Porsche announces a new spicier Cayenne. Is less more?
Amongst the delicacies on offer at the recent Geneva motor show was the debut of Porsche’s latest derivation of the eternal Nunelfer, a revision apparently so accomplished, our German Palexpo explorer was moved to observe; “Changes [to the Porsche 992] are actually minuscule, but they’re all so superbly executed that this must rank, from an aesthetic perspective as one of the finest 911s of them all.”
No rational being in the history of mankind has ever been moved to speak with such warmth regarding Zuffenhausen’s full-sized SUV, now in its third distinct iteration. The Cayenne’s creative trajectory has been one which has taken the model line from the deepest well of ugliness to the position where it currently resides, somewhere approximately South-West of just about okay.
Less offensive to the eye it may now be, but amongst many automotive aficionados, the Cayenne will live forever in infamy, not simply for the original’s cack-handed visuals, but for the fact that it largely kick-started the inane rush into upmarket pseudo-off roaders which now represents every carmaker’s true North, in product strategy terms at least.
Having for reasons best known to themselves held its announcement back from Geneva – perhaps to avoid stepping on the 911’s toes, Porsche saw fit to announce what they term the Cayenne Coupé – an elided variant of the existing vehicle. While clearly heavily based upon the existing more square-rigged version, the so-called coupé features all-new sheetmetal (and glazing) above the beltline.
From the windscreen pillars (now more steeply raked) through the revised DLO treatment, to the more flowing rear three quarters, the Cayenne has (visually at least) been brought into line with the rest of the Porsche range, now more closely resembling a jacked up version of its Panamera sibling.
Indeed, so much does the new roofline appear to suggest itself that to these eyes it renders the existing model somewhat superfluous – or at least it would do were it not for the fact that by appending the much abused Coupé nomenclature to its rump, Porsche’s product strategists can justify a healthy price premium – from £62 to £105 big ones, before one gets irredeemably lost in the tangled mangroves of the options list.
Joining the likes of Audi’s butch Q8 and Lamborghini’s even more steroidal Urus, not to mention the more ‘rakish’ looking versions of Mercedes and BMW’s larger SUV ranges, Porsche enters a modest, but growing market for sportier-looking SUVs. But perhaps more interesting than the car itself is the question of whether the “more progressive, athletic and emotional,” Cayenne Coupé will prove more of a hit with buyers and whether Zuffenhausen can justify the cost of both versions in the longer-term?
Porsche’s visual restraint amid a sea of hyped-up and overtly aggressive fare from the banks of the Mittelandkanal, from Ingolstadt and from Sant ‘Agata Bolognese has been notable and to many commentators, quite laudable. But a Cayenne Coupé is still a Cayenne with all the stylistic (and metaphorical) baggage (145 litres less capacity than the regular version by the way) that it brings.
So while it’s regrettable that Michael Mauer’s team have been tasked to create this ignoble confection, it probably moves a few degrees closer in visual terms to what one would imagine a Porsche SUV to resemble, while shifting the Cayenne a millimetre or two closer towards visual acceptability.
And while we can register our continued dismay that it’s necessary for Zuffenhausen to produce such vehicles at all (and the jury is still very much out on the necessity front) the damning with faint praise summation from here is that it could probably have been a good deal worse.