I’ve slept in plenty of cars: An Audi S6 by Griffith Observatory in LA (I arrived late and didn’t feel like paying for a hotel room); a Toyota Camry rental in the Australian outback; a Nissan GT-R roaring through the German countryside (my jet-lagged rag-doll head flopping around in the passenger seat). There’ve been many others, all fairly miserable excuses for slumber, but all necessary in their own way.
Now I’ve slept in a Porsche, too: halfway up the side of a mountain in Crete in the middle of the night, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, waiting for the clouds to break for a pre-dawn photo shoot with the southern Milky Way as a backdrop. Falling asleep in the new third-generation Cayenne SUV isn’t meant some kind of backhanded compliment for a car whose comforts border on boredom. (If anything, the headrest was a bit too stiff to make sleeping even remotely comfortable.) Rather, I fell asleep from a combination of routine fatigue and the sort of weariness brought on by extended sensory overload from a great drive — the Cayenne had taken everything out of me in all the right ways.
I’d left my hotel at about two in the morning, enjoying a breathtakingly exciting hourlong assault of rural Crete’s best twisties. This crisp reimagining of Porsche’s popular multipurpose machine — already a respectable performer on-road and off — comes with a few tricks that push it to a new level of Porscheworthiness. The three models (Cayenne, Cayenne S, and Cayenne Turbo) look smarter and better, with a streamlined physique and a squatter stance. Their generally tightened air suspension systems and the 440 horsepower twin-turbo V6 in the Cayenne S that I drove that night help it charge up tight mountain roads with ferocious energy and barely any of the hesitation or roly-poly-ness you expect with any other SUV doing the same task. One variant of the S-model I’d driven earlier included the optional new 48V electromechanical active stabilizer bar, a slick bit of roll-canceling technology that applies hundreds of pounds of force to the anti-roll bars in the opposite direction of a chassis’ twisting movement. All of this can keep the car perpetually level and unflustered.
2019 Porsche Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo
Engine: turbocharged 3.0-liter V6; twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6; twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8
Horsepower: 340; 440; 560
Torque: 450 lb-ft; 550 lb-ft; 770 lb-ft
Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic
0-60: 5.9 seconds; 4.9 seconds; 3.9 seconds
Top speed: 152 mph; 164 mph; 177 mph
Price: $83,950 to $125,650 (base)
Another new bit is available rear-wheel steering for extra maneuverability at low speed (and spookily smooth drifting between lanes at high speed). Optional Porsche Surface Coated Brakes — tungsten-slathered disks that acquire a nice mirrored finish as the pads polish them — provide improved performance over traditional iron disks, without the cost of the ultralightweight ceramic brakes. That performance includes not just greater longevity but also reduced fade in aggressive use so they stay with you much longer. Both innovations contributed to my late-night climb to the high overlook.
My late night drive for dramatic photos was foiled by weather, but once again I proved that a lot can be learned about a car while trying to fall asleep in one. Just sitting with the thing and passively mulling its qualities on the way to dreamland surfaces some surprisingly nuanced details. How good is the sound deadening? Thanks to the Cayenne’s new laminated acoustic glass, quite good; not a single bird could be heard. How many cycles of clicks, beeps, whirrs and pops must it go through before it settles itself after shutting down? As it turns out, about five minutes for the car to stop fussing and all the lights to fade out. How quiet can the audio system get when you’ve got a track going to lull you to sleep but not re-awaken you once you’ve successfully drifted off? Pretty low; I was able to glide past my hypnagogic state into actual, legitimate slumber.
Again, not the most essential of analyses, but telling details in their own way — and certainly helpful if you ever do have to sack out in your car. Bottom line: I got some sleep, unsuccessful mission nontwithstanding, and executed the twisty drive in reverse, putting the no-fade PSCB’s to the test. At ground level in the now clear-blue sky and rising sun, I could finally stretch the SUV’s legs with some bombing runs up and down the gorgeous inland straightaways. The Cayenne S’s turbo V6 engine sounded deep and menacing, and the acceleration — 4.9 seconds to 60 — more than sufficient for making a drive truly come to life. A snore-fest this car is truly not.