Porsche Cayenne Diesel
New Cayenne exterior is much easier on the eye
- Much improved interior has presence for the right reasons
- Performance, particularly in-gear acceleration, is impressive
- Cabin quality and refinement is very impressive
- Very reasonable fuel economy from the diesel engine
- Handles impeccably but still feels big on the road
- Exterior may prove too bold for some
- Menu-based infotainment system requires acclimatisation
- Even with the improvements, running costs likely to remain high
The Porsche Cayenne has been one of the more controversial models in the German premium sports manufacturer's range but, as the company's biggest seller worldwide, it is crucially important. Diesel was only recently added to the range but continues in the revised model.
When it first arrived on the market in 2002 the Porsche Cayenne strongly divided opinion with some awkward looks and a monumental shift away from Porsche's area of expertise; sports coupes. However, since then the styling has been honed and refined and the latest generation not only looks smarter but has become more widely accepted as a highly competent luxury SUV.
A diesel powered model was only introduced to the range late in the life-cycle of the previous version, so the engine remains largely unchanged for the latest model. Producing 240bhp and more than 400lb/ft of torque it is more than capable of providing the high-performance associated with the Porsche brand, but without the higher CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of the petrol models. Stop-start technology is now standard, reducing emissions and consumption further still.
Since the introduction of the Cayenne S Hybrid model the Cayenne Diesel is no longer the lowest emitting model in the range, but it does feature a considerably lower purchase price. A luxury and high quality vehicle is provided for the money. Inside there's a sports car feel thanks to an instrument layout that takes inspiration from the Panamera four-door while the exterior looks neater on what remains a sizeable platform.
Crucially, the diesel engine fails to take the edge off what has traditionally been the Cayenne's key quality; a hugely capable and engaging driving experience. Allied to Porsche's eight-speed automatic Tiptronic S transmission, the Cayenne Diesel also offers an adaptable suspension system that can offer comfort and sport settings. A sport option also alters the steering and throttle response for greater thrills.
Our verdict on the Porsche Cayenne Diesel
In its latest guise, the Cayenne appears to have come of age. Easier on the eye and with a refined, sporty and luxurious interior it's an improved all-round package. The diesel engine option is key and, combined with an impressive stop-start system, offers economy that makes the model far more accessible and justifiable. With the sporty driving experience intact, it's a big success.
Great strides have been made regarding engine efficiency and the Cayenne Diesel offers impressive returns for a vehicle of its size and performance, aided by the smooth start-stop system. Lower running costs and tax bills will result, but the Cayenne is still a premium model and will require considerable investment to own. Optional extra's can prove costly at the purchasing stage, too.
Space and practicality
The Cayenne's spacious cabin can easily accommodate five adults and rear legroom, headroom and shoulder-room is great. Rear seats can be moved fore and aft, which helps when fully loaded. There is plenty of oddment storage in the cabin and the boot is a good size, although the floor is quite high making heavy objects a struggle to lift in. With a spare wheel absent, more space can be found beneath the boot floor.
Controls and display
Despite boasting an in-depth menu based system for operating a lot of the controls, the Cayenne still features a large spread of buttons around the cockpit. These are required because of the variety of systems fitted to the car, but prove easy to operate thanks to a sensible layout on the whole. The off-road controls are easy to understand and, due to their layout, give you an instant status update for the suspension and transmission settings. One of the instrument binnacle dials can also shift functions, serving as a trip computer with a number of options or additional sat-nav screen. The steering wheel mounted gear change controls are fiddly and uninspiring to use, however.
Even on 21-inch alloy wheels the Cayenne's ride is cosseting. A comfort setting on the adaptable damper system proves very good for motorway use with an airy, wafting ride quality. Normal and Sport settings provide a little more feel through the chassis. The eight-speed transmission's changes are very smooth and on-road refinement is excellent, with the diesel engine only noticeable audibly when cold. The stop-start system is impressive too, failing to hurt refinement or drivability. The interior is designed with driver and passenger comfort in mind. Leather seats are supportive and shapely and rear seat passengers have their own ventilation controls.
An immobiliser, alarm and tracking system are fitted as standard, which will prove reassuring as the Cayenne is a highly desirable car. Plenty of internal storage will keep valuables hidden from sight and the space beneath the boot floor could also prove useful for hidden storage. Naturally, remote central locking is standard, but not keyless entry. Lights can be set to remain on for a designated period after locking for additional personal security.
With all the airbags and electronic stability systems you could ever need, the Cayenne is well equipped in this department. The car's all-wheel drive system is, obviously, a major asset in itself as are piercing Halogen headlamps.
The Cayenne has always impressed with its ability to offer a sports car-like driving experience from the body of an SUV and the Cayenne Diesel is no different. The adjustable suspension system helps hone things even further, but the Cayenne's road-holding and cornering prowess is almost unnatural. The 3.0-litre diesel engine provides smooth and purposeful delivery, meaning the model gathers pace impressively. Excellent in-gear acceleration is a real bonus as is the high-rise driving position, which offers a commanding view of the road ahead. A sport option for the automatic gearbox holds on to ratios longer, meaning there's little need to use the wheel mounted paddles.
Family car appeal
For all the Cayenne's performance credentials, the car is also a great addition to the family. Offering generous accommodation and high levels of comfort, the added bonus is that the Cayenne is fun to drive when the whole family is not aboard. That said, with its plush interior it's not a car for sticky-fingered toddlers.
First car appeal
It might be an easy car to drive at modest speeds, but the Cayenne is hardly an appropriate first car, due in the main to its performance and running costs.
Quality and image
The Cayenne brand has had its ups and downs over the years. Its looks divided opinion from launch, although a mid-life facelift greatly improved things and the current model looks sharp and contemporary. There's no question over the car's abilities on or off-road, though. And there's the badge, which still carries a lot of weight. The Cayenne is a vehicle that commands respect.
Being one of the more low-slung SUVs on the market, cabin access should be straightforward for most agile people and accessing the rear seats is easy through large doors. It's still possible to muddy trousers against the sills when exiting, however. Opt for a car with a powered tailgate if you're of short stature and all your problems will be solved, otherwise it'll be a bit of stretch to reach.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
All of the Cayenne's major infotainment features are easily accessible through the touchscreen system, although some of the unit's exhaustive functions are buried deep in the menu-based system and require some familiarisation. Audio quality is excellent even with the base system and connections are present for a variety of portable devices. An integrated mobile phone SIM card reader is a useful option and saves on battery draining Bluetooth over long journeys. A large colour screen is used for all functions including the excellent sat-nav.
Colours and trim
Silvers and dark shades work best on the Cayenne's sizable body while the chromework and new details such as piercing LED running lamps bring the best out of the shape. The model is easily capable of swallowing up optional 21-inch alloy wheels and twin exhausts mean the diesel powered version gives nothing away to the petrol models. Standard leather inside befits the premium status.
Despite the Cayenne's size, there are few issues when it comes to parking. An excellent turning circle belies the four-wheel drive configuration and manoeuvring is relatively easy. Even though the Cayenne's exterior mirrors look small, their position and size are fine for parking and a parking sensor system complete with on-screen colour radar display helps enormously. It remains a sizeable vehicle, however, so spaces must be chosen with care.
Emergency tyre inflation kit stored beneath boot floor.
Petrol engine options: 3.6-litre (300bhp); 3.3-litre hybrid (308bhp combined); 4.8-litre (400bhp and 500bhp turbocharged). Diesel engine options: 3.0-litre (240bhp). Six-speed manual gear box, eight-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne S Hybrid and Cayenne Turbo, extensive options available.
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