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Porsche Cayenne Diesel (click for slideshow)
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Cayenne duo offers surprising frugality, unsurprising fun

By Jim Bray
July 22, 2013

Many Porsche purists were perturbed when the German sports car maker announced it was jumping into the premium SUV field a decade or so ago. Imagine what they thought when Porsche announced it was unleashing a diesel!

But announce diesels they did and, in typical Porsche fashion, they've pulled it off with aplomb.

The Cayenne has gone on to become a top seller for the company, the profits from which undoubtedly continue to help fund the development of the company's stable of even more lustworthy cars. And while an SUV may not be something you'd associate with a legendary premium sports car company, Porsche's take on the genre manages to be all-Porsche – bigger and heavier and with a higher center of gravity, but still as sporty as heck.

That means it drives like a Porsche, which means its handling is nearly intuitive, its suspension and rubber keep it stuck to the road like baby feces to a Hudson's Bay blanket, and its engines sling it forward in a most satisfying manner.

Okay, it could be argued that the base Cayenne's V6 engine (as great as it is) doesn't sling the big vehicle with the alacrity you might expect and desire, but the hybrid and the V8's of both normal and turbo aspirations can be highly entertaining and, in the case of the Turbo, simply awe inspiring.

But a diesel? Diesels are ponderous and slow, right? After all, that's what the big trucks and city buses and the like use, and none of those can be accused of having anything approaching acceleration. It's more like they ooze forward almost reluctantly.

On the other hand, some car companies – including Porsche's stablemates Volkswagen and Audi – have been selling diesels for years, diesels that may not detach your retinas when you first tromp the "gas" pedal but which make up for their comparatively low horsepower with torque that presses you back into your seat as if you're being launched into space. They can be quite delicious.

And they get great "gas" mileage, which seems to be the Holy Grail among car makers and those who regulate them these days. But when one is drooling over a Porsche, it sure ain't for its gas mileage.

Until now, perhaps? Thanks to the diesel Porsche has stuck under the Cayenne's hood, even those who'd like a Cayenne but don't want to pay for it at the gas pump now have an attractive alternative. Two, actually, since there's also a hybrid Cayenne that's also very compelling. The diesel is simpler, though, and you don't have to worry about battery packs and the nearly 200 pounds they add to the Cayenne's curb weight.

Porsche says the three liter diesel, which also features turbocharging, puts out a measly (for 2013) 240 horsepower but a hefty 405 lb.-ft. of torque. And that torque comes on from 1,750 - 2,750 rpm. Yes, the thing goes! Porsche claims 0 to 100 km/h in 7 and a top speed of 220 km/h, and of course the diesel gets better "gas" mileage.

Sounds like a win-win, and it is. Porsche may just sell a lot of the diesel variant.

Power gets to the four wheels via an eight speed Tiptronic transmission that's very good indeed, though the seven speed, dual clutch PDK you can get in their sports cars is better.

The cabin is like any other Cayenne's – not including options you may choose, of which there is a googolplex on offer. So since it's a Cayenne, the leather seats are comfortable for the long run, everything is at hand and where it should be and everything works. As said, it's just like any other Cayenne inside. And that's a great thing.

Grand sport…

Speaking of any other Cayenne, Porsche Canada also sent its GTS version of the SUV for testing, a fun alternative to the diesel for those who don't mind a few extra visits to the filling station. The GTS comes with the 4.8 liter V8 engine and in this iteration it pumps out plenty of poop: 420 horses and 369 pound-feet (note, the torque is lower than the diesel's!).

Yep, she's fast. Deliciously so. Porsche says it'll sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 5.7 seconds, topping out at 261 km/h.

Power goes to the wheels via the same eight speed Tiptronic, which (as in the diesel) also has a very good manual mode.

The difference between the diesel and the GTS is more than just under the hood. The GTS also comes with a whole mess of extra standard equipment which would up the diesel's ante substantially – if you can even get it. For example, while the diesel's seats are no slouches in their own right, the special GTS seats are fantastic. They have eight-way power adjustment and are finished in Alcantara. They'd be great in many home theaters!

Cayennes' suspension is all independent with active all wheel drive, Porsche Traction Management and Porsche Stability Management. Up front, the vehicle is slung via double wishbones and its buttocks are kept in cheek, er, check via an independent multi-link setup. The GTS has had its ride height lowed by 24 mm compared with the other Cayenne models, however, which gives it a lower centre of gravity and a more menacing mien.

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is also standard and you really shouldn't buy a Porsche without it. Also nice to have is the air suspension, with self-levelling and height adjustment. You can get the two as options on the diesel, but they're standard here – as are the GTS' 20 inch wheels.

Inside both Cayennes is the typically Porsche instrument panel featuring its five round gauges and a small color LCD that displays stuff such as map data, cruise control settings, tire pressure, radio station, etc. A digital speedometer shares the central pod with the analog tachometer, giving you a quick way to look at both figures at a quick, single glance. The rest of the gauges are analog.

The steering column can be adjusted for height and reach and between that and the seats' power adjustments (as well as the overall driver focus of the interior) you can find a perfect driving position easily.

The SportDesign steering wheel with paddles is standard on the GTS and thanks to the paddles it's more enjoyable than the multifunction wheel the diesel sported. On the other hand, the multifunction steering wheel gives you access to stuff like audio and telephone controls without your hands leaving the wheel, so to each his own. It would be nice to see a choice that offers all the functions with paddles, but everything is so close to hand for the driver anyway, and that means it isn't really a big deal.

Standard on all Cayennes is Porsche Hill Control (PHC), which helps you maintain a constant speed on extreme downhill grades. It could come in handy especially if you're going off road, though if you plan to do the kind serious off roading Porsche thinks you can, you might want to think about changing your tires and/or wheels to something more dirt-oriented. It would be a shame to ding those beautiful wheels!

Despite the extra content that's standard on the GTS, you can still option it up to the tune of many thousands of dollars. Porsche Canada's sample included nearly 30 grand of options, some of which are really nice (the power moonroof, for example) and some of which – the $6500 Burmester surround sound system, for example (because even the base system is great) – are more like gilding an already lovely lily.

The sample GTS included self-dimming mirrors, a comfort lighting package, sport chrono package (a nice thing to have if you plan to exploit your Cayenne's oomph factor), heated rear seats, a "GTS Interior package in Carmin", PCM with navigation, front and rear park assist and 21 inch wheels.

It all added up to $120,225, a nice chunk of change – though you're getting a Heckuva lot of vehicle for that. The Cayenne is at least as much fun to drive as its competition, yet like every other Porsche it's also easy to drive, ergonomically superb, comfortable and, depending on which version you get, about as efficient a vehicle as you could expect from this niche.

And it looks great.

Base price for the diesel base price is $65,500 Canadian. The Cayenne GTS starts at $93,600 Canuck. The sky's the limit from there.

Copyright 2013 Jim Bray

Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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