As with other automakers, electrification and more stringent emissions regulations steer the fate of the Porsche V-8 on a similar course as the analog clock and the cigarette lighter. The thoroughly refreshed 2024 Porsche Cayenne S has them all, but for how long?
Using the electric Porsche Taycan for inspiration, the third-generation refresh of Porsche’s bestselling model represents its most significant update since it was launched new in 2002 to the consternation of Porsche purists. It was an unquestionable success, and Porsche needs it to stay that way. The overhauled Cayenne will be sold alongside the fourth-generation Cayenne, with a full battery electric version expected for 2026.
That’s why Porsche revised its powertrains to increase power while reducing emissions, revamped the interior to replace analog gauges with digital interfaces, and upgraded the suspension to offer more variability between comfortable cruising and canyon carving.
I tested the 2024 Porsche Cayenne S in Southern California—the brand’s number one U.S. market—and walked away relieved that it was still the benchmark for the mid-size performance SUV.
Porsche Cayenne power: need a V-8?
Half of the four Cayenne models offered in 2024 have V-8 engines, specifically the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo GT. In an automotive twist, the U.S. gets the special Turbo GT range topper, not Europe. Emissions regulations preclude it from being sold in its home market, as well as India, Japan, and most Asian markets.
Sold only in Coupe form, the Turbo GT dethrones the Turbo S E-Hybrid as the most powerful Cayenne, with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 making 650 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque. In Sport+ mode, it launches the Cayenne from 0-60 mph in just 3.1 seconds on its way to an 11.6-second quarter mile. It’s also the most expensive Cayenne at $197,950. I didn’t test it in and outside of Los Angeles.
Instead, I tested the projected volume model, the Cayenne S. It uses a heavily modified 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 making 468 hp and 442 lb-ft, which is 34 hp and 37 lb-ft more than the old V-6 it replaces in Cayenne S models. Porsche said it couldn’t improve V-6 performance and meet emissions regulations, so it turned to the new V-8 that better limits emissions and fuel consumption in high power situations.
The modifications include dual single-scroll turbochargers (the GT gets twin-scroll turbos), different camshaft positioning sensors, higher pressure fuel injectors, and new electrified wastegates. The larger, leaner engine improves performance as well as emissions (we’re told; EPA ratings were not certified by press time). The 2024 Cayenne S also shaves 0.2 second from its 0-60 mph time, down to 4.7 seconds or 4.4 seconds with the Sport Chrono package.
My tester had Sport Chrono, and at launch the Cayenne S lifted like a rear-wheel-drive vehicle and tickled like a sports car. Porsche wouldn’t break down what percentage of torque gets sent to the rear axle, instead saying that the RWD bias is adaptive but it’s never fully 100% at the rear wheels.
Every Cayenne comes with AWD and a carryover 8-speed automatic transmission. In Sport+ mode, there was the briefest lag that I likely wouldn’t have noticed if not for all the electric cars I’ve driven recently. The 8-speed allowed the engine to run up to peak horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and was so in sync with what I intended, on passing moves uphill or coasting into stops back into L.A., that I didn’t care that the Cayenne has never sported Porsche’s fantastic PDK dual-clutch transmission.
The new V-8’s neatest trick was how quietly it remained in the background. Even under mild throttle to maintain speed, it emitted only a steady, reassuring thrum. Provoke it from Normal to Sport mode, or poke it with your toe, however, and the optional sport exhaust burbles and the engine barks like some well-trained narco dog let loose on a border bust.
All the drive modes migrate from the console panel to a dial on the steering wheel, replete with a “Sport Response” button in the center. Sport Response essentially acts as a bypass from selecting drive modes: hit the button and for 20 seconds it’ll shift into the lowest gear based on the speed, and the suspension firms up accordingly. It’s kinda gimmicky but still fun. The best use case for me was in Normal mode and wanting to pass a trailer uphill. I hit the button, hit the throttle, and hustled past the slowpoke in seconds. To return to the previous mode, I could’ve hit the button again or waited out the 20 seconds. I waited.
Porsche Cayenne, corner carver
The powertrain was powerful enough to wonder if the Turbo GT was worth nearly $70,000 more than the Cayenne S. The Cayenne’s best attribute is how it handles, especially up and down mountain twisties, and the S certainly delivers in that department.
The 2024 Cayenne S starts at $97,350, including a $1,650 destination fee, but my tester had many performance options standard on the Turbo GT, including 22-inch RS Spyder wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires, an air suspension instead of the stock steel springs, adaptive dampers, rear-axle steering, the sport exhaust with titanium pipes (chrome tips are an EU no-no), and an electronically locking rear differential.
It also came in the $6,400 Coupe body style, bringing the tester to somewhere in the $120,000 range. Like 30% of Cayenne buyers, I prefer the Coupe for its more proportionate looks and its better feel behind the wheel. I can’t explain why. It’s 65 pounds heavier than the SUV and comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, and the outward vision over the shoulder is much worse than the SUV, all of which should work against its favor. It doesn’t.
New two-valve adaptive dampers enable the Cayenne to further spread out its personality from Normal to Sport to Sport+. The rebound response remains relatively unchanged, but the compression rates increase so at higher speeds it irons out the road without wrinkling the cabin and at lower speeds there’s more of a connection to the road. Combined with the air springs, it constantly adjusts to what the driver puts down and how the road hits back.
The air springs lower about 0.7 inch in Sport+ mode, down from 8.3 inches. It’s not enough to offset the high ride height endemic to a crossover SUV, but one of the charms of the Cayenne S is how it’s able to move laterally and fore and aft without ever losing its center. A couple times on a downhill run I felt a little forward hop going hard into a turn that made me catch my breath, but that was likely due to bumps in the road; before I could correct it, the Cayenne seemed to rebalance itself.
The new control layout moves the suspension settings into the touchscreen, and the new interface allows for customization of drive modes, chassis response, ride heights, and the sport exhaust system. I mostly let the drive modes on the steering dial handle themselves and relished the steering feel itself. Heavily weighted but Porsche-precise, the Cayenne S upholds the bar for how a performance crossover should feel in the hands.
The options and the V-8 upgrade, as well as the revamped interior, made the Cayenne sound and feel more like a luxury car than before, still with a performance edge.
Porsche Cayenne: taps the Taycan inside
The most pronounced changes to the 2024 Cayenne happen in the cabin as the cockpit aligns more with the electric Taycan. Porsche swapped out the analog dials and replaced them with a 12.6-inch digital cluster offering up to seven views; they’re crystal clear and loaded with navigation and performance data, but they can’t quite match the user friendliness of an Audi or the breadth and depth of information of the latest Mercedes’ interface. Porsche flattened the hood that had protected the cluster from glare, and adopted an anti-glare filter from the Taycan that acts like polarized sunglasses to eliminate reflections. The lack of a hood seems to open up the windshield a bit more for better outward vision.
A 12.3-inch touchscreen with larger icons centers the long and low dash, and the front passenger can zone out to an optional 10.9-inch touchscreen blocked from the driver’s view. It would be nice if that space could be covered with wood or metallic trim, instead of the same black cover with or without the touchscreen.
Grab handles flank the center console, which has a new haptic climate control panel and less clutter than its predecessor. But the panel could use a bit more refinement to match the rest of the interior; push the heated seat button, for example, and the whole panel flexes.
The gear selector moves up to the dash to the right of the steering wheel, and the start button sits left of the wheel in typical Porsche fashion. It’s neater, cleaner, and more reliant on digitization, but the analog Sport Chrono clock remains an option.
Porsche Cayenne: SUV or Coupe?
While the Cayenne Turbo GT only comes in the Coupe body style, the Cayenne S presents an option. The Coupe sacrifices 3.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 40/20/40-split rear seats. Five passengers can fit in either, and the Coupe’s 2+2 rear console divider can be swapped out for a middle seat at no charge. Either way, four adults fit fine, even in Coupe models with a standard panoramic sunroof. Rear headroom seems better than that of the BMW X6.
Fuel economy hasn’t been finalized and Porsche didn’t provide any estimates. We’ll see if Porsche maintains its emissions’ status, or levels up. One thing I can be sure of is the V-8 in the Cayenne S gives motorheads a reason to celebrate, at least for a while.
Porsche provided airfare and lodging for Motor Authority to present this firsthand report.
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