By Joseph Moss, International Banker
The world of sporty SUVs (sport utility vehicles) has never been more interesting. From smaller, compact models packing 2.0-liter turbocharged engines to mighty twin-turbocharged V8-powered models, it looks as if the car industry is emphasizing performance in the SUV package. It is easy to see why such cars are popular. On the one hand, you have all the practicality and comfort of an SUV; on the other, you have the performance and power of a sports car. It’s the best of both worlds, really. The Range Rover Sport, one of the most characteristic names in this segment, has just been released as a brand-new 2023 model featuring a cutting-edge body, engine and design. However, despite being all new, the Range Rover Sport will face stiff competition from several models. One of the most idiosyncratic competitors is the Porsche Cayenne Coupe. So, which one of these performance and driver-oriented SUVs is better? Let’s find out.
2023 Range Rover Sport
Even though some might argue that the design is not so fresh, this is an all-new model inside and out. Yes, it resembles the outgoing version, but all body panels are fresh, and the latest Range Rover Sport follows the characteristic design language of all Land Rover/Range Rover models. Slightly smaller and lower than the new Range Rover (although the two models use the same platform) and bigger and more comfortable than the Range Rover Velar, the Sport occupies the sweet spot in the range.
As you expected, the Range Rover Sport comes with a 4×4 drivetrain as standard and only one transmission—a ZF Friedrichshafen AG eight-speed automatic (ZF 8HP) gearbox, which has become a common choice throughout the industry and is used by many competitors, including Porsche. However, the new Range Rover Sport’s engine offerings are really interesting. At the moment, Jaguar Land Rover Limited (JLR) is offering four engines (three petrol and one diesel) but at several power levels and with mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technologies. The lineup starts with a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder petrol mild hybrid unit with 360 horsepower (hp). This engine is also available with the PHEV spec, through which it delivers 434 hp—or 510 hp with the help of a bigger electric motor and battery pack. The twin-turbo V6 petrol is the top-of-the-line engine choice with 523 hp and mind-blowing performance. Buyers looking for more frugal engines can opt for a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel ranging from 245 hp to 350 hp, providing plenty of grunt but with modest fuel consumption.
One of the areas in which the new Range Rover Sport excels is the interior. With the dashboard’s elegant lines, nicely incorporated central infotainment screen, excellent ergonomics and finest materials, it is probably one of the best places to be in this segment. The same goes for the second row of comfortable and spacious seats. Third-row seating is no longer available for the Range Rover Sport, so it is now a five-passenger model only. However, the trunk space is not as ample at 450 liters, mainly due to battery packs and additional electric motors.
Porsche Cayenne Coupe
Introduced in 2018, the current generation of the Porsche Cayenne has set new standards for the performance SUV class. First of all, this model almost completely borrowed the Porsche 911’s fascia to make the overall design more characteristic. Also, with a new lineup of engines, suspension tweaks and even its Cayenne Coupe model with an optional GT (Grand Touring) package, the Porsche Cayenne firmly positions itself as the fastest and most competent performance SUV on the market, breaking records on the Nürburgring and becoming a benchmark for the segment.
The lineup of Porsche Cayenne engines is very interesting since it includes only petrol units, with or without hybrid technology. Even though Porsche offered a diesel Cayenne, it knocked it off its line in 2018 and has since concentrated only on petrol units. This means that its engine offerings start with 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged (434 hp) and 3.0-liter single-turbocharged V6 (335 hp) engines. The most powerful engine option is the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, which is available with 454 hp (Cayenne GTS), paired with electric motors and delivering 690 hp (Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid) along with the sublime Cayenne Turbo GT. This version is available only with a coupe roofline and produces 631 hp of pure internal-combustion fury with a 0-to-60-mph (mile per hour) time of just 3.1 seconds. There is also an entry-level hybrid model called the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, which has a 3.0-liter V6 engine paired with an electric motor for a total output of 456 hp.
The Porsche Cayenne Coupe’s interior emphasizes the sporty pretensions of this model. A large instrument cluster, thick steering wheel, low seating position and central display neatly tucked into the dashboard help the driver concentrate on the driving experience rather than the gadgets. Of course, materials and build quality are all top-notch, something you would expect from this brand. Interestingly, the trunk space is far more significant than the one in the Range Rover Sport, and the Porsche Cayenne has 645 liters at its disposal.
Choosing between these two landmarks of the segment is pretty tricky, but overall, we would give a slight advantage to the Porsche Cayenne Coupe. Interestingly, both models have almost identical starting prices ($69,000 Porsche Cayenne versus $69,500 Range Rover Sport) and similar options lists and technology. However, the Range Rover Sport is clearly more luxury-oriented, with stately styling and a comfortable interior. At the same time, the Porsche Cayenne is a driver’s car with versions that are proper sports cars, such as the Cayenne Turbo GT. Regardless, the Porsche Cayenne is a bit more practical with a more extensive luggage area and has a distinctive coupe body style as an option. All of that makes the Range Rover Sport probably a better choice for the driver looking for an elegant SUV with a touch of performance, while the Porsche Cayenne is perfect for the customer who needs a sports car with a big trunk, four doors and four-wheel drive.