With a perfect blend of power, precision and practicality, the Porsche Cayenne disproves the notion that large SUVs can’t be fun to drive.

An extensive upgrade has made an already-impressive vehicle into an even more compelling package, with new engines and significant interior changes among the highlights.

Introduced in 2002, the Cayenne broke new ground as a luxury SUV, becoming a sales success and underlining the premium brand’s adaptability to changing times.

After the revised model landed in the UK, we were invited to the north-east of England to see first hand the changes Porsche has made to keep the five-seat Cayenne competitive.

Denbighshire Free Press: A convoy of Cayennes prepare to tackle the rugged tracks of Kielder ForestA convoy of Cayennes prepare to tackle the rugged tracks of Kielder Forest

The upgrade hasn’t brought about any major visual differences, which is no bad thing for those who like the subtle yet stylish look. There’s a normal SUV body style or you can opt for the Cayenne Coupe, which arguably looks slightly better but loses a degree of rear visibility.

So it’s the mechanical changes and interior improvements - including a funky new screen in the dashboard for the passenger - that grab the headlines.

Accounting for the majority of sales, the plug-in hybrid now has more power, a faster charging time and a much larger battery that extends the electric range to 45 miles on the WLTP combined scale.

Denbighshire Free Press: The clean layout of the dash - including a screen purely for the passengerThe clean layout of the dash - including a screen purely for the passenger (Image: Porsche)

The 2,995cc turbocharged V6 engine works with a 176 hp 130 kW electric motor to provide potent performance, producing a combined 470hp and 650Nm of torque. The immediacy of the acceleration is satisfying, with the sprint to 62mph taking 4.9 seconds and no gaps in power delivery through the rev range.

The entry-level E-Hybrid, costing £79,800 before options, emits just 33g/km of CO2, and returns a claimed 188mpg. Various drive modes are available, depending on the driving conditions, and it's worth noting that the e-motor is good for 84mph on its own.

We also had a go in the Cayenne S, which previously used a V6, and now benefits from a formidable 4.0-litre V8 engine, offering 468bhp and 600Nm of torque.

Denbighshire Free Press: The sure-footed qualities of the Cayenne were tested in Kielder ForestThe sure-footed qualities of the Cayenne were tested in Kielder Forest

Out on the twisty and undulating B-roads, you might expect a 2.6-tonne vehicle to feel cumbersome, but the Cayenne offers agility you wouldn’t normally associate with such a sizeable machine.

Indeed, you can corner briskly with a large degree of confidence thanks to the high levels of poise and precision, helped by the £ 1,325 option of rear-axle steering.

The superb-handling Cayenne really is the driver’s SUV, providing a high sense of involvement and engagement.

The emotional appeal is enhanced by an evocative thrum under heavy acceleration, punctuated by the occasional burble from the exhaust when you ease off the power.

Denbighshire Free Press: Air suspension and all-wheel drive proved useful in 'Killer Kielder'Air suspension and all-wheel drive proved useful in 'Killer Kielder'

Central to the appeal of the launch event was a chance to drive the Cayenne on the unmade gravel tracks of Kielder Forest - dubbed ‘Killer Kielder’ by rally aficionados due to its car-wrecking notoriety on RAC Rally events.

It was on these sometimes-rutted roads that the adaptive air suspension came into its own, cushioning the vehicle’s occupants from very abrasive surfaces. This feature doesn’t come as standard, which is a shame, but if you’re going to buy a Cayenne, this is definitely the option you should prioritise, at an extra cost of £1,760.

It also allows the ride height to be raised at the press of a button – by either 15mm or 45mm – making the Cayenne's off-road ability even greater.

Denbighshire Free Press: Kielder Forest once played host to the world's finest rally cars - and has now been graced by the new CayenneKielder Forest once played host to the world's finest rally cars - and has now been graced by the new Cayenne

And you don’t have to be in Kielder Forest to feel the benefit, as the air suspension also plays its part on the normal roads, with its extra sophistication helping to create the ideal balance between comfort and feel.

The eight-speed gearbox is fast-shifting and almost faultless in translating throttle inputs into the ideal revs - so much so that you don’t feel the need to take control with the paddles.

There are some important changes on the Cayenne’s interior, notably a new crystal clear widescreen 12.3-inch touchscreen, digital dial display and remodelled centre console.

Denbighshire Free Press: The premium family SUV offers plenty of practicality and spaceThe premium family SUV offers plenty of practicality and space

There’s even the option of a 10.9-inch touchscreen for the passenger, which offers streaming options and is covered by a film to prevent it distracting the driver. The build quality of the cabin is everything you’d expect from a vehicle in this price bracket, with plenty soft touch surfaces.

Materials and perceived quality are excellent, while there plenty of stowage and rear seat room. A tall adult should be able to sit behind a tall driver with little difficulty.

In conclusion the Cayenne is a tremendous all-rounder. Indeed, it would be hard to conjure up a better family SUV.

The Lowdown

Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

ENGINE: 3-litre V6 turbo & 130 kW electric motor

PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 158mph and 0-62 mph in 4.9 seconds

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed Tiptronic S, active all-wheel drive



PRICE: £ 79,800 (before options)