really likes the way Porsche’s drive” but I have also seen how the sausage is made, and I couldn’t justify going with a performance variant of the Cayenne. Even if I had “fuck you money”, I’d still opt for a very well equipped base model. Okay, maybe I’d go for the S E-Hybrid, we’ll see. Again, it just comes down to honesty and here’s a bit of truth for you to internalize, there’s nothing “cool” about SUVs. When it comes to tricks the devil pulled in automotive, convincing people that SUVs are cool is right up there with sunroofs, digital dashboards and matte vinyl wraps.

Years ago I remember pulling up to meet a friend in an X5 4.4is and when I got out he said, “that’s a cute car”. Twenty-something me felt emasculated, thirty-something me knows he was right to break my balls. I thought I was hot shit in that X5 when in reality I was driving a functional, albeit pretty fun, SUV. I wasn’t in one of BMW’s storied performance cars, I was in a vehicle intended to run errands and drop kids off at soccer practice. Not. Cool.

You can add all the black trim and fake carbon fiber you can fit, along with performance parts and big wheels, underneath it all an SUV ultimately remains a practical mode of transportation. There’s nothing cool about being practical, not in your twenties anyway. Move ahead a decade and that starts to change. Move ahead another and it becomes the rule of thumb. Beyond that, what’s practical seems to permeate all day-to-day decisions.

So I’m told anyway. Being slightly closer to age 50 than I am to age 25, I’m only just entering my “Cayenne years”, but one of the things I’ve enjoyed about this line of work since the very start is putting myself in other people’s shoes. Who buys a particular vehicle, and why, remains as much a point of fascination now as it did then. SUVs may not be cool, but perspective sure as shit is and I can identify with a wider range of people with every passing year. If you’re still desperately seeking the approval of others by way of what you’re driving beyond your late twenties to mid-thirties, time for another honest look in the mirror. The less fucks you give, the more you enjoy life. This goes doubly for those of us acutely afflicted by a passion for things that go ‘vroom ‘vroom. I crave the hearty thrum of a V8 on a daily basis, yet can wholeheartedly tell you it’s not necessary in the new Cayenne. This is not the format to get that particular fix in, not anymore. If you want that, you’ve got 21 years worth of pre-owned examples to choose from. That being said, Porsche has ensured that the Cayenne is more enjoyable on spirited drives than ever(thank you available rear-axle-steering and new two-chamber air suspension design for PASM), in addition to still being truly well suited for going about mundane errands. That’s why it’s hard to argue with a well optioned base Cayenne or Cayenne Coupe. If you’re honest about what you actually want out of it and what it is, it seems like a very satisfying vehicle to have. I certainly miss walking out to it in the morning and I’d be lying if I said my browser didn’t have quite a few tabs open to listings for pre-owned Cayenne Coupes. Yes, there are some V8s in there. I’m not perfect. Do as I say, not as I do.