The Cayenne diesel is a break from tradition but one that should make Porsche lots of money. Steve Walker reports.
PORSCHE CAYENNE DIESEL NEW CAR ROAD TEST Porsche's reputation might be built around its bewitching performance sports cars but a large part of its success and profitability over the past few years can be attributed to a model of a very different kind. The Cayenne luxury SUV has been a hugely influential vehicle for the brand, generating sales that have helped finance the more traditional Porsche sports car projects. Now, Porsche is venturing even further from its roots with a Cayenne that runs on diesel.
If you're aware of a committed Porsche fan living in your area, this might be the moment to pop round with some grapes and Lucozade, just to make sure they're bearing up OK at this difficult time. Porsche has never fitted a diesel engine to one of its products and it wasn't so long ago when the idea of an oil-burning Porsche seemed as likely as a Rolls Royce pick-up truck but times change. The purists will be aghast, seeing the Cayenne Diesel as borderline sacrilegious but even they can't argue that it doesn't make financial sense. The luxury 4x4 sector has been massively lucrative for Porsche and in Europe particularly, such cars are bought primarily with diesel engines. The Cayenne's lack of such a powerplant always looked a missed opportunity that would be quite straightforward to Porsche to put right, practically if not philosophically. Only the stigma that would accompany the marque's first ever diesel stood in the way.
The existence of a ready-made diesel engine for the Cayenne must have been crucial to Porsche's decision to take the plunge. The Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 run on the same VW Group platform as the Porsche Cayenne and have had diesel power from the word go so their 3.0-litre V6 TDI powerplant would have been relatively straightforward fit. It's a 240bhp engine which sounds like quite a slug of power until you remember that the Cayenne weighs well over two tonnes. The entry-level petrol engine is a 3.6-litre V6 with 286bhp while the range-topping Cayenne Turbo has close to 500 horses. A 0-60mph time of around 9 seconds is on the cards for the Cayenne Diesel and that kind of performance isn't particularly Porsche. What the diesel can deliver is 550Nm of torque, that's more than any other Cayenne bar the Turbo. This should ensure it doesn't feel sluggish in everyday driving and will come in handy for buyers who use their Cayenne off-road.
".in the tough financial world where all manufacturers, even those with a sporting heritage as illustrious as Porsche's, must operate, it makes perfect sense"
Since its inception, the Cayenne has appealed to buyers looking for a sharper, more sporting drive from their 4x4. Despite this, it's always been extremely good off road, as long as you don't mind exposing those big alloy wheels to a bit of a pranging. The latest Cayenne aims to improve driveability significantly, thanks in no small part to Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDDC). This system stabilises roll during cornering and is offered as an option on all models. The result on the road is better handling and agility plus greater directional stability and ride comfort. When off-roading, owners will notice better axle articulation.
Perhaps Porsche tried a little too hard with the original Cayenne to ally it to the design ethos that had worked so successfully with the 911. As a 'sports ute' it looked rather odd, and became more ungainly the paler the colour it was specified in. The latest model makes amends, giving the Cayenne a front end look all of its own. Where the 997 series 911 has gone back to round headlamps, the Cayenne now gets more feline looking projector beam lights and a grille that's less frog-like than before. This not only looks the part but also significantly improves cooling.
The wheel arches are more clearly defined than before and every Cayenne model is fitted with a rear diffuser and a roof-mounted spoiler. As before, there's plenty of space inside, although if you really want a 4x4 capable of carrying a big family, you'd probably be better off looking at an Audi Q7. The build quality of much of the switchgear has been improved and Porsche has also revised the materials used for the seating.
The Cayenne Diesel is actually priced above the entry-level 3.6-litre petrol engine. It comes as standard with the Tiptronic-S automatic transmission and general equipment levels are quite high. If owners specify the no-cost 'badge delete' option, most onlookers would figure that this was at least £60,000 worth of car and few would twig that it was a diesel.
Running costs are at the root of Porsche's decision to fit a diesel engine to its Cayenne. You might think that customers with £40,000 to spend of a Porsche luxury SUV won't be too worried about such trivialities but across Europe, governments have installed various tax measures which penalise vehicles like the Cayenne while rewarding more efficient models. With economy of 30.4mpg and 240g/km CO2 emissions, the Cayenne Diesel will never be installed as the patron saint of the environment but it will be significantly cheaper to run than the 21.9mpg entry-level petrol model.
The Cayenne Diesel might not be the car that the legions of Porsche fans around the globe wanted to see but in the tough financial world where all manufacturers, even those with a sporting heritage as illustrious as Porsche's, must operate, it makes perfect sense. Diesel plays a massive role in the luxury SUV market and the Cayenne was at a disadvantage all the while it lacked an oil-burning engine. It still performed extremely well for Porsche and with the 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine as part of its range, it seems certain to do even better.