Published October 25, 2012
I’m not sure if the Porsche Cayenne Diesel should be voted most likely to succeed in the company’s lineup, but it is the one that I would be most likely to buy (when, of course, my ship comes in. Still waiting for that.)
No hang-ups here about driving a Porsche with an oil-burner under the hood, a first in the U.S. for the automaker. Irreverence aside, it simply makes more sense than any other version of the Cayenne.
For years, Porsche has tried, and largely succeeded, in making its roomy, high-riding five-door perform more like a sports car than any other vehicle of its kind, in part to assuage fears that the automaker had lost its way. But unless your daily commute includes the A3 autobahn between Frankfurt and Bonn, a 550 hp SUV with a 175 mph top speed like the Cayenne Turbo S really is an extreme form of overcompensation, even if it is a very fun one.
But now the Cayenne is embracing its inner big rig like never before while also paying homage to the fuel economy gods, or regulators, whichever is more important these days.
As with many of the underpinnings of the Cayenne, the Diesel’s turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 is shared with Volkswagen, with a few Porsche specific tweaks. Output is rated at 240 hp and, much more important if there are any 7,716-pound boats in your driveway that need towing or stumps in the yard that have to be pulled, a healthy 406 lb-ft of torque.
With that sort of power and an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Cayenne Diesel is both quick and fuel efficient. It’s even stingier with a gallon of fuel than the Cayenne S Hybrid and has a highway rating of 29 mpg, just one mpg short of the latest Porsche Boxster. Combined with a 26.4 gallon tank, you could take the long way across Germany without having to stop to fill up, so don’t forget to stock up on prostate health supplements.
This isn’t to say that the Cayenne has gone the full Max and Monty. Barely any clitter-clatter makes it out of the exhaust, and what’s in the engine compartment stays there. Both the plastic engine cover and aluminum hood are stuffed with more insulation than a very quiet Thanksgiving turkey. This is in sharp contrast to both the 911 and Panamera, where Porsche has gone out of its way to literally pump their cabins full of engine noise.
So there’s not much sound, but plenty of fury. The Cayenne Diesel puts in an accelerative performance on par with the V6 gasoline model and will run up to a heady enough intercity top speed of 135 mph while delivering more than 20 percent better fuel economy along the way.
If you prefer off-roading, and even if you don’t, an air suspension is available that can jack up the Cayenne to Jeep Wrangler heights or hunker it down for highway running. Fitted with active dampers, it provides a ride that is as floaty as a pickup truck in Comfort mode or tight as a drum in Sport.
Mountain roads are easily dispensed with, and even the ones covered in dirt or gravel don’t do much to upset things thanks to the Cayenne’s advanced standard all-wheel-drive system. If you spend a lot of time on the latter, my guess is that you’ll want to skip the optional $6,505 21-inch black-painted rims and stick with the stock 18’s, but check the box for the dash-mounted compass with altimeter as a constant reminder that the car you’re driving wasn’t just made for navigating mall parking lots.
If you happen upon an autocross event in one of those, you will eventually discover the Cayenne’s handling limits which can’t be enhanced with the magical, high-tech dynamic chassis control and torque vectoring systems that are optional on other models. Again, this is as practical as a Porsche gets.
But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer. The options list has enough luxury goodies on it to bump the $56,725 base price of my test car up to $89,950, and that’s without indulging in the $8,150 carbon ceramic brakes or $3,265 “seat centers in deviating color” leather upholstery, which is more than you’ll spend annually on fuel.
Restrain yourself, and the Cayenne Diesel costs just $3,900 more than a V6 gasoline model equipped with an automatic transmission and a whopping $14,100 less than the lowest priced Hybrid, both of which require premium juice. I think Rudolph Diesel would approve.
I know I do.
2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Base Price: $56,725
As Tested: $89,950
Type: 5-door, 5-passenger crossover
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 diesel
Power: 240 hp, 406 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 19 city/29 hwy