The Porsche Cayenne has been radically overhauled in a bid to ensure its sustained appeal as it remains on sale up to the end of the decade - alongside an all-new and technically unrelated electric Cayenne arriving in 2025.
This round of updates is much more significant than a regular mid-cycle update. In fact, Cayenne product boss Michael Schätzle called the facelift "one of the most extensive product upgrades in the history of Porsche" - one that will keep Porsche's best-seller at the top of its segment as the company embarks on a wide-reaching global electrification initiative.
Ben Weinberger, spokesperson for Porsche's SUV models, told Autocar that the Cayenne needed an extensive refresh if it was to remain competitive for nearly another model cycle. He said: "We already announced that we're going to bring the electric Cayenne in less than two years, and this car will stay on the market in parallel for quite some time. So that was the reason why we said: 'okay, we need to do a lot to keep it fresh for the next few years'."
Chief among the mechanical upgrades is a swap from V6 to V8 power for the Cayenne S, with the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre unit – familiar from the Porsche Panamera and Lamborghini Urus – pumping a healthily increased 468bhp and 443lb ft to both axles for a 0-62mph time of 4.8sec and a top speed of 167mph.
The entry-level Cayenne gets a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 (replacing the previous 2.9-litre V6), and power and torque are up here as well, to 351bhp and 369lb ft.
The V6 also forms the basis for a heavily upgraded plug-in hybrid drivetrain for the Cayenne E-Hybrid, teamed with a boosted electric motor for a combined 464bhp and supplemented by a larger 25.9kWh battery. It claims a competitive electric-only range of 52 miles and can now be charged in just 2.5 hours courtesy of its new on-board 11kW charger.
A further two PHEV variants will be added to the line up later, including a hotter, V8-toting Turbo S E-Hybrid.
There's also a power boost for the top-rung, V8-engined Cayenne GT, which now touts 650bhp and clocks 0-62mph slightly quicker than the 911 GT3, in a blistering 3.2sec - but this range-topper has been taken off sale in Europe for emissions-compliance reasons. Europe is in line to soon receive a stiffened-up, V8-engined Cayenne GTS, however.
Just as significant as the drivetrain revamp is the work that Porsche has carried out to give the Cayenne an "increased range between ride comfort and performance". New two-valve shocks – working in conjunction with a two-chamber air suspension system – with separate rebound and compression stages are said to boost agility in hard corners, enhance ride comfort at low speeds and reduce pitch and roll.
Plus, the tyres are bigger, which improves comfort and has the added benefits of both filling the arches more effectively and being able to run at a lower pressure, thereby boosting grip.
Weinberger said that getting the chassis set-up right was an absolute priority when it came to extending the Cayenne's lifecycle: "The quality of the Cayenne since it came onto market has always been a very wide range between driving like a sports car and, on the other hand, a luxurious travelling car for the whole family."
That focus on luxury and refinement extends to a dramatic, Taycan-inspired overhaul of the Cayenne’s interior, revealed last month. Aimed at providing an "even more intensive driving experience" while facilitating interaction, both with the car and the front-seat passenger, the new dashboard is dominated by a full-width digital panel comprising three screens: a 12.6in curved instrument cluster, a 12.3in central infotainment screen and – new for 2023 – an optional touchscreen in front of the passenger.
This new 10.9in interface allows the passenger to "take the strain off the driver" by setting the sat-nav and adjusting the media settings. Innovative screening technology means it's invisible to the driver, minimising distraction on the move.
The "free-standing" digital instrument display (with up to seven different views, including a five-dial set-up reminiscent of that in the Porsche 911), new-generation steering wheel, dash-mounted drive selector and redesigned centre console take their lead from the Taycan - and it all forms part of Porsche's ploy to achieve a balance between digital and analogue elements for maximum global appeal.
"If you ask a Chinese customer,” explained Weinberger, “they say: 'The bigger the screens, the better'. More screens, bigger screens, more lights... But if you ask a customer in Europe or the US, they say: 'No, I like knobs. I don't like this touchy stuff'."
The extensive mechanical and technological overhaul is belied by a relatively subtle exterior makeover, which is headlined by the introduction of a reshaped front end hosting new-look matrix LED headlights with more than 32,000 pixels per cluster.
Standard on all Cayennes for 2023 and optionally upgradable to "HD" items, these new lights can block out oncoming cars "with pixel accuracy" to avoid dazzling other drivers while maximising forward visibility, and they offer more than 1000 variations of brightness to cater to different driving situations.
Otherwise, the new Cayenne is best told apart at the front by its resculpted bonnet and swollen wings, while at the rear it gets a fresh, "three-dimensional" LED lightbar and a reshaped apron with a low-mounted numberplate.
A raft of new colour and wheel options, ranging from 20in to 22in, round off the large SUV's new look.
UK prices will be finalised closer to the new Cayenne's July on-sale date, but a starting price of €89,000 in Germany translates to around £78,000 here, which would be a hefty increase over the outgoing car's £64,000 entry price.
That’s in part because the standard kit list has been extended for the updated car, but Porsche earlier pledged to introduce "significant price increases" on its cars in 2023 as it pushes forward with a plan to ultimately achieve a 20% return on each car, up from 18% now.