WHAT AN AGE we live in. Progress in the automotive world tends to occur in hundreds of incremental steps and only the occasional leap forward, and so it’s easy to lose sight of just how far things have come. And this Cayenne Diesel S is the perfect method with which to demonstrate.
The second generation Cayenne was the coming of age for Porsche’s SUV, answering the critics of the original car and earning respect even from those who saw such a vehicle as going against the sporting ethos of the brand. But the Cayenne has never been an ordinary SUV; it has always had proper Porsche genes running through it and with the latest model looking sharper and driving even better it makes unquestionable sense as a more practical proposition for people who have to have the Porsche shield on the front of their car.
However you might wonder if there is any need for another engine option in the Cayenne. For a car that is more than likely going to be bought by the lucky few, it already offers a remarkably broad spread of powerplants. There’s the ‘entry-level’ V6 petrol, the V8 petrol in two outputs, the bonkers V8 turbos that also come in two outputs, the hybrid petrol and the existing diesel. There’s nothing wrong with the diesel offering either; it offers up 405lb.ft of torque and as a result can manage 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds, 137mph flat out and deliver 39.2mpg combined.
But the Porsche engineers seem to think that’s not enough and as a result have introduced the Diesel S. Just as with the petrol models, the ‘S’ might as well stand for significant – instead of the V6 oil burner, the Diesel S gets a new eight-cylinder twin turbo unit that Porsche claims is a unique offering in the segment. Better still are the numbers it produces; with 382bhp it is a whisker behind the V8 petrol but it is the torque output that really slackens the jaw. A mammoth 626lb.ft of torque is available from just 2,000rpm, almost a whole 100lb.ft than the truly insane petrol Turbo S.
With that much motive force under the bonnet it’s no wonder the Cayenne Diesel S is a rapid machine. It blasts to 62mph in a borderline absurd 5.7 seconds – 0.2 seconds faster than the V8 petrol Cayenne S – and can hit 156mph. It’s hard to put these numbers out of your mind when you slide behind the wheel, but this is a diesel underneath it all and so is far less intimidating than you might expect.
Climb aboard and the familiar Cayenne cabin greets you with clear and logical displays. You get the proper SUV driving position so the view out is excellent, yet there’s still a sportscar feel; you are high up but surrounded by the cabin, and it certainly doesn’t feel top-heavy or ungainly. The driving position is superb and you grasp a proper Porsche steering wheel with a relatively thin rim, all of which helps to get you in the mood.
Fire up the Diesel S and it sounds a lot more V8 than diesel. There’s an appealing throb coming from the exhaust, blip the throttle and it grows to a proper sporty sound. Select drive on the automatic transmission and the massive wave of torque makes pulling away as easy it could possibly be; this is a car that could be driven without ever using more than a tiny squeeze of the accelerator.
It’s such a flexible unit that ordinary driving is utterly effortless, and with adjustable suspension that can be tweaked for maximum comfort the Cayenne Diesel S is a thoroughly relaxing car to drive. Big distances can be covered with ease with plenty of space for passengers and luggage. The 100-litre fuel tank may cost a bit to fill, but allows a theoretical range of over 700 miles.
But it would take a particularly dedicated individual to drive that far and not exploit the performance, so tempting is the amount of acceleration on offer. Regardless of speed or gear, apply a firm right foot to the accelerator and the Diesel S urges forward with no discernible effort, with the eight-speed automatic transmission marshalling all the forces superbly well whether you shift yourself or leave it to your own devices.
And it behaves just as a Porsche should when you arrive at a challenging bend. Of course this is not a lightweight car but the way it behaves when pressed is remarkable. It responds accurately to the driver’s demands, with good feedback through the steering, impressive balance and generally more composure than a car of this size should be capable of.
In many ways this is the most convincing car Porsche offers. Not only does it deliver a generous slice of driving fun, it also brings comfort, practicality and even respectable economy into the equation. It’s still a Porsche so it’s no giveaway, but once on your driveway you’d be hard-pressed to find something as universally capable.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Porsche Cayenne Diesel S, £58,243
Engine: 4.2-litre diesel unit producing 382bhp and 626lb.ft of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 156mph, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds
Economy: 34mpg combined
Emissions: 218g/km of CO2