People balked when Porsche released its first luxury SUV – these days its got the best on the market
It was a happy coincidence that the weekend I spent with the new Porsche Cayenne S Diesel dovetailed with my cousin’s wedding hoedown on a farm, miles from anywhere, in rural Cornwall.
The car was perfect for the trip: first, I was able to zip down to the West Country in an extremely brisk and efficient manner without paying an arm and a leg for fuel on the six hour journey. Second, I was able to confidently plough through the deep farm track mud without fear of getting stuck. Third, I was able to climb out of what was unquestionably one of the most stylish vehicles in the muddy field that masqueraded as a car park for the evening, before pulling on the hastily purchased, but apparently de rigueur Hunter wellies, which my wife had bought for me. I was feeling smug; well prepared liked a boy scout. The fact we were wearing our best clobber only added to the sense of occasion.
Of course, there are other luxury SUVs that could have delivered us in a similar manner, some of which are listed below, but none has quite the cachet of the Porsche Cayenne. It would have been hard to imagine Porsche’s SUV would become its biggest-selling model when it was launched back in 2002. Porsche’s hardcore fan base were up in arms with the news that the Stuttgart-based sports car maker was going to make one. It didn’t help that the first generation model was whale-like; a 911 that had spent way too much time shooting steroids in the gym.
It became hugely popular, despite SUV-hating becoming a fashionable passtime. Fortunately, car makers have worked on improving the economy of these road-beasts and everyone else seems to have forgotten that they once blamed SUVs for single-handedly causing climate change. Meanwhile, the Cayenne is maturing gracefully – this one is far more attractive than its predecessor; its once bloated shape has been traded for a more lithe and muscular aesthetic, making it more stylish than most of its competitors.
Our cruise down the A30 would have been just as comfortable in one of its competitors. However, it would have been far less entertaining because the Cayenne is so terrifically sporty. Many people would question whether a diesel engine has any place inside a Porsche at all. I suggest they test drive this car because it is the most likeable and well-rounded version yet.
This Cayenne S Diesel, tailored for the European market, has been created for drivers who don’t feel the regular diesel model is quick or sporty enough. Instead of a 3.0-litre V6 diesel there’s a twin-turbo 4.2-litre V8 engine with a power output of 382bhp. It can sprint from zero to 62mph in just 5.7 seconds and then on to 156mph. It feels fast, but not indecently so (like the Cayenne Turbo S) and it’s surprisingly agile, with strong and efficient acceleration thanks to its extremely likeable eight-speed semi automatic transmission. Thanks to some clever aural engineering, it sounds like a petrol V8 engine – more muscle car than grumbling tractor.
The cabin is sumptuous, focused and technological. It looks, feels and drives like an expensive car and the view out is good. The build quality is excellent and it’s spacious too. In fact it’s every bit as practical as you’d want an SUV to be. And unlike some of the other Cayenne models it’s less flashy. Now it blends in whether it’s covered in mud or not. You’d have been surprised at how many industrial-sized bags of sawdust we were able to shoehorn into it during our last minute mercy-dash to Griggs Country Store during the wedding setup. Just don’t tell Porsche.
PORSCHE CAYENNE S DIESEL
0-62MPH: 5.7 secs
TOP SPEED: 156mph
CO2 G/KM: 218g/km
MPG COMBINED: 34mpg
DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Five Stars
PRACTICALITY Four Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars