It was controversial at first, but the Cayenne has been a huge money spinner for Porsche. Launched overnight, the evolutionary third-generation Cayenne doesn't exactly break the mold on first look, but it still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

From the front, you could be forgiven for thinking Porsche just forgot to make any changes for the new car. The design team says the new look creates a strong visual connection to its predecessors, we'd argue the nose is far too similar to that of the outgoing car. The rear end has been given a makeover to better fit with the look of the Panamera, with slimline lights and swollen hips.

As you'd expect of a high-end German car, the overall look is very option-dependent – the press shots make the car look brilliant with big wheels, but a bit dumpy in a light color on little rims. So spec wisely.

Changes are more significant inside, where the design team has borrowed heavily from the Panamera for inspiration. The dashboard is dominated by a flush-fitting 12.3-inch screen, while the button-heavy transmission tunnel from the old car has been turfed in favor of a slick touch-sensitive setup. Instead of making the jump to a full-digital instrument binnacle, the new Cayenne has an analog central rev-counter flanked by seven-inch displays that can be customized based on the drive mode.

Along with the dials, there are a few other clear links between the Cayenne and its sportier family members. The steering wheel was clearly inspired by that of the 918 Spyder, and the spindly shift paddles for the seven-speed PDK gearbox are shared across the range. These all sound like small things, but our experience with the Macan S suggests they do a good job of making the car feel more like a true Porsche.

Unlike most true Porsches, however, you should be able to take the new Cayenne down rough roads and country lanes without worrying about ruining the nose. It rides on active air suspension with a third air chamber, for more options when fiddling with the ride settings. Just like the Bentley Continental also launched overnight, the car also has active anti-roll bars powered by a 48 V electrical system. It's able to stiffen things up to better resist roll in the corners, before slackening off for a smoother ride on rough roads.

While we're talking about handling, it's worth mentioning the new Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PCSB) system debuting on the new Cayenne. Carbon ceramic brakes are popular on high-end sports cars and track toys because of their superior fade resistance, but they also tend to be expensive. They're also, often, harder to modulate when they're cold. Porsche is pitching PCSB as a halfway-house between normal iron discs and full-on carbon ceramics.

By finishing cast-iron brake discs with a tungsten-carbide coating, the engineers in Stuttgart say they've managed to make them last longer, bite harder and create less dust – all good things, no doubt. The tech is only available on cars with 20- or 21-inch wheels, and includes white-painted calipers as an extra touch.

Porsche says the car is 143 lb (65 kg) lighter than its predecessor, thanks to a smarter material blend in the chassis and big-ticket, one-off savings like a lithium-polymer battery for the starter motor. That should make it feel sharper and sportier, as should the rear-wheel steering system, which virtually shortens the wheelbase at low speeds and lengthens it high speed. In short, Porsche is promising an SUV that still drives like, well, a Porsche.

Two engines will be offered at launch: a single-turbo V6 making 340 hp (254 kW) of power and 450 Nm of torque in the base Cayenne, and a twin-turbo V6 with 440 hp (328 kW) and 550 Nm. Both are hooked up to a seven-speed double-clutch transmission. It shouldn't be long before there are Turbo, GTS and Sport Hybrid variants on offer, so don't be too sad if you don't like the sound of either at the moment.

The new Cayenne will debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September. Pricing starts at US$65,700 for the Cayenne, and $82,900 for the Cayenne S.

Source: Porsche

View gallery - 24 images