Spice of Life (Porsche Cayenne Diesel)

With a name like Cayenne it would be expected of Porsche to make its SUV as spicy as possible.

Powerful petrol engines and some clever suspension based trickery have consistently ensured that was the case. Yet, despite the model having had more than enough get-up-and-go since its introduction in 2002, it has not enjoyed a ride as smooth as the one it was designed to offer.

In the first instance it was the Cayenne’s looks that divided opinion. These have been continually refined and honed over two generations and several facelifts to the point that the Cayenne now boasts just as much presence but is considerably easier on the eye.

The other major issue was not one necessarily of Porsche’s own making. The Cayenne arrived just as environmental concerns were being cemented into media interest, political agenda and public conscience.

Big, brutish vehicles such as the Cayenne were quickly becoming public enemy number one; a particularly tricky situation for the German manufacturer as high performance remains its main selling point.

Something had to be done to improve the Cayenne range’s eco-credentials but without damaging the on-road performance. All credit to Porsche then, which has managed to pull not one, but two rabbits from its hat.

The Cayenne S Hybrid is now the least polluting Cayenne in the premium SUV line-up. Combining a three-litre petrol V6 with an electric motor, the model produces a mere 193g/km CO2 and achieves a stated 34.4mpg – impressive for a four-wheel drive vehicle weighing more than two tonnes and that can reach 62mph in 6.5 seconds.

Expect to pay a minimum £57,000 to get behind the wheel, however. Contrast that against the £44,000 asking price of the Cayenne Diesel model. Why the difference in price? Well, it certainly has little to do with potential running costs. The Cayenne Diesel emits just two grammes per kilometre CO2 more than the S Hybrid and is actually more efficient on the official combined cycle at 38.2mpg.

The premium is demanded because of the technology, the performance and the increased refinement.

However, the Cayenne Diesel can hardly be accused of being lacking in any of these areas. The 3.0-litre V6 unit was only introduced late into the life-cycle of the pre-facelifted model, meaning it remains fresh and advanced.

Producing 240bhp and 405lb/ft of torque the common-rail direct injection engine is state-of-the-art with piezo-injectors, a variable geometry turbo and twin intercoolers. It also uses Porsche’s Auto Start Stop system to bring the engine to a halt when stationary, saving a considerable amount of fuel in town.

Although these systems are becoming increasingly popular, the Cayenne Diesel’s is worthy of note because it comfortably maintains operation even with the air-con and other power sapping systems running. This can create issues for some systems, but the Cayenne Diesel is happy to stop and start time and again in bumper to bumper traffic.

Easing off the brake pedal will restart the engine quickly and smoothly, meaning the urge to switch it off in heavy traffic is restrained. It will also allow the driver to select Park on the transmission and lift off the brake without restarting, meaning following drivers needn’t be blinded by the Cayenne’s tail-lights at night.

Performance is strong, too. A weight loss programme for the facelifted model combined with the toque-laden performance of the diesel unit means 62 mph is achieved in less than eight seconds. On the move, the Cayenne Diesel gathers pace impressively – it’s never short on power for an overtake.

Crucially, the Cayenne’s unique handling properties are all present. Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system allows a choice of Normal, Comfort or Sport settings. The latter enables the Cayenne to corner and respond with uncanny sharpness for a vehicle of its size.

Regardless of how it’s being used, the Cayenne Diesel remains refined and luxurious. The large interior is comfortable and given a cutting edge feel with a control layout borrowed from the Panamera model. The eight-speed transmission is smooth and sharp with its changes, and the tall top ratios bring revs and noise down on the motorway. Given the large tyres, road noise is well suppressed and the slippery shape limits wind noise.

The Cayenne Diesel offers a great deal but loses little compared with its petrol and Hybrid counterparts. Performance may have relinquished some credence to economy but, with its sharp new styling and impressive on-road abilities, the SUV model still offers plenty of spice.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Porsche Cayenne Diesel, £44,178 on the road.
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel unit developing 240bhp and 405lb/ft of torque.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission, driving all four wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 135mph, 0-62mph 7.8 seconds.
CO2 emissions: 195g/km.
Economy: 38.2mpg.

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