It wasn’t our fault, you know. We were driving around in the picturesque hills above the French Riviera, my friend Dhruv Behl — editor of AutoX magazine and flat out the best driver in the Indian automotive journalist community — and I, minding our own business and maintaining an orderly pace behind a convoy of assorted slowmoving vehicles going uphill. We had set out from the billionaire’s-row seaside town of St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on a glorious, sundrenched morning, aboard Porsche’s new Cayenne Coupé, intending to maximise the day by having as much fun as possible — which was a little easier said than done. As lovely as the surroundings were, the roads in the region were so narrow that any sort of rapid progress was impossible, for fear of careening into something coming the other way, especially in a car as wide as the Cayenne. As a result, we had no real choice but to trundle along, single-file, trying to suppress our annoyance at our lack of pace.
That is, until we saw the white Peugeot 205 ahead of us. For those unfamiliar with this car, it suffices to say that it’s considered one of the best sporty hatchbacks ever made — it’s a classic. The one that we encountered was in pristine shape, and was being driven by a bored-looking chap who seemed to be as frustrated at the glacial pace of traffic as we were. Dhruv and I had just finished expressing our admiration for the Peugeot when the traffic cleared a bit, with some cars ahead of us turning off the road. In an instant, with an explosive retort from its exhaust, the hatchback blasted into the horizon, as if shot from a cannon. Dhruv looked at me. I nodded in approval. He floored it.
What followed will count as among the most thrilling driving experiences of my life, even though I sat through it all in the passenger seat. We chased that little hatchback as if our lives depended on it, and the guy driving it was *really* good — he almost floated around corners, and would pull the handbrake occasionally when faced with hairpin bends, with the result that he would almost be facing us as he went through them in a plume of tyre smoke. He quickly realised that whoever was driving the Porsche behind him was an excellent driver as well, so it became a game of mutual respect – sometimes we would follow him, and sometimes he would pull over, let us through and then come tearing after us. This continued for some 40 exhilarating minutes, until we had to turn off the road toward our lunch stop. I can guarantee you that the chap in the Peugeot felt as sorry as we did at the entertainment coming to an end.
Why am I going on about an old Peugeot in a story about a new Porsche, though? I’ll tell you why. That car, as I’ve mentioned, is a classic, a nimble-as-a-fox giant-killer that was capable of running rings around more powerful competition — and the fact that the Cayenne Coupé was able to effortlessly chase it around the tightest of corners was a physics-defying act. Honestly, the Porsche had no right to be able to do this, but the way it hunkered down and magically seemed to transform into a smaller car was a true feat of engineering — and one that Porsche has been pulling off for years.
The Cayenne Coupé is…well, a Cayenne with a sexier roofline and rear end. What you think of it will depend on what you think of SUVs in general, and niche SUVs in particular; my own view is that it looks better than a ‘regular’ Cayenne, with its lines flowing in a very sporty manner, helped along by the fixed roof spoiler and an active spoiler on the boot lid. It’s a little longer and wider, but you’re unlikely to feel that in any real way, because it’s such an accomplished vehicle. The lowered roofline means that the rear passengers get a little less head room, but not in a deal breaking way. The rear has two sports seats, which are of the highest quality, but you can order a ‘bench’ type seat if you prefer. An enormous panoramic glass roof comes as standard, replaceable with an optional carbon-fibre one, if you think weight saving is everything. The cabin is of the high quality one has come to expect of Porsches, with fantastic touchscreens and the highest possible quality of metal, leather and wood.
This Porsche will be made available in India with a choice of turbocharged V6 and V8 engines, with 335 bhp and 542 bhp respectively — the in-between S model will not be offered. Frankly, the V6 is all the car you need, with outstanding performance from its engine; it’ll get from 0-100 kph in less than 6 seconds. If you absolutely must have more go, then the V8, with a staggering 768 Nm of torque, will shred that time in under four seconds. Either engine (both sound great, although the V8’s rumble is hard to beat) makes the Coupé an extremely enjoyable vehicle to drive, and you’ll always be left with a slight sense of bewilderment at the way it hustles all that weight around. With a slew of electronic driving aids, an ultra-communicative steering wheel and some insanely good brakes, the Coupé is probably the sportiest, most fun to drive SUV on the market (if you buy into the belief that SUVs are fun to drive, that is). On the sort of roads we were driving on in the south of France — corner after tight corner — it was capable to a degree that seemed inconceivable. You could feel every ounce of its bulk, and yet it also felt like a much smaller and lighter car; I really don’t know how Porsche manages to do this, year after year, with virtually all its cars
Would you buy a Cayenne Coupé? That depends — do you want a huge SUV with a powerful engine that handles absurdly well, the whole lot with a Porsche badge on it? If the answer is yes, then this is probably the car for you.