By on June 25, 2013

Heresy can be fun. Certainly it is so for an Irishman, what with Behan’s, “wonderful lack of respect for everything and everyone.”

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.

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27 Comments on “Review: 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel...”

  • avatar

    These are very nice, but like you said, cargo space is too small. The Q7, another stablemate, is extended and corrects this issue.

    • 0 avatar

      What would be the impetus to purchase either the Cayenne or the Q7 over the Toureg?

      • 0 avatar

        Or a train, which I could also afford (ಠ_ృ)

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Well, the Q7 debuted for MY2007, and so wasn’t updated in MY2011 like the Touareg and Cayenne. I’d avoid the Audi until they bring it up to date with its platform siblings. Or maybe I’d just hold out and spend two to three times more to get the Bentley or Lamborghini SUVs.

      • 0 avatar

        The Q7 has the 3rd row seats, which is convenient for feeling that you didn’t bought a leather wrap pickup with a cab. Otherwise the Touareg makes a lot of sense if the styling works for you.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          They definitely dumbed down the Touareg and lessened material-qaulity to make the Cayenne look better for the second-generation; however it looks attractive in its simplicity and is a more-practical choice…

  • avatar

    Fun review. I imagine these pictures were taken in and around Vancouver – what areas exactly?

  • avatar

    “…some donk-wheeled gin-palace with an expiry date like a lit fuse.”

    Congrats, you got a belly laugh out of me. Also – my mind voice had an Irish accent the whole time I was reading this review, and even now as I type this I’m thinking it in an Irish accent.

    Very entertaining, Brendan.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    These things still remind me of bumblebees (“the miracle is that they can fly”), but apart from that I enjoyed your amusing review, especially the scenic backdrops for the photographs. Vancouver BC really is lovely!

    • 0 avatar

      The bumblebee thing gets my goat every time. You may know this, but for those who don’t, let me explain.

      The assertion is that aeronautical engineers cannot explain how bees fly. This was half-BS in the 1920s when the statement was first made, and completely bogus now. However, since the “knowledge” is that we don’t know something, people tend to ignore the full picture.

      The full picture is that bees fly with their wings “stalled”, meaning that they fly with air burbling over their wings – rather than flying smoothly like it does over an airplane in normal flight. It’s even more complex, because the bee’s wing passes through disturbed air on the nezt stroke. But, as the engineers and pilots of the 1920s knew, airplanes still provide lift and control when the wing is stalled, but they just don’t do it very well. It’s an inefficient way for an airplane to fly, and the math is harder (though the bees don’t seem to care about either of these things). You can approximate it with the kind of back-of-the-napkin equations and pen-and-paper graph-models that they used to design airplanes in those days, but it is a little rough and it can be hard to get right. The best way to model a turbulent airflow over a wing these days is to use a computational fluid dynamics model to explore the unsteady flow over time.

      Anyway, because this assertion to tends to piss off engineers (and engineering professors), a number of graduate students have been assigned to create mathematical models of the phenomenon, and you can find their papers using Google Scholar. Or you can pick up any textbook on “boundary layer aerodynamics” for a full explanation of the topic. The textbook will also implicitly explain the bug-eye headlight shape on the Nissan Leaf, and why windshield wipers don’t add as much drag as you’d think.

      Alas, the real answer to “we don’t understand how bumblebees fly” is just complicated enough that an engineer can’t just say “hogwash!” with emphatic conviction. So, we end up suffering silently while people blissfully assert that my former colleagues in the aero engineering department (including the boundary layer aerodynamics specialist) don’t know something that is quite well understood. Well understood, but complicated.

      Oh, and I’m only reading an article about a Porsche CUV because it’s brown and diesel… :-)

  • avatar

    I see from the tire tread that I holds a Bob stroller just fine :).

    I, too, love the idea of angering Porsche purists. I’d rather do it with a Panamera, though.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Bear in mind that the Cayenne is getting its refresh for MY2014, so that lovely schnoz may be changed up a bit…

  • avatar

    A diesel SUV makes all the sense in the world. I imagine, like the Toureg, it can tow anything you care to hook onto it…

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    If I had the money I would have the Cayenne as my daily driver. But there is a big but, with the 4.2 V8 Diesel.

    Here’s a link on a review of the V8 diesel Cayenne done in Australia.

    Awesome machine, awesome engine especially for a diesel, it would move an HD around no troubles.

    PS. For weekends I would want the AMG 6×6 G Wagen pickup. That’s if I’m rich.

  • avatar

    When the TESLA MODEL X is released, so long as they can keep the price under $80,000, it’s gonna be a GAME CHANGER.

    • 0 avatar

      That may be one of the few things you and I agree on.

      The Model X is one of the few vehicles in this segment that I could see myself driving.

      And, if we both like it, then that satisfies two very different constituencies.

      Also, since Tesla is making money selling exactly one car, the margins on the Model S are probably fine. Since the X is likely a platform twin for the S, it’s probably going to have a higher margin due to the economies of scale. But this is all guesswork on my part. Just build it already! :-)

  • avatar

    The way to deal with nasty pumps is to hit Sam’s Club and buy a box of 500 disposable food prep gloves…$9 and no more getting diesel schmutz on the steering wheel…or going into business meetings and watching others crinkle their noses at the vague whiff of #2 fuel oil that’s surrounding you…

  • avatar

    Hahaha, tagged as “The comfy chair”…

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