The Cayenne is the Porsche we all loved to hate. But is the Cayenne SUV now firmly accepted in the Porsche firmamentr? After all, most now understand the well worn argument that it funds the sports cars we all love. Porsche has built twice as many 4x4s as any other single model line so far this year, for crying out loud.
So it is that the Cayenne has been upgraded again. We're into Mk2 Cayenne territory now, and a series of minor mid-life revisions made in summer 2011 added extra zip to keep it competitive against the likes of the new VW Touareg and updated Range Rover Sport. We drove the Cayenne Diesel, the only realistic model you'll buy in Britain unless you're employed by BP.
Porsche Cayenne Diesel: the tech spec
Cayenne prices start at £42,990 for a petrol V6 these days and you'll pay a four grand premium to step up to the diesel model. There's a familiar 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel under the high bonnet but pepped up with a new turbocharger, revised injectors and improved internal friction for slightly more power at 242bhp and a stout 405lb ft, the latter wafting you along everywhere from 1750-2750rpm.
A quick look at the crucial figures confirms why the diesel is so popular: performance is just 0.1sec away from the base petrol in the 0-62mph sprint – in a warm-hatch bothering 7.6 seconds – while CO2 is stacks lower at 189g/km (petrol V6 manual = 263g/km) while economy averages 39.2mpg (plays 25.2mpg).With the upgrades Porsche has managed to knock six grammes off the carbon emissions total.
Yes, yes – the diesel is cleaner than the Cayenne S Hybrid. The petrol-electric Porsche SUV manages 193g/km and 34.4mpg, which tells you exactly where the hybrid is aimed at: non-petrol markets, such as the US and Middle East.
Porsche Cayenne Diesel: first impressions
First, some aesthetics. Am I alone in finding the new Cayenne much easier on the eye? The original Mk1 Cayenne was, in the CAR vernacular, a bit of a spudder. The new one is like a bar of soap that's had its hard edges gently washed away, for a softer, more pleasing form.
Slide sideways into the cockpit – it's such a tall, imposing car that access is incredibly easy – and you plonk into an Airbus-style cockpit. We're still not sure about the buttonfest that has befallen modern Porsche cabins; you could be forgiven for thinking you'd ended up at an air museum such as Duxford or the Fleet Air Arm Museum judging by the wall of switches you face. I hope this doesn't ruin the new 991-era 911 Porsche is about to launch at the 2011 Frankfurt show.
But there's no denying the chunky quality on offer. The Cayenne is beautifully assembled and feels hewn from solid. Thankfully you can ignore most of the switchgear festooning that giant centre console, and the large touchscreen is blissfully easy to operate.
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The road test bit
The Cayenne Diesel shrinks around you when you drive off. This remains a big car, but it's easy to negotiate city roads thanks to that bluff design and good visibility.
Brim the Cayenne and the trip computer's range soars beyond 600 miles, which is a welcome sight in a big 4x4 in 2011. The dials themselves are a constant reminder you're in a Porsche, and the Cayenne by and large delivers on that promise.
It's swift enough, although you'd never rev the V6 turbodiesel just for the hell for of it. It's a quiet, refined lump and made all the smoother by the incredibly tall gearing of that eight-speed auto. Left in automatic mode, shifts are smooth and slur away in the background; tap into manual override, and I was left with the same feeling I have when riding my 21-speed mountain bike: do I really need all these ratios? And which bloody gear am I in?
Another case of big wheels ruining the ride
The only real black mark over the Cayenne Diesel is the busy ride. We're constantly berating car manufacturers for sending us cars on giant rims and the supersized Cayenne is no different. It rolls on 20-inch 275/45 tyres and never settles on British blacktop. Even in Comfort setting on the adjustable suspension, the 4x4 jiggles and jolts over road acne and I found myself apologising to passengers.
I only dared try Normal and Sport out of scientific inquiry and can safely conclude that you shouldn't. The sooner we all start speccing smaller wheels the better. Granted, the Cayenne Diesel equipped with 20in rims grips like a limpet in corners, but truth is you feel vaguely antisocial hurling a two-tonne SUV through the twisties and the steering isn't actually as sharp as an X5's, so a more relaxed gait is preferred.
The Cayenne Diesel's figures are bolstered by a quick-acting start-stop system. You always feel these systems wobble in an automatic car where instant getaways are just a pedal mash away, but it's still acceptably brisk and leaves you feeling less guilty at traffic lights.
The Cayenne Diesel is a polished premium SUV. The cabin is vast in both rows and there's a decent boot too. This matters. People who buy a Cayenne may own a Zuffenhausen sports car as well, but in truth many will have probably graduated from a Boxster or 911 as their circumstances and family change.
Buyers in this class want this extra practicality with a snobby badge they can be proud of - and the Cayenne delivers exactly what it says on the tin: Porsche quality and dynamics relative to the class norm; Cayenne space and improved looks; and Diesel figures to ease your conscience. Put it on smaller wheels and it'd be vying for class honours.