Every time I drive a Porsche, I’m immediately frustrated. It’s impossible not to sit in the perfectly considered cockpit of a car from the northern end of Stuttgart and stew about how it gets everything just right. Like how the steering column generously telescopes the wheel toward you in a carefully considered seating position (low, reclined, with plenty of thigh support.) Or how the interior is always fashionably austere and timelessly elegant. Then, once you’re on the road, how effortlessly correct everything is relative to almost every other car in its segment.

Driving the refreshed and re-V-8'd 2024 Cayenne S is further proof of that concept. Stuttgart’s engineers could’ve easily phoned it in here; The Cayenne has been so good for so long. Instead, Porsche took the E3-generation Cayenne, did several thankless and invisible mechanical upgrades, subtly refreshed the interior, and critically, re-installed the V-8 in place of the disliked 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6.

For an SUV, all of this effort seems bizarre. It’s a runabout, a practical object. Just give it some big screens, maybe some huge wheels, and make it spill-proof for the kids. So why go through the trouble of building a truly excellent, luxurious, and shockingly emotional SUV?

Quick Specs 2024 Porsche Cayenne S
Engine Twin-Turbo 4.0-Liter V-8
Output 468 Horsepower / 443 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH 4.7 Seconds
Curb Weight 4,874 Pounds
Base Price / As Tested $103,595 / $133,910

It starts with the return of the V-8. Volkswagen Group’s 4.0-liter V-8 is one of the most prolifically produced engines in the world. It goes in just about every single premium model under the group’s vast umbrella: From the Audi A7 to the Lamborghini Urus, and even the Bentley Continental and Bentayga. Not only does it need to work as a powerful, somewhat efficient, emissions-friendly engine, but it also has to match a wide variety of brand personalities.

Every variant I’ve driven of the 4.0-liter has felt distinct, similar only in the finest of details. Where the Audi RS7’s explosive 600-horsepower variant is a mid-range torque monster with a flatulent exhaust, the Bentley permutation is a dignified, muscular athlete. Then, the Urus is just a 657-horsepower knife-wielding murderer.

2024 Porsche Cayenne S
2024 Porsche Cayenne S

Yet the relatively diminutive 468 hp version that powers the new Cayenne S might be the best one of the pack. Crazy to say, considering it is down 200 hp on the Urus. Like the rest of the Cayenne, its V-8 has an elegant something that only Porsche could really pull off.

Instead of prioritizing brutality like its peers, the Cayenne takes a step back and deliberately tones down the shock value. The exhaust doesn’t thunder with deep bass. Instead it has rich, filling mid-range tones that are closer to a Maserati Quattroporte than a sober German sport SUV. There are genius touches of detail work in the artificial engine sound pumped into the cabin, which results in one of the most convincing fake sounds I’ve heard in any car.

2024 Porsche Cayenne S Review
Pros: Excellent Interior, Emotional Powertrain, Unbelievable Handling

Somehow, the Cayenne perfectly replicates the stank-face-inducing trill of a V-8 at low rpm and heavy throttle. And it soulfully captures the valve-overlapping howl of a high-revving engine despite only revving to 6,800. Using (I think) a combination of active drivetrain mounts and its door-mounted stereo speakers, it completes the effect with vibrations that subtly buzz your feet as you reach the rev limiter as though your foot is directly connected to the engine.

The torque-converted automatic transmission shifts as ferociously as a dual-clutch, and the wheel-mounted paddles elicit an instant response. And because the engine is so relatively underpowered and lightly boosted, it’s responsive, making linear power to redline. Even if it's all a careful ruse, I don’t care. The illusion is so genuinely incredible that it is as good as a naturally aspirated V-8.

2024 Porsche Cayenne S
2024 Porsche Cayenne S
2024 Porsche Cayenne S

In place of the previous single-way adaptive suspension is a two-way adaptive damper with independent adjustments for compression and rebound. Combined with a new, more responsive two-chamber air system (in place of the old three-chamber system), the precision of the suspension control is commendable.

The updated suspension feels especially noticeable in medium-sized, short-duration bumps that would normally jostle passengers out of their seats. In the Cayenne, the independent control of compression and rebound cleanly arrests the upward motion of the bump without bringing it back down too quickly. For the most part, it’s a magic carpet ride, save for the harshest of cracks.

2024 Porsche Cayenne S

But there is almost no logical explanation for how well the nearly 5,000-pound SUV handles. Set to Sport Plus mode, with its air suspension lowered fully, the hulking thing settles into a nice rhythm on a backroad. The weight is not invisible. Rather, it is part of the conversation. With active sway bars, the Cayenne corners largely flatly, which feels bizarre in something so tall. It almost tricks you into thinking it could roll more cornering speed, until it finally gives up and settles into recoverable understeer. All the while, the electronic power steering is classic Porsche: A perfect V-shaped effort curve, strong on-center, and a murmur of information about remaining front traction.

2024 Porsche Cayenne S Review
Cons: Slightly Choppy Ride, Annoying Touch-Sensitive Buttons, Light On Standard Equipment

Much as driving the Cayenne is as soul-fulfilling as a good plate of BBQ, it still needs to serve as a practical, fashionable runabout. Porsche addressed that with a light facelift: A blockier, more aggressive front fascia, and three-dimensional, almost skeletal tail lights. The interior replaces traditional air vent slats for satisfyingly knurled single air directors that feel fit for a Ritz Carlton more than a family SUV. And the new gauge cluster is clean and crisp, making it easy to forget the analog cluster of before.

2024 Porsche Cayenne S Review
2024 Porsche Cayenne S Review
2024 Porsche Cayenne S Review

Turn the systems back into Normal mode and the Cayenne drops the attitude. As present as the V-8 was, it disappears upon command. Road noise is minimal, and the seats are supportive, soft, and comfortable for passengers front and back, with an especially decent amount of rear legroom.

The trunk is large enough to be considered a cargo bay, and at a cruise, the V-8 even manages a fairly astounding 23 miles per gallon in the real world. My total average, including a healthy dose of backroad carving and wanton acceleration, was still at 18.5 mpg.

It seems, then, that the 2024 Cayenne S can do little wrong. Sure, it’s steeply priced at $133,910 as tested. And that price doesn’t include a panoramic sunroof, which is criminal in this class of car. But what it lacks in features and flash, it makes up for with dollops of substance.

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Specs

Engine Turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8
Output 486 Horsepower / 443 Pound-Feet
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Speed 0-60 MPH 4.7 Seconds
Maximum speed 169 Miles Per Hour
Weight 4,874 Pounds
Efficiency 15 City / 21 Highway / 17 Combined
Seating Capacity 5
Towing 7,700 Pounds
Cargo Volume 27.2 / 60.3 Cubic Feet behind first row
Base Price $103,595
As-Tested Price $133,910
On Sale Now
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