First Drive: Porsche Cayenne Diesel

We'll admit that while we don't count ourselves amongst the purists who hate the Cayenne, even we feel a slight shudder when a diesel engine sparks into life beneath a Porsche badge.

Nevertheless the new version of the Cayenne Diesel is absolutely critical to Porsche's position in the SUV market, and even if there is something a little odd about the oil burner's presence under the bonnet, it doesn't take long for the car to work its way under your skin.
Primarily this is because the model just makes so much damned sense. Obviously the main benefit of turning your back on the petrol versions is economy - the 237bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel carried over from the previous generation trumps the cheaper 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine by a whopping 10mpg at 38mpg, and even leaves the hybrid model trailing by 4mpg - but there's advantages in performance, too.

While the V6 diesel gives up 60bhp and adds around 100kg in weight compared to its slightly cheaper petrol equivalent, it gains 110lb ft of torque. This shockwave of low-down thrust makes the Cayenne's power more accessible, and, unless the Tiptronic gearbox has left you languishing in the wrong gear, it doesn't feel lacking until you're a long way past sensible speeds. Granted, it doesn't have the Saturn V rocket urgency of the Turbo (or even the hybrid), but it's substantially cheaper than both and is likely to hold its value better when it comes to selling.

Beyond the engine, the Cayenne Diesel offers much the same package as the rest of the range. The car's new looks are partly successful - sharper and pretty from the front and side; blighted by badly misconceived light clusters at the rear - but the interior is a triumphant marriage of SUV beefiness and sporting pretension. The latter isn't entirely vanity, though; thanks to phenomenal body control and huge grip the Cayenne can be driven at unlikely speeds everywhere and still includes an off-road mode should the mood take you.

If earth-shattering pace and bragging rights are your primary reasons for buying, then the Diesel model probably isn't appropriate, but if you're after a slightly less imposing, slightly more practical version of Porsche's heavy-hitter, the car makes its case with surfeit of low-down logic.

Of course if you don't give a monkey's about image full stop then the Cayenne's sister car, the Volkswagen Touareg, offers the same engine, gearbox and platform with a more comfortable ride for around £6k less than Porsche is asking.

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