And so, it has to be said, I’ve developed a certain fondness for Porsche’s big fat trucks and sedans precisely because they get up the nose of the purists – folks who think that Stuttgart’s time would be better spent trying to figure out how to build a durable, engaging sports-car experience rather than some donk-wheeled gin-palace with an expiry date like a lit fuse. I mean, they’re not wrong, it’s just a wee bit amusing to see how mad they get. Look – that one’s just bitten a policeman.
This two-tonne blasphemy is even better than usual, it’s a diesel. A truck-engined Porsche! Well, we’ve been here before: 924 fans eat your heart out.
Of course, you don’t buy a spendy Teutonic crossover just to annoy air-cooled aficionados, so the Cayenne must be judged on its own merits, should it have any. This one does, but almost all of them were optional extras. Nominally speaking, the base diesel-powered version has an MSRP of $56,600, for which you apparently get the equipment level of a front-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue.
Glancing over the hilarious add-ons for my tester vehicle (Canadian MSRP $64,500), highlights such as an adjustable air-suspension ($4550), Bi-Xenon headlights ($2130), satellite radio ($1280) and full leather interior ($4170) are all satisfyingly costly and faintly ridiculous.
However, when it comes to P-car options, I tend to take the view that baseline MSRP is almost irrelevant – almost no other company will let you add as many minor tweaks until you get exactly the machine you want, which they expect you to do. While this nugget of purest umber stickered at a laughable CDN$97,385, expect most mid-level US cars to price out around $65K, and be decently equipped at that level.
The styling – um. Yes. I mean, it’s brown, right? That’s supposed to be in. (Actually, I have to say the new-style Cayenne has a much better schnozz than the old one – overall still a bit bulbous from some angles.)
If the exterior’s a bit iffy, at least the same can’t be said for the gorgeous, leather-lined guts of Porsche’s heretical heffalump. Like the Panamera, this buttony cockpit has the air of a private jet and depending what seats you option, the comfort of same. I particularly enjoyed the ambient lighting and it hardly bothered me at all that the trunk seems not quite big enough for such a large vehicle.
Prodding the Audi-sourced (again, shades of 924) diesel six-cylinder to life, the immediate impression is of how far ye olde oil-burner has come. Were it not for the gauche “diesel” script adorning either flank of the Cayenne, you wouldn’t really know this thing ran on tractor juice. Under throttle, however, there’s a bit of a castanet effect – apparently it’s possible to option added sound-deadening material to assist with the problem. Or, and I know this is a bit of a stretch, turn on the stereo.
There is a bit of understeer. Seems ridiculous to bring it up really – understeer is one of those automotive journalism tropes that’s as well-worn as a Civil War era outhouse seat (i.e. every ass has used it). However, I think I can safely say, with all asterisks clearly marked as to my very average driving skills, that plunking a cast-iron boat anchor in the nose of a sport-crossover-activity-thingumy is going to induce a little front-end push.
Easily cured by a dab of oppo. No wait, don’t do that – you’ll crash. Instead, the slight bit of nose-heaviness is my single dynamic critique of the Cayenne. In all other respects it’s much better than it has any right to be.
Torque! With my home province’s draconian excessive-speed laws – 40km/h (25mph) over and they impound your car – one always has to keep a careful eye on the speedometer in anything with a pulse. Luckily, where the Cayenne is concerned, there’s 406lb/ft of instant-gratification surge that turns into a slightly-weedy 240hp so you’re not tempted into any v-max-related flat-decking. The brown bomber simply blasts out of the corners, heeling over a bit on its air-ride suspension, but thrusting forward with the unstoppable force of a steam-ram.
And yes, you can get the same power out of a Touareg. The Cayenne is much costlier but slightly better. Steering and the suspension provide, as in the Panamera, a sense of fun. Add in the burly nature of the diesel and it’s not just a nerdy way to save fuel but a bit of a freight-train GTi.
There are those who will point out that the fuel-savings over a V6 would take a lifetime to make up, coupled with the annoyance of trying to find a fuel station that actually sells diesel and the added cost of filling the urea tank. It should also be noted that one feels a bit of a dude ranch city slicker in a line behind four jacked-up Ford SuperDuties waiting for the pump to come free. Kid-glove types aren’t going to love how perpetually grubby diesel fillers seem to be – you probably can’t tell from the poor-quality iPhone photo, but this one was coated in a sheen of oil.
But taking the strong resale of diesel luxury SUVs into account, and listing the on-road behaviour of the Cayenne Diesel very much in the Pro column, it’s probably the most compelling offering in the Cayenne range. And, for the record, the fuel economy is excellent – equal or better to its mid-20s EPA rating.
Of course, you do run the risk of looking like a cheapskate: status-seekers will probably run their fingers down the selector and pick something that says “Turbo” or possibly “Hybrid”. Never mind that – spec the diesel and chisel the badges off. The Porsche crest? That’ll depend where you stand on screams of outrage.
Porsche Canada provided the vehicle tested and insurance.