The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe takes one of the sportiest crossovers on the market and gives it a slight redesign that better reflects the speed its 541 horsepower twin-turbo V8 delivers. It’s also more expensive than a normal Cayenne, because something isn’t stylish if you aren’t paying more for it.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche flew me over to Austria for a week to give me a chance to cover another assignment in the country before posting me up in a hotel for a weekend, nourishing me with food, drinks, and countless hours of philosophical arguments over what is and isn’t a fucking coupe.)
Finally, a crossover that makes a fashion statement without looking like a painful mutation. The 2020 Cayenne Coupe is just a regular Cayenne, except its roofline and rear-end have been re-engineered to communicate that you’re worried about being seen in a crossover but want some practicality, and you have money to make that worry go away.
Basically, Porsche took a normal Cayenne and sloped the windshield back a bit, raked the roofline down 0.78 inches into a sports-car like line, and widened the rear-track by 0.7 inches, which is meant to give the car a more athletic appearance.
Like the regular Cayenne before it, the Coupe is available in three models: Standard, S, and Turbo (though in the usual confusing Porsche fashion, all of the engines are turbocharged regardless of what the model is called).
The standard Coupe starts at $75,300, which is almost $10,000 more than the standard model of the regular Cayenne, but adds a lot options as standard features compared to the regular Cayenne, like the Sport Chrono Package and fixed glass roof. All coupes also come standard with two rear seats, though a three-seat bench option is available at no extra cost.
The standard Coupe gets a single-turbo 3.0-liter V6 with 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, with a top speed of 151 mph. That’s not a lot to move the curb weight for the standard Coupe, which is 4,663 pounds.
The S Coupe model starts at $88,600, compared to $82,900 for the comparable S model on the regular Cayenne, and gets a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 with 434 HP and 405 lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 163 mph. Its weight is 4,725 pounds.
The Turbo Coupe starts at $130,100, compared to $124,600 for the comparable regular Cayenne, and gets a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 541 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque, a top speed of 177 mph, and a weight of 5,024 pounds.
All models have a maximum braked towing capacity of 7,716 pounds.
There’s also an optional lightweight sport package that includes a carbon fiber roof replacing the standard glass roof, 22-inch lightweight wheels that save 4.4 pounds at each corner compared to a comparable 22-inch alloy, a carbon diffuser, a Sport Design exterior trim package, a carbon fiber interior package, Alcantara treatment, and a removal of some sound-deadening material. There are three cosmetic variants of the package, so the savings are between 39 and 48 pounds, depending on which package is optioned.
This sloping, sporty fastback design on a crossover is a big trend in the car world right now, offering slightly less practicality compared to the original model for a little more stylish flare to help further diversify the neighborhood’s driveways, giving rich people one more thing to spend more money on and brag about.
The concept of a sporty-looking crossover isn’t exactly new, as there have been plenty of cars lifted and restyled to look and be more rugged for decades. You could easily argue AMC probably made a lot of crossover coupes back in the 1970s and 1980s, and there are countless other similarities with models from dozens of other automakers through time.
But those were almost never labeled “coupes,” neither by consumers nor the companies that built them. What really bothers people about the current trend of established crossovers being slightly tweaked to have mostly ugly fastback rooflines is the alleged bastardization of what is and isn’t defined to be a coupe.
This bastardization started a while ago with sedans, particularly with BMW and its “Gran Coupe” nomenclature on cars with four doors causing a big stir over the last decade. And then BMW applied the same concept to crossovers with the 2008 X6.
For decades, the term “coupe” was associated with two-door cars that were often meant to be sportier versions of established four-door models. The association of “coupe” with two doors is the base of the argument against calling something like the Cayenne Coupe a “coupe,” because a quick investigation proves it does not, in fact, have two doors.
But in conversation about this topic, it doesn’t take long for somebody to lean forward, push their glasses firmly back into the bridge of their nose, take a big deep breath and try to school you on the root definition of the word “coupe.” Which is exactly what I’m going to do now.
If you look up the word, you find that its french meaning is “cut,” or “chopped off,” and its use is applied to a particular body style of car because you’re cutting down the profile and roofline of an established design. While it was formerly used almost exclusively for two-door cars, the definition of the word itself doesn’t have anything to do with how many doors are on a car. That association has always just come from how the automotive industry traditionally applied the word to describe its products.
And as annoying as it is to have this spelled out for you repeatedly over a weekend, as I have had to suffer, I ultimately have no problem with automakers using it because they have to follow trends and the marketing teams know what they’re communicating when they put it in the model name for the car. I will then have to use whether or not I like it for search engine optimization and for clarity in my writing.
Language is all fucking made up anyway.
Would using the term “fastback” instead, in the interest of avoiding any confusion in the mainstream understanding of the two-door history of the use of “coupe,” be better if only to help us avoid this conversation? Certainly! But it’s too late for that now, and “coupe” still offers the impression of sportiness and style that companies want to use to define and market these cars anyway, and the entire argument is a nice dose of absurdity that plays into Porsche’s favor, so maybe it’s time to move on and wait for the next trend that unifies enthusiasts in frustration and hatred.
With that out of the way, I am happy to report that the Cayenne Coupe is just as good as the Cayenne, which shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise.
While the twin-turbo V8 is the best at getting all 5,024 pounds of the Turbo model flying down the road, all three powertrains are fun to drive, especially since all Coupes come equipped as standard with the Sport Chrono Package (which is optional on the regular Cayenne) that lets you choose the Sport and Sport Plus driving modes from a dial on the wheel instead of a touch screen menu, and gives you a little 20 second “boost” button for overtaking or just goofing around.
Power and torque come in gobs of boost from a combination of an 8-speed Triptronic-S transmission that’s just a half-step behind the PDK found in Porsche’s other cars and noticeable but satisfyingly sudden margin of turbo lag. This is a car where you can kick the pedal and have just enough of a split-second to prepare yourself for what’s coming, like inhaling before a scream, and it never disappoints.
The Cayenne cars get the Triptronic transmission to better cope with the wear-and-tear of the car’s off-road and towing capability, which the PDK wouldn’t exactly be perfectly suited for. It’s good enough that it doesn’t feel like too much of a trade-off.
Rear-axle steering on the fastest model, the Turbo, also really helps shoo away any worries of understeer, and it was integrated well enough that it felt like a natural steering progression, though I could definitely tell which cars had it on some of the tighter curves in the road. I didn’t really ever have any worries over understeer on the Standard nor S models either, for what it’s worth.
The steering feedback isn’t phenomenal, but Porsche’s electronically-assisted setup is one of the better systems I’ve tested. There was some feedback, and while deep down I knew the what I was feeling isn’t really perfectly translated from what I was seeing as I drive along, it’s enough of an illusion to not really bother me, and I’d bet that most people wouldn’t even think about it.
The interior, with its large grip handles on either side of the center column and its squared-up infotainment setup, is a smartly-designed place to be.
While it’s not as opulent as some of the other six-figure crossovers on the market, the surfaces are soft, the front seats grab you when you need them to but are also unassumingly comfortable, and it’s open enough to avoid the sensation that you’re entirely encased in a tomb of sports car. Having all of that exterior size translate into plenty of space to move around inside is not always guaranteed, and it’s very welcome here.
I love the functionality of having the navigation map in the digital driver display, and all of the cars we tested were equipped with a heads-up display that also provided plenty of bright information, including upcoming turns, speed limits, lane-assist warnings, and speed information, though those with polarized sunglasses will frustratingly still have issues seeing it.
Despite the “chopping” of the design in the back, there’s a surprising amount of head room seemingly suitable for someone a few inches over six foot still be comfortable, in part because Porsche lowered the rear seats over an inch from the regular Cayenne. The option of a full glass roof also really helps to avoid the back seat turning into a cave, and the rear door windows are large enough to prevent the claustrophobia you’d get in a traditional car-based coupe.
As for the new look, I kind of like it more than the standard Cayenne. At least from a few feet away. Up close you notice little things, like some trim levels adding an additional trimming around the fenders that the rear-doors have to cut through awkwardly, or the strange flat lateral body shaping in the rear, which is reminiscent of a similar issue on the new 911, that’s just five-or-so solid inches of height. It kind of feels like the designer got tired of adding layers of design elements to hide the Coupe’s size when they got to that part of the rear hatch.
But again, take a few steps back and it all shapes up much more elegantly than what BMW or Mercedes has tried to do with a similar concept. Probably mostly because it can still be fairly difficult to distinguish from a regular Cayenne at a glance.
While it’s never going to fool you into thinking it’s a 911 from the driver’s seat, the Porsche formula of a powerful turbocharged engine, a suspension setup good enough to hardly ever call attention to itself and handling dynamics that undercut my mental notions of climbing into a big car all make for an extremely satisfying drive.
Most of the issues with the Coupe are also issues on the standard Cayenne, except for four things that are a direct result of the restyling.
The roof isn’t available to be optioned with a sunroof that opens; you can get fixed glass or you can get darkness, but there will absolutely be no open top fun. You want some fresh air? You’ve got to open a window. That feels like it could have been figured out.
The other roof issue comes with the optional lightweight sport package, which adds a carbon fiber roof that throws out the standard glass roof, turning it into a little cozy coupe cave back there.
Out of the back, rear visibility is obviously more challenging than the regular boxy Cayenne body style thanks to the new shape and angle of the rear window, which is just about big enough to fill the small rear-view mirror, but that’s it. I think they made the rear-view small so that you don’t see all of the headliner blocking your rear view.
And to make visibility worse, you can’t get a rear wiper on the Coupe like you can on the normie, which could be frustrating trying to back up or see behind you in snow or heavy rain.
As for issues shared between the Coupe and regular Cayenne, you still can’t configure the digital driver’s cockpit to feature radio information, and the only radio controls on the steering wheel are for volume, not channel selection.
For that, you still have to either use the touch screen radio menu, or the little metal dial knob under the screen on the center console.
On the touchscreen itself, the menu system ranges from simple to frustrating, with most of your everyday settings laid out to be easy to find and easy to control, while some other menu settings, like adjusting the heads-up-display, are buried in the general settings menu, under another submenu, instead of under the “Car” menu settings. Why label an entire menu card “Car” if you can’t find all of the car adjustment settings there?
And finally, the Coupe can be configured with Porsche’s new “Porsche Surface Coated Brake,” or PSCB, which is designed to reduce brake dust. In concept, it’s a great “luxury car” feature because it’s always painful to see modern, expensive performance and luxury cars with wheels absolutely coated in grey powder. That’s not very stylish.
But the problem is the braking feel at lower speeds feels a little too grabby and unpolished, with the bite point a little disjointed with the pedal feel. Does it stop the car? Yes. Is it horrible? No. But it does feel like it could be tuned to be a little more gradual and predictable.
I think the Cayenne (maybe not the Coupe, but the Cayenne line) may have just a slight edge over the extremely satisfying supercharged Land Rover offerings for me, in part because I don’t love JLR’s dual-touchscreen interior, and because the Porsche just feels a touch less fussy to live with overall—with plenty of power still.
The Porsche Cayenne Coupe is so transparently a trend-chasing, volume-padding model for the sort of person who buys another house when they’re feeling sad instead of just going to therapy, so it’s almost not worth pointing it out.
But when you look beyond its marginally different roofline and go for a drive, it proves itself to be a quick, fun and nimble crossover with a nice interior that isn’t trying as hard as the exterior to call attention to itself. The important takeaway here is that the different bodystyle doesn’t have many trade-offs, which was honestly a little surprising.
It’s still a Cayenne under the cosmetics, and the Cayenne is good.
And now, when the bad thoughts start to leak back into your brain, instead of buying a house or going to therapy, you can just distract yourself by trying to figure out what, exactly, a coupe is or should be.