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2019 Cayenne: Porsche Didn't Mess With a Good Thing

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CARS.COM — As we reported earlier, Porsche has redesigned its Cayenne SUV for 2019, and it doesn’t look much different from the previous generation. But now that we’ve seen two versions up close at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, the strengths and weaknesses are clearer.

Related: More 2017 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

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The biggest difference is in the interior, which will thrill you if you’re afraid of — or perhaps just intimidated by — lots of buttons. As in the recently redesigned Porsche Panamera, the center console is covered by a giant piano-black control panel, the functions of which become visible when the vehicle is started. Though it has touch-sensitive, capacitive properties, the lower, larger section below the temperature switches also physically depresses like a conventional mechanical button, so it’s not as easy to activate features inadvertently as you might assume. Still, I’m not wild about the look or the function. What’s so scary about buttons? Now, in lieu of many buttons (or spaces where buttons for unchosen options would appear) you have a giant smudge and dust magnet on which it’s nearly as obvious when features are missing.

Porsche seems committed to this direction, so I wish it luck. It seems to have learned one lesson, at least, in that the vents immediately above the control panel can be aimed manually. (The computer-controlled equivalent in the Panamera has sparked what would fairly be characterized as widespread outrage, as detailed in Cars.com’s Panamera expert review)

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Overlook the above wrinkles, and the Cayenne’s strengths are many. Other updates, such as the classy digital instrument screens flanking the tachometer, are welcome. The steering wheel adds Porsche’s new drive-mode selector dial, which is a nice way for drivers to engage with the car in a post-stick-shift era.

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What matters most is that Porsche didn’t mess with a good thing in most regards. For a performance SUV with a low roofline, the Cayenne’s backseat remains highly usable. At 6 feet tall, my knees are raised a bit more than I’d like, but the backseat slides fore and aft and reclines, and I was able to stretch out enough to find comfort. The payoff in the slightly lower seating position is very good headroom, even with the panoramic moonroof. Too often, sport-oriented vehicles chip away at comfort and utility more than the 2019 Cayenne does.

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