Porsche Cayenne CKD Facelift Review: A Super(b Value) SUV

Buy one for the bargain that it is, but own one because this Cayenne is (expectedly) a rather good car. 

Ok, what you may be about to read here could perhaps the most redundant review ever. Because cutting right to the chase here, you really didn’t need me to tell you that this newly-refreshed locally-assembled Porsche Cayenne is a bloomin’ bargain for what it is. 

Now sure, it might be a whole mid-spec Axia more expensive as its pre-facelift predecessor, and it is also nearly a Honda City more dear than its similarly-sized (and similarly Germanic) BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE alternatives. Though even then at its new list price of RM 599,999, anyone who is fortunate to splash that kind of cash on a car is still getting both way more badge and way more car for the money with this newly-refreshed CKD Porsche Cayenne.

But because Porsche Malaysia did organise a rather lovely drive for select members of the media to Ipoh in order to check out this new Cayenne, it would have been rather poor form if I had not put into written words the thoughts formed regarding my rather lovely time with this large and luxurious super SUV that is developed in Stuttgart, but built in Kulim. 

And just to maintain the journalistic integrity that should be upheld in spite of being fresh out from a very wonderfully organised event by the same people whose product that is reviewed here too, there are actually a few minor quibbles to be had with this Cayenne, as shall be elaborated further below. 

More Than Just A Mid-Life Facelift 

Just a bit of housekeeping before moving on to what is good (and not so good) regarding this recently refreshed Cayenne however, it is worth highlighting first that this mid-life update is slightly more radical than the usual mild nip and tuck. In fact, there has been so many notable changes both inside and outside that it would actually not to be too extreme in calling this iteration the Cayenne E3.5.  

So starting with the changes on the outside first and touching upon its most radically-altered region, the rump of the refreshed Cayenne has gained a wholly new design with a new tailgate and rear apron with integrated number plate holder. The jury is still out on whether these aforementioned alterations actually make its posterior any more visually appealing than before (I personally prefer the old look), but what is a nevertheless a fact is that its new slim full-width LED rear light bar with its 3D elements are seriously bright enough to have a red beam of light pierce through even the darkest of nights. 

Similarly, it is debatable on whether the redesigned front apron with its larger air intakes, and newly standard matrix LED headlights that bookend its newly raised wings, gives this Cayenne a sportier-looking face. (I still think this Porsche SUV looks a bit like a gaping-mouth frog.) What is however undisputed though is that under the new power dome on its bonnet is a potent 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, which has since gained 13 PS and 50 Nm of torque from its pre-facelift predecessor to now make a healthy 353 PS and 500 Nm. 

Drives Like A Porsche

All this talk about the engine therefore neatly segues into the driving experience of this new Cayenne. And of its power, all that I really needs to be said is that despite its comparatively modest figures against its higher-end variants, never did I once require the full depression of the accelerator pedal to make sufficiently speedy progress. 

Moreover, even as one would perhaps attempt in putting the pedal to the metal (at say the exit of the toll plaza), the immediate reaction from that action will be a sensation akin to being in warp drive. The realisation then hits for this resulting oomph to be all the more impressive coming from a 2 tonne car, and then you’d be left to question as to why would anyone need the upgrade from this base spec to the higher-end (fully-imported) trims. 

One small gripe on this particular aspect is however to be that while the power is certainly on tap, there is a distinct lack of drama from the proceedings. The lack of any noise to accompany that oomph certainly makes it feel a bit too civilised and sedate, which while nice for a luxury car, is nevertheless a tad disappointing for a Porsche.

Just a bit more bark would be nice, but as it stands it is just a bit too Clark Kent and not enough Superman, even when Sport mode is engaged. 

That said, the Cayenne does become a bit of Superman when the road gets twisty, with its flat and level cornering characteristic certainly living up to that badge on its hood. Being typically Porsche as well, chucking this Porsche into a corner is a pleasure too courtesy to its 911-inspired multi-function steering wheel being well-weighted in feel and sufficiently communicative in feedback. 

Though this might be more of a me thing than a Porsche thing, I did find for the steering wheel rim itself to be a tad too thin for my tastes. Similarly, while the Cayenne feels as if it has enough brakes to stop a train, its biting point was just a bit too sharp and sudden for my liking. 

It is a tad odd too for these CKD Cayennes to come as standard with the Sports Chrono Package, as if these cars will more regularly be spotted out on track at Sepang instead of being parked up at the Mitsui Outlet Park right next to it. And knowing full well that this is going to be a primarily city-based Chelsea tractor, it really is perplexing for Porsche to not have included blind spot monitoring for this large SUV.

Then again, while the size of this large SUV does become rather apparent especially when on the tighter roads, its raised driving position and large greenhouse area does nevertheless to offer good sight lines outside for easy manoeuvrability. The standard inclusion of a rather high-definition 360º camera and auto-dipping wing mirrors also aid certainly in that aspect as well. 

Just to add here too that its front seats certainly deserve praise for being supportive enough when ragging it round the twisties, while also being comfortable enough to slouch in when the adaptive cruise control is in charge of cruising the Cayenne down the highway.

A Passenger’s Perspective

Going beyond the driver’s seat now and discussing in more detail as to what life is like it the other seats within the Cayenne, it would be no surprise to anyone that, in general at least, it is still a rather nice place to be. 

There is after all plenty of space within this large SUV for even the most generously-proportioned of people, with the technology and materials featured in the cabin being of expectedly high quality too. And as already mentioned above, while the muffled V6 may not please the more sporting driver who wishes for a sound to match their go, it does nevertheless translate to this Porsche being a rather quiet place to be in too when cruising down the highway, with little wind, road or tyre noise to disrupt the tranquil proceedings. 

What is unfortunately not so tranquil within the Cayenne is the way it rides. That is as while there is certainly still a debate to be had regarding the validity of Porsche’s long-standing claims for the Cayenne being a true sports car, there is however no denying that it at least certainly rides like one.

Now granted, the new two-chamber, two-valve adaptive air suspension on this newly-refreshed Cayenne certainly does a fantastic job in giving the driver a sense of planted stability as the speedometer steadily rises during the highway cruise. It is just the slightly disappointing reality though that its passengers are at the same time treated to a slightly harsher ride than expected from a premium SUV, with every undulation and rough patch on said road is felt by everyone in the car. 

Another minor gripe too (that will only affect the taller population) is for the Cayenne’s rear seat base to not be long enough for the longer-legged, which is interesting for a car supposedly developed by the larger-set Europeans. The rear seat backs are also just a tad too upright for me to be properly comfortable with during a long journey, with there unfortunately no reclining rear seats to alleviate this problem as well. 

The auto-retractable sun blinds for the rear windows however is a nice touch in the hot Malaysian climate, as is its rather capable quad-zone climate control that can cool the Cayenne’s cabin in an impressively short amount of time. Its new air quality management system too would certainly come in handy during those hazy days. Though one interesting thing to note on the subject of its cabin ventilation is that if the rear fan speed is too high, the driver will be made to hear a consistent whooshing noise from right behind their head that is akin to the driving around with the rear windows down. 

Similarly interesting to note too from a passenger’s perspective is that new and rather clear digital cluster in the Cayenne (that is incidentally nicked straight from Taycan) does provide a crystal view of the large speedo readout to not just the driver, but everyone else in the car as well. Just something to bear in mind for those who might not want to hear their ball-and-chain constantly pestering to ease off on the throttle, as expectedly for a car developed in a country that has highways with no speed limits, what this incredibly refined Porsche SUV also does do impressively well is mask the speed at which it is actually travelling at. 

And just touching upon a little further to the cabin tech side of things for a bit more, while there wasn’t really the time to properly dig through the new 12.3-inch central infotainment touchscreen to provide a proper verdict on its real-world functionality, it can nevertheless be reported for the sound clarity to be great from the standard Bose sound system. The base is ever so slightly lacking however, but that could probably be fixed through further fiddling with the audio settings. 

What might not be that easy a fix are the slight imperfections noticed with the fit and finish with the Cayenne. Call me a nitpick and please do bear in mind that this might not be reflective of the other CKD examples, but there was just a little bit of uneven stitching on one of the seat backs in this particular car tested here, and the lower dashboard trim piece didn’t exactly fit as flush as expected on the edge where it meets the steering wheel as well… 

When The Going Gets Tough

Now moving swiftly on to a part of the review which would really not mean anything to 99.9% of potential buyers for this Porsche, let’s just nevertheless quickly discuss how the Cayenne actually fares off-road. 

And the reason for this section here — apart from the fact that Porsche Malaysia had organised a mini excursion on a farm track during the drive with this Cayenne — is that contrary to its standard low-profile road-biased tyres and suspension that is likely tuned more for Sepang than Sabah, the Cayenne does nevertheless have (at least some of) the chops to be considered a proper off-roader. A point that will likely be most appreciated by its eventual fifth owners, who may be considering to turn their since heavily-depreciated Cayennes into overlanding rigs with roof tents. 

Just going with the immediately obvious stuff first, the adjustable air suspension on the Cayenne does raise it quite a fair distance in the air to better avoid lower-lying obstacles on the ground. Despite its rather large overhangs front and rear too, this Porsche does actually have a fair bit of axle articulation (and of course power) to get itself out of any deep rut it might find itself in when off the beaten path. 

Moreover, if the going gets really rough, this Porsche surprisingly has a rear and central differential locks to continually send power to all four of its wheels. Both lockers on this Cayenne are to be operated through careful selection of the 4 off-road modes within the drive selector settings, which comprise of Gravel, Mud, Sand and Rocks.  

Final Thoughts

At this point in the review, the sensible thing to do is perhaps to wrap things up nicely by stating once more that while the Cayenne has a few minor quibbles, the overall package which ticks all the boxes of space, grace and pace still would therefore more than satisfy any prospective customer, especially at that scorching deal of a price.

It would perhaps not be remissed to add too this luxury SUV is surprisingly capable of handling the rough stuff, even if it will be spending most of its time on tarmac. 

Though what I shall leave you to ponder with this newly-refreshed CKD Cayenne is instead something cribbed from the Thai journalist that travelled with me on this drive. And that is the interesting socioeconomic situation that we have in developing nation of Malaysia to have a sufficiently high demand for such high-end luxury cars, to the point that we’ve got Porsche opening its only local-assembly plant outside of Europe over here. Malaysia boleh, am I right…

Odds & Ends

  • The standard inclusion of soft close doors on this CKD Cayenne are a nice luxury touch, as is the 15W wireless fast charger too.
  • For an increasingly non-smoking society, it is interesting to see that the Cayenne still has a proper cigarette lighter up front between the cupholders and in the rear as well poking out from the front armrest compartment, with what looks like an ashtray right beneath that too.

  • While the base price of the Cayenne may be a bit of a bargain, its options however are certainly not. An upgrade to its standard 20-inch alloys to larger 21- and 22-inch items costs an eye-watering RM 45,000 and RM 49,000 respectively. Porsche is also charging a rather significant RM 13,500 for its rear seat entertainment system option, that adds two 10.1-inch touchscreen displays for rear passengers to input a variety of media content. And just for the more outdoorsy Cayenne owners, there is even a Porsche Tequipment roof tent available that could be yours for RM 40,092. 

Porsche Cayenne 3.0 V6 CKD Facelift Specifications

Engine: V6 Turbo

Capacity: 2,995cc

Gearbox: 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic

Max Power: 353PS @ 5,300 to 6,400 rpm

Max Torque: 500Nm @ 1,340 to 5,300 rpm

Top Speed: 248 km/h

0-100 km/h: 5.7 secs

Price: RM 599,999.00

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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