2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe first drive review: Splitting hairs

Never mind its name. To properly understand the 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe, don't think of it as a coupe at all (which shouldn't be hard since, you know, it isn't one).

Instead, think of this rakish variant as a styling package in the Cayenne's extensive options catalog. After all, when it comes to what really matters -- driving dynamics, interior refinement, onboard tech, etc. -- this new Coupe is as great as any other SUV in the Cayenne range.

New butt, who dis?

If you look closely, you might notice the Cayenne Coupe's lightly (as in, barely) revised front fascia, as well as its 18-millimeter-wider rear hips. But the most obvious design change is the roof that's been lowered by 20 millimeters at its highest point, gradually tapering down to the rump from there. The Coupe's backside differentiates itself from the standard SUV by moving the number plate housing to the bottom of the fender, but it features the same LED taillamps as the normal Cayenne, with a full-width light strip connecting the two sides.

The Coupe's roof spoiler has an opening in the middle that allows air to flow down the window in an effort to reduce drag. This also keeps wind moving over the hatch glass to help keep it clear. That said, you can't get a rear wiper on the Cayenne Coupe, and while Porsche engineers tell me you don't really need one because of the car's aerodynamic properties, after driving through a brief rain storm, I respectfully disagree. There's also a weird bit of distortion to the view out the rear opening, largely because of the curvature of the glass. It doesn't take long to get used to, but it's something you'll notice right away.

A second, power-retractable spoiler is housed between the rear glass and taillights, and automatically pops up when you hit 56 miles per hour -- kind of like what you'll find on a Panamera or 911. When retracted, you wouldn't even notice it's there. But the moment it flips out, it kind of kills the Coupe's otherwise attractive rear visage. A small, fixed lip spoiler that sits on top of this speed-sensitive wing helps reduce drag at lower speeds, too. For those keeping track, yes, the 2020 Cayenne Coupe has three rear spoilers.

Up front, the Coupe offers the same luxury and tech as any other Cayenne.

Porsche

Crop-top without (major) compromise

All Cayenne Coupes come standard with a glass roof, featuring a huge, 23.2-square-foot pane that lets tons of light into the cabin. A power sunshade keeps occupants from getting too toasty, but the glass panel can't be opened like a traditional sunroof. A carbon-fiber roof can be optioned as part of the Cayenne Coupe's $14,400 Lightweight Sport Package, which also adds Alcantara to the headliner and steering wheel, carbon-fiber interior trim, blacked-out Sport Design exterior bits, 22-inch wheels and -- the pièce de résistance -- houndstooth cloth seat inserts, which not only look outstanding, but are more comfortable (and breathable) than the standard, leather upholstery. All told, the lightweight pack can cut as much as 48 pounds from the Cayenne Coupe. Of course, a base Coupe is already about 100 pounds heavier than a standard Cayenne, so...

In an attempt to offset the obvious headroom penalty of a coupe-over shape, Porsche lowered the height of the the Cayenne's rear seats 30 millimeters. You have to duck your head a little when getting in, but once inside, backseat headroom is perfectly adequate, even for taller passengers. The Coupe uses a two-seat arrangement in the rear, with a fixed console between the seats, though you can option a three-passenger bench for no additional charge.

As you'd expect, the Coupe's heavily raked roof cuts into the Cayenne's cargo capacity, though the impediment isn't as drastic as you might think. With the rear seats up, the Coupe offers 22 cubic feet of space, versus 27 in the standard Cayenne, which is still plenty for a few large suitcases and backpacks. Fold the rear seats flat and the boot expands to 53.3 cubic feet -- a 7-cubic-feet reduction. Again, that's still a lot of space. And let's be honest, you aren't buying a Cayenne for its capaciousness, anyway.

The Coupe's rear passenger compartment is slightly harder to get in and out of, but once you're seated, headroom is perfectly adequate.

Porsche

The rest of the Coupe's interior is simply a copy/paste job from the regular Cayenne, and that's fine by me; the third-generation Cayenne has a neatly organized, beautifully designed cabin. The leather surfaces are soft to the touch, and the switchgear all has a premium feel to its action. The high-resolution, 12.3-inch Porsche Communication Management touchscreen infotainment system is as lovely to use in the Coupe as it is in any other Cayenne, with quick responses to inputs, a reconfigurable home screen, Wi-Fi connectivity and support for Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto).

Three engines, and not a dud among 'em

The Coupe's engine offerings carry over unchanged, and like the regular Cayenne models, every version gets an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Base, S and Turbo models all go on sale first, and a plug-in E-Hybrid version is expected to arrive later this year.

On the base end, the Cayenne Coupe gets a 3.0-liter, turbocharged V6, with 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. I love this engine in the Cayenne; it may have the lowest output of the range, but at no point does it feel like a compromise. Accelerating to 60 miles per hour takes 5.7 seconds, but the experience feels quicker from behind the wheel. Initial punch and mid-range boost are both ample, and the Cayenne's quick steering and nicely balanced chassis make it a satisfying car to drive fast.

Step up to the S and you get one of Porsche's best engines: the twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V6. Its 434 horsepower, 406 pound-feet of torque, and 4.7-second 0-to-60 time turn the Cayenne Coupe into a serious performer. The Cayenne S is a total riot, blasting up mountain passes, gobs of power on tap for quickly passing slow-moving subcompacts on two-lane highways. After several hours behind the wheel, you'll wonder why anyone could possibly need to shell out for a Cayenne Turbo when the S is this good.

The Cayenne S feels like the perfect option. More than enough power, but still light on its feet.

Porsche

But then you drive the Turbo, and everything changes. Lovely as the base and S models are, it's hard not to be wooed by 542 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque from a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8. The Turbo cuts a full second off the S' 0-to-60 acceleration time, completing the same run in 3.7 seconds. I will say, the Turbo doesn't feel as eager to charge forward when you're accelerating at speed; the S feels just as quick in the 50-to-80-mph leap. But man oh man does the Cayenne Turbo have incredible performance chops, and the added power absolutely does not come at the expense of impressive handling, even if this heaviest Cayenne certainly feels all of its 4,800 pounds from behind the wheel.

Porsche didn't alter any of the Cayenne's chassis tuning or suspension geometry in creating the Coupe, so the on-road experience is exactly the same across all three models. If you like the way the Cayenne drives -- and I do -- you won't find fault with the Coupe. Option the rear-axle steering (part of the $4,900 Performance Package) and Porsche Torque-Vectoring Plus system ($1,500), and you'll have a Cayenne that can keep up with supercars on winding roads. Punch the throttle mid-way through a hairpin turn and the Cayenne won't flinch, the rear end rotating around with immediacy before the car shoots forward down the next straightaway. A big SUV it might be, but the Cayenne is still a formidable driver's car.

The one caveat is that the 22-inch wheels, which are unique to the Coupe, hamper the ride quality somewhat. Even on smooth Austrian roads, I can feel the small pavement imperfections through the chassis -- and that's with the optional adaptive air suspension set to its most comfortable mode, too.

It's definitely not a coupe, but nevertheless, this Cayenne is as excellent as any other.

Porsche

Still, my biggest piece of advice for potential Cayenne buyers is to not be tempted by the $3,490 Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PCSB) option. Yes, these stoppers reduce brake dust, but they're really hard to modulate, especially at lower speeds. Using these brakes around town is a jerky experience, and they don't feel vastly different than the standard stoppers when bringing the Cayenne down to a halt from higher velocities. The optional carbon ceramic brakes are much nicer to use than the PCSBs -- and more powerful, too. Then again, they also cost $9,080. Woof.

Another great Cayenne

The 2020 Cayenne Coupe starts at $75,300, not including destination, with S and Turbo models coming in at $88,600 and $130,100, respectively. This means Coupe models are roughly $10,000 more expensive than their equivalent SUV variants, though it's worth noting they also come with a higher level of standard equipment. Every Cayenne Coupe gets Porsche's Active Suspension Management and Sport Chrono packages, as well as sport seats, parking assist and 20-inch wheels, all of which are optional on the regular Cayenne. A Porsche representative tells me that, with these options added to the standard Cayenne, the Coupe is only about $1,000 to $1,500 more expensive depending on trim. And since I'm talking about a car that commonly has sticker prices with six figures before the decimal point, an extra grand is not exactly a huge ask.

So, why buy a Cayenne Coupe over the more functional, less expensive version? Maybe you prefer its design, or perhaps you really want those houndstooth seats (you do). I can't really fault anyone for choosing the Coupe over a standard Cayenne when it's fundamentally the same car. It's attractive, comfortable and goes like hell. Call it a Coupe or just call it a Cayenne. Either way, it's damn good.


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