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Porsche Cayenne: German family hauler offers classy fun

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The 2018 Gen-3 Porsche Cayenne may not seem to be much different than previous versions. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has watched Porsche exteriors stick to what works – and the Cayenne’s previous styling, works.

At 191 inches, the new Cayenne is a large SUV, weighing in between 4,488 to 4,927 pounds. Despite the increased proportions, Cayenne is more lightweight than its predecessors. An aluminum-rich construction helps fuel economy. The all-new SUV is offered in three models (Cayenne, Cayenne S, and Cayenne Turbo). Each has a distinct trim package and optional horsepower combinations to boot.

EXTERIOR STYLE

While the proportions and overall profile look very familiar, the new design is clearly a bit more streamlined with a definitively squatter athletic stance and larger rear wheels (than in front), similar to stablemates X5 and X6.

Facing off against the Cayenne, you can see the Macan-like grille and headlight treatment, which really looks great on the larger proportions of the SUV. The rear-wheel arches are more muscular, but that’s the only place where subtlety gives way to proportion.

CABIN FEVER

I tested the Cayenne S and, despite the slightly lower roofline, the Cayenne’s interior does not lose any significant headroom or feel more compact. In fact, storage space is increased and I found head and legroom to be comfortable for both front and rear passengers.

The noise levels in the Cayenne are virtually non-detectable, especially when you employ the audio system to do its thing. Build quality is outstanding with high-end materials, exquisite leather surfaces and seamlessly integrated tech variants.

I found the standard seats in my tester to be quite comfortable and grippy for speedy curves. Porsche offers optional seats, including the sports seats that can be heated and cooled.

I found the use of touch buttons confusing, with some touch sensitive and others being actual buttons. A giant 12.3-inch HD screen anchors the center console, while 7-inch screens are in front of the driver.

POWER PERFORMANCE

The new Cayenne is already available in three versions. The base Cayenne is the 3.0-liter turbo V6 offering 340 horsepower; the Cayenne S has a 2.9 twin-turbo V6 with 440 hp, and the Cayenne Turbo powered by the 550 hp V8.

My Cayenne S tester featured the 2.9 twin-turbo V6, offering 440 horsepower and an impressive 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds. Mated to a crisp-shifting 8-speed automatic Tiptronic S gearbox, the Cayenne cruises through its gears efficiently and I really enjoyed partaking in the steering-wheel paddle shifting operation. Look for 18 City/24 Highway mpg.

THE FEEL

The air suspension has three settings for the stiffness of the springs while the driving modes can be selected via the steering-wheel-mounted knob: comfort, sport, sport+ and individual.

The new Cayenne offers several chassis options that add to the performance, drivability and overall fun factor that defines driving a Porsche. From four-wheel steering, active anti-roll bars, three-chamber air springs, Pirelli P Zero performance tires, electronically controlled limited-slip differential and brake-based torque vectoring, the Cayenne offers add-on systems that make it better at every level.

All of the chassis systems make the Cayenne feel confident and planted to the pavement – something you need when you have this horsepower under the hood. I found the steering to be exceptional, electrically assisted, and offering the right amount of weighting.

SAFETY

The new Cayenne has Park Assist with reversing camera and Surround View, adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go function. Other safety systems available are: anticipatory pedestrian detection, Lane Keep Assist with traffic sign recognition and Night Vision with a thermal imaging camera.

The Cayenne has a base price of $65,349 and it competes with other like-sized SUVs that are not branded Porsche. This is a difference maker for drivers who love to drive — and need to haul a load of people of stuff.