Porsche's chop-top Cayenne trades some utility for a little more style.
What differentiates a crossover from a crossover-coupe (or "coupeover," in Roadshow parlance)? If you're the Porsche Cayenne , not much. The two variants of the German automaker's larger SUV share everything from engines to suspension components to interior trimmings and onboard tech, with only a sloping roofline setting them apart.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, though; the 2020 Porsche Cayenne is one of the best high-performance premium SUVs available today. Whether you opt for the base model or the almost superlative Turbo S E-Hybrid, the Cayenne is an absolute delight to drive, with luxurious appointments and some of the best infotainment tech around.
Fantastic as all Turbo-badged Cayennes are, it's the midrange S that I actually find most appealing. The twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V6 is a honey of an engine, producing a healthy 434 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque (the latter of which comes on strong at just 1,800 rpm). Despite its substantial 4,725-pound curb weight, the Cayenne S Coupe can scoot to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds (4.6 seconds if you opt for the expensive Lightweight Sport Pack, which adds a carbon-fiber roof). That's pretty damn quick for a crossover this large.
All Cayenne Coupes come standard with Porsche's Sport Chrono package, which, in addition to the lap timer on the dash (which is better used as a clock), gives you the all-important push-to-pass Sport Response button in the middle of the drive-mode selector. I never get tired of pressing this when I'm about to overtake a slower car on a two-lane road, though with 434 hp on tap, a quick stab of the throttle provides ample motivation, too.
Even more impressive is how agile the Coupe is while cornering. Like every current Porsche, the steering is perfectly weighted, but not so quick as to make the large Cayenne unnecessarily darty. My tester's $2,170 adaptive air suspension keeps the ride firm but comfortable, and the $1,500 torque-vectoring tech shuffles power side to side under cornering for maximum grip. No, the Cayenne S Coupe won't fool you into thinking it's a 911 on a winding road, but I dare you to find another big crossover-coupe that's as engaging.
Your local dealer will be happy to sell you a Cayenne S Coupe with either upgraded surface-coated or ceramic-composite brakes -- $3,490 and $9,080, respectively. Honestly, though, the standard steel stoppers like those fitted to my tester work fine. If you're planning to take your Cayenne Coupe on a track (you aren't), then you might want to consider one of these more powerful braking options, but I'm happy to report the base setup is great. Plus, these steel brakes are easier to modulate at slower, in-city speeds, which is where the majority of Cayenne Coupes will spend their time. Likewise, it's here where Porsche's coupeover is as comfortable as any other Cayenne variant, with a great ride quality thanks to the aforementioned air suspension -- even on my tester's upgraded 21-inch wheels.
If there's a downside to the Cayenne S Coupe's powerful engine and great on-road manners, it's that fuel economy isn't anything to write home about. The EPA estimates this model will return 18 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. If you drive your Cayenne with gusto -- and who could blame you? -- expect to see efficiency numbers in the mid-to-high teens on the reg.
Unsurprisingly, the most obvious way to spot a Cayenne Coupe is from the rear. The roofline has been lowered by 20 millimeters at its highest point, those rear hips are 18mm wider and the license plate is housed in the rear bumper, as opposed to higher up on the hatch.
Overall, I like the way the Cayenne Coupe looks... until you get it above 56 mph. That's when the flush-fitting rear spoiler motors up and out, and it's huge. The entire panel between the rear glass and the taillights becomes a wing, and there's even a small lip spoiler on top, for whatever that's worth. Combine that with the roof spoiler atop the hatch, which itself has openings in the middle for better airflow, and the Cayenne has not one, not two, but three wings.
Thankfully, you don't have to look at the Cayenne Coupe when you're driving it, but I kind of hate what the big spoiler does to this crossover's otherwise attractive design when in full-on peacock mode. Plus, because of the necessary aero work, there's no way for Porsche to mount a rear window wiper to the Cayenne. Company engineers tell me it doesn't need one, but especially after driving this thing during an unusually rainy Los Angeles week, I continue to disagree.
Otherwise, this body style's trade-offs aren't as bad as you might think. Rearward visibility is still plenty good, and there's 22 cubic feet of space in the back of the Coupe, which expands to 53.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. These are only reductions of 5 and 7 cubic feet versus the standard Cayenne, respectively, so it really isn't anything to lose sleep over.
The Coupe's rear seats are easy to get in and out of, thanks to the fact that Porsche lowered the rear bench by 1.2 inches compared with the normal Cayenne. You do have to duck your head a bit as you get in, but there's plenty of headroom once inside, a sensation amplified by the Coupe's standard panoramic glass roof. A two-passenger rear seating arrangement is standard, but a three-across bench like the one in my test car is available at no charge.
Up front, the Coupe is as plush and nicely appointed as the rest of the Cayenne range, with supportive seats for the driver and passenger and a cleanly organized center console featuring flush, backlit controls. A 12.3-inch touchscreen takes center stage on the dashboard, running Porsche Communication Management software, the same as you'll find in the company's other new cars. I love PCM for its reconfigurable home screen, wealth of functionality, crisp graphics and immediate responses. And hey, if you don't feel the same way about PCM that I do, Apple CarPlay comes standard, though it still doesn't have Android Auto.
Porsche's full roster of driver assistance tech is available in the Cayenne S Coupe, including everything from the company's InnoDrive highway assistant, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, to traffic-sign recognition, a surround-view camera system, Night Vision Assist, head-up display and lane-change assist. The only issue? All of these goodies cost extra, even on the $89,950 (including $1,350 for destination) Cayenne S Coupe.
S vs. S, the Coupe is $4,300 more expensive than the traditionally shaped Cayenne, though it's worth noting the swoopy-roof version comes with a higher level of standard equipment, including inch-larger wheels, the Sport Chrono pack, power sport seats and the aforementioned glass roof. Like every Porsche, the sky's the limit when it comes to customization, with a lightly optioned version like my test car still breaking into six-figure territory at $102,110 (including destination).
My big beef with the Coupe is that I don't think it really differentiates itself enough from the standard Cayenne to warrant that price hike. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz at least make their coupeovers look a little different, and sometimes they give them unique engine options, too. Porsche's competitor just has its modestly different roofline. Of course, I suppose when your starting point is the already-damn-near-flawless Cayenne, it doesn't make sense to mess with success.