Porsche's third generation Cayenne is now faster and sportier than ever

It's Porsche's largest and most practical car – and now the Cayenne is sportier and faster than ever.

Borrowing its basic underpinnings and engines from the Panamera limousine, the third generation Cayenne SUV adds a modicum of rough-road ability, although think of it as a light-duty off-roader rather than anything designed to regularly head into the scrub.

While the front-end styling isn't radically different to the Cayenne it replaces, the rear is markedly changed courtesy of a stylised strip joining the slimmed-down left and right tail lights.

An attractive machine

It's by far the best looking Cayenne, borrowing some cues from other models but maintaining its own distinct style.

Priced from $116,300 the Cayenne comes with leather trim, digital radio tuning, four USB inputs, an electrically-operated tailgate and adaptive dampers that can stiffen or soften the suspension.

Despite its generous kit, full auto emergency braking – now fitted to most SUVs – costs extra.

Huff and puff

For the first time, every Cayenne model is turbocharged.

The V6 engines are shared with other cars from Volkswagen and Audi, albeit with slightly different tunes.

The entry-level 3.0-litre V6 engine makes 250kW/450Nm and can accelerate to 100km/h in as little as 5.9 seconds.

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Next step is the Cayenne S, the additional letter denoting a more powerful 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine, which gets a different cylinder lining in the engine to allow it to rev harder.

Outputs of 324kW/550Nm help it hit 100km/h in 4.9 seconds.

The fastest Cayenne (for now) is the Turbo, which gets a 4.0-litre twin-turbo with 404kW and 770Nm.

Six of one…

While it may be tempting to gravitate directly to the Turbo, in some ways the Cayenne S is a sweeter machine – and still with plenty of Porsche performance.

Sure, you lose the V8 rumble, instead having to make do with a zingy V6.

But it packs plenty of punch with a lovely, high-revving nature that makes for some fun blasts and effortless overtaking.

Plus, the V6-powered S is a full 155kg lighter than the V8-powered Turbo, something that gives it a more agile feel in bends.

And with a spare $85K in your bank account you'll be able to save some money for a proper Porsche sports car!

911 thinking

Despite its two-tonne-plus weight and five-door high-riding body, there's some sports car thinking in the Cayenne, starting with the active aerodynamics.

Slam on the brakes in the Turbo, for example, and a small spoiler at the back of the roof raises to help push the car into the ground.

The minor downforce it creates and additional stability as more weight rushes to the nose means Porsche claims it will reduce stopping distances from 250km/h by about two metres.

Don't expect it to make any difference in any driving you're likely to experience in Australia.

But, hey, it's a cool thing to show your friends – and there's even a button that deploys the wing when the car is stationary.

The sporty SUV

Like the 911, the Cayenne gets wider tyres at the rear for the first time.

While staggered or mixed tyres, as they're referred to, are common in sports cars, they're rare in SUVs.

But the Cayenne is trying to emphasise its sporty side, which includes a unique-to-Porsche all-wheel drive system designed to apportion plenty of drive to the rear wheels.

Staying upright

Key to its cornering talents is taut suspension that keeps the car flat.

It means you'll feel more bumps, but the car sits nicely – for a high-riding SUV.

The S and Turbo models also get adjustable height air suspension with a new three-chamber system that allows a greater difference between the softest and stiffest settings.

Steering is light and lacking in some of the finer feedback Porsche does so well, but it's very accurate.

Stopping power

When it comes time to stop, the Cayenne has superb brakes with technology gleaned from the race track.

The optional Porsche Surface Coated Brake (standard on the Turbo) uses a tungsten carbide coating on regular steel discs, which Porsche claims significantly reduces brake dust (the fine black powder that collects on wheels) and improves heat dissipation.

Combined with the Turbo's enormous 10-piston front calipers, it makes for excellent deceleration and gives confidence it'll do it time and again – even at the Turbo's 286km/h top speed.

Popularity contest

Until the 2014 arrival of the Macan the Cayenne was the best selling Porsche on the market.

Even today, it accounts for about a quarter of Porsche's local sales and it comfortably outsells the car that defines the brand, the 911.

Before long, the range is set to grow.

But wait, there's more

Later this year Porsche will unleash the Cayenne E-Hybrid, which adds a 100kW electric motor to the V6-powered Cayenne.

In 2019, expect a Turbo S E-Hybrid, using the same 100kW electric motor with the Turbo's 404kW engine.

Porsche hasn't confirmed it yet, but given it's available in the Panamera it's more than likely.