Car Review: We test drive the Porsche Cayenne at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia

Porsche Cayenne 2018

We take the Mid-sized SUV out for a spin at the former F1 Grand Prix circuit in Selangor

Ah, the Porsche Cayenne. The Great Satan to Porsche purists. The car that had Messrs. Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG of Porscheplatz 1, Stuttgart, Germany laughing all the way to the bank since 2002. And to the 770,000-odd people who bought once since that time, the first car from Zuffenhausen to truly hold the title of “everyday Porsche”.

So, something for everyone, then.

And the Porsche Cayenne, the third-generation model, to be precise, is the reason why we’ve found ourselves on a searingly hot day at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.

We’re here to answer the questions that have never crossed the minds of 99 per cent of the abovementioned 770,000.

Specifically, “what is the Porsche Cayenne e like when driven hard on a race track” and “how would the Porsche Cayenne do when faced with something more treacherous than a murderously tall speed bump”?

First, some facts about the new Porsche Cayenne. It rests on the VW Group’s new MLB modular platform, which means Porsche’s SUV shares its base architecture with the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, and Lamborghini Urus.

What’s Great About The New Porsche Cayenne

The new Porsche Cayenne is also the recipient of a new 48v electrical architecture. Big deal, you might be saying, but the added electric punch allows for nifty things like electro-mechanical roll stabilisation, along with improved fuel economy and weight savings. This is thanks to the beefier electrics replacing power-sapping, heavier belt-driven ancillaries.

It also now gets positively monstrous staggered-width tyres (285-section on the front and 315 on the rear) shod over 21-inch wheels. In keeping with the finest Porsche traditions, this is, of course, a cost option.

So are the new tungsten carbide-coated iron brakes clamped by almost comically large ten-piston callipers. A halfway point (price and performance-wise) between standard iron discs and wallet-melting ceramic composites, these new brakes are touted by Porsche as having considerably better resistance to fade, wear characteristics, and lower brake dust production. Standard on the range-topping Cayenne Turbo, you’ll have to shell out money to have the new Porsche Surface Coated Brakes anywhere else.

And there’s updates to its adaptive air-filled dampers (again, optional on everything but the Porsche Cayenne Turbo) that can continuously adjust ride height and damping force depending on conditions.

What the Porsche Cayenne would drive like without those systems, we couldn’t tell you, because the cars we drove at Sepang were specced to the nines.

What we can tell you is with the right options selected, the Porsche Cayenne could give thoroughbred sports cars a run for their money… and handle some light off-roading in the process.

While Porsche supplies the maximum ride height (245mm), there’s no mention of approach/departure/breakover angles, which could say something about how they’re moot points for your average Porsche Cayenne buyer. Or how it’s Porsche subtly telling buyers to not take their cars off-road.

Going Off-Road

Nevertheless, the new Porsche Cayenne handled the short off-road course just off the main circuit rather better than we expected it to. The touchscreen controls to operate the various off-roading functions (raising the ride height, selecting the terrain presets) is a little fiddly, but everything else was just a matter of, to quote the Porsche instructor shouting through the walkie-talkie, “DON’T LIVE IN THE PAST, TRUST THE SYSTEM!”

Needless to say, no amount of technology will save you from acts of extreme stupidity, like going into obstacles too hot, having no throttle finesse and not fully utilising the 360-degree cameras.

Working The Track

It’s a similar story when we were finally let loose on the Sepang tarmac. Again, the Porsche Cayenne outperformed expectations. Actually, scratch that. It performed better than any two-tonne SUV (to be precise, 2,175kg) has any right to.

As mentioned earlier, how much of that performance is down to the optional extras (with Porsches, you really do get what you pay for) is an unknown quantity, but we can say with some confidence is they work. By golly, do they work.

But only if you “trust the system”. If you’re coming into a corner too fast, have faith that the massive brakes will stop you in time. Understeering? Just apply a judicious bootful of throttle. This is especially true in the case of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, because trick all-wheel-drive, 550bhp and supercar-sized tyres allows you bludgeon corners you can’t finesse.

Body roll is nigh-on negligible for a car of the Porsche Cayenne’s size and weight, and the levels of lateral g it can generate is scarcely believable. As with the way you should drive it off-road, the Porsche Cayenne rewards even-handedness with the steering and throttle.

Treat it as you would a 911 and things could go pear-shaped in a hurry. Then, your recourse would be to wait for the hand of the deity of your choosing to reach down and help keep you out of trouble. That, or the hand of PSM, the acronym for Porsche’s electronic stability system.

We’re prepared to admit, however, that the Porsche Cayenne’s prowess at off-roading or track work matters not one whit to its potential buyers.

Perhaps they might be more interested in how it performs on the school run, or how it handles the daily commute. Pity we can’t tell you that, given how our time with the third-generation model was spent exclusively on closed roads.

What we can conclusively say, however, is that the third outing for Porsche’s flagship SUV is that it’s a looker. A lower roofline, sportier profile and wraparound taillights make this, in our opinion, the best looking Porsche Cayenne yet.

That it’s also the most dynamically blessed of the lot is just a nice bonus. Well, perhaps with one caveat: if you check off the appropriate boxes on the options list.

On that note, the new Porsche Cayenne truly does have something for everyone. Yes, we think even the haters will have to grudgingly hold up some eights for it.