When Porsche first announced it was to create an SUV, there were gasps of horror from fans of the brand, who felt that a high-riding mud plugger was at odds with the German marque’s core sports car values. It proved to be a masterstroke, and the Cayenne has gone on to be Porsche’s best selling model. Now in its second generation, the Cayenne is now available as a diesel, designed to increase its appeal amongst European buyers. We jumped behind the wheel to find out if it’s any good, or a step too far for the world’s largest sports car maker.
What is it?
Forget compact SUVs and crossovers, the Porsche Cayenne is a full-fat 4×4 of the old school. Don’t expect a rolly-polly ride and leisurely performance – Porsche’s engineers have worked wonders to create a car that drives with the gusto worthy of its bonnet badge. As such, it rides lower than some rivals, and comes as standard with sports tyres. That’s not to say it’s useless in the rough stuff – it doesn’t come with conventional locking differentials but does have variable air suspension, an electronically variable rear differential and a raft of clever technology including Porsche Torque Vectoring and Porsche Traction Management, all of which is designed to keep you going when nature would prefer you just give up.
The Cayenne is available with a range of engine options, from the 3.6-litre V6 petrol (also available with hybrid power), 3.0-litre turbodiesel, to the muscular V8 options. Those wanting supercar-rivalling performance should consider the bonkers Turbo and Turbo S variants, though you’ll spend as much time on petrol station forecourts as you will have saved on the school run.
What is it like to drive?
If you’re used to the vague steering and lolloping dynamics of traditional off-roaders, you will be amazed at just how agile and direct the Cayenne is. Even at speed the car corners with only the merest hint of body-roll, while the well-weighted steering feels almost as responsive as it does in its sports car siblings. Driven hard, the Cayenne feels like a well-sorted hatchback: grippy and entertaining. The 3.0-litre diesel engine more than acquits itself well, too, offering decent performance, a cultured engine note, and fuel consumption that won’t see you fearing your monthly credit card statement.
What is it like inside?
The cabin of this second generation Cayenne is a vast improvement on the model that preceded it. Expensive smelling leather and metallic highlights intermingle to provide some visual interest to a dashboard design that majors on Teutonic function and ergonomic efficiency. As you’d expect from a Porsche product, the driving position is excellent and the control weights are also well matched. On the move, the cabin remains hushed and refined, with only the slight growl of the engine and wind noise whipping around the large door mirrors disturbing the otherwise executive saloon-like peace. Go mad with the options list and the Cayenne can be loaded with a number of posh toys, highlights of which include a full-length panoramic sunroof, BOSE surround-sound audio system and a rear seat entertainment package with TV screens integrated into the front headrests.
Is it practical?
For such an outwardly large car, the Cayenne disappoints in the amount of passenger and luggage space it offers. While it will seat five, those in the back will find legroom slightly pinched, though head and shoulder room is excellent all round. The boot, too, suffers from the inverse Tardis effect – though at 670 litres (1780 litres with the rear seats folded down) it is competitive with similarly sporting SUVs such as the BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport. And despite having large pillars and relatively narrow windows, a plethora of visual and audible parking aids means the Cayenne isn’t a nightmare when negotiating narrow roads and tight parking spaces.
Should I buy one?
The Porsche Cayenne taught rival manufacturers about how a big SUV should handle on the road, and now there are plenty of 4×4 offerings that are entertaining to drive on a twisty route. That said, none can quite match the Cayenne’s level of driver interaction and sheer capability – this is a two-tonne leviathan that really can be hustled like a sports car. Those wanting ultimate luxury and refinement (and more passenger and boot space) should consider the Range Rover or Mercedes ML, but as an all-rounder the Cayenne is hard to beat.
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Porsche Cayenne Diesel
List price: £47,390
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbodiesel
Top speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Fuel economy: 33.2mpg (urban), 43.5mpg (extra-urban) 39.2mpg (combined)
Emissions: 189g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: N/A