Road Tests

Road Test: Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Time 3:05 pm, April 11, 2009

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Click the image for more pics

Times change. Porsche, for example, went to the brink of bankruptcy during the last, post-80s boom recession.

Yet in this current crisis it’s one of the most powerful car companies in the world – a controlling interest in the Volkswagen Group giving the German manufacturer influence far beyond the performance realm.

Porsche knows you have to adapt to survive. Hence the Cayenne in general, and now this, the Cayenne Diesel.

A car Stuttgart bosses spent years saying they would never build. But when customers start clamouring, and premium SUV sales turn 86 per cent derv, as they did in the UK last year, past declarations quickly become immaterial.

From go code to reality, creating this car took just 18 months. An abrupt about-face, made possible because the Cayenne is essentially the same as VW’s Touareg underneath, and handily the VW already deploys a suitably chunky
3.0-litre V6 TDI.

Not the first time Porsche has borrowed a VW engine – and probably not the last. It says its engineers have made their own modifications, but damned if we can see much difference in the data.Power and torque remain identical at 237bhp and 550Nm, 0-62mph takes 8.3 seconds in both cars, and both use a variable geometry turbo. Even the 30.4mpg average and 244g/km CO2 figures are the same.

The Porsche can, however, haul itself to 133mph, while the Touareg staggers to ‘just’ 127mph. Irrelevant unless you’re a regular on derestricted German autobahn. So, big deal.

The real distinction is on the road. The diesel, like every other Cayenne, dispatches twisting Tarmac with disdain. There’s understeer if you’re clumsy, but keep things measured and it’s got all the B-road pace you could realistically wish for, accurate steering, and tenacious four-wheel drive grip.

The standard six-speed automatic gearbox does a decent job of coping with it all – slightly slow-witted reactions in manual mode aside. The brakes could bite harder, but they have excellent feel. While our test car’s fine balance of ride quality and body control suggests the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management is £1,931 well invested.

The Cayenne is even highly capable off-road. Not that many owners will chance the paintwork trying. But is it better than a diesel-powered BMW X5?

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Well yes, and no. Starting at £40,815, the X5 will cost you more than a stock Cayenne Diesel, but drinks less, accelerates faster, and at 214g/km emits far lower levels of CO2. The handling isn’t far off, either. You just can’t ignore the allure of that Porsche badge – expect current BMW and Mercedes SUV drivers to swamp Porsche showrooms in their droves.

It may also prove curtains for the entry-level petrol Cayenne. The diesel is not only massively more efficient – the base 3.6-litre V6 petrol only averages 21.9mpg – it costs just £881 extra once you factor in the automatic transmission. A no-brainer, then, really.

The advent of the first diesel Porsche production model since some air-cooled tractors in the 1930s does not, however, mean we’ll ever see a diesel 911. Times change – but not that much. Or so they say, for now…


James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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