Can the massive Cayenne Diesel S break the rules of physics or even bend them slightly? We road test and review the high-performance oil burner to see if it really does go beyond all expectations.
The Cayenne is the best selling model in Porsche’s lineup, almost single-handedly keeping the company afloat while people umm and aah about buying 911s and Boxsters. It weighs 2.2 tonnes, but gets out of its own way pretty rapidly thanks to a monstrous 377bhp and 850Nm of torque, the latter available from only 2,000rpm. It’s rapid too, capable of 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and 150mph, but returns respectable CO2 of 218g/km and 34mpg.
But when a Cayenne Diesel S costs £59,053 before options you have a right to expect something a bit special.
The Cayenne’s looks have long split opinion, right back to the introduction of the original 2002 model with its grafted-on 911 face. Things haven’t really changed in 2013, though the second generation’s design and near ubiquity have have earned it some acceptabce. It’s still a challenging look, but there’s no denying the swagger this car has – the wide track, flared wings and bulging sheet metal mean it strikes a confident stance that few main rivals can properly match.
The S doesn’t have much in the way of extra addenda though. Save for the subtle badging on the front wing and tailgate, there’s little to tell onlookers this is the quickest oil-burner in the range. Still, there’s myriad options to pick from on the Porsche options list including 21-inch alloy wheels, a Sport Design Package with extended side skirts and smoked taillights.
It’s a big SUV in the mould of the Range Rover Sport and Mercedes ML so it’s no surprise the Cayenne serves up decent levels of practicality. The boot’s a useful 670 litres with the rear seats in place and can hold 1,780-litres with them folded flat. And that rear bench, combined with the relatively flat floor makes the rear a comfortable spot to spend your time.
It’s the same up-front where the supportive seats and exquisitely-trimmed cabin make the Cayenne feel supremely comfortable. However, there are larger performance SUVs around, and the new Range Rover makes the Porsche feel slightly cramped inside.
Performance & handling
There’s something faintly amazing about the Cayenne Diesel S; it can swallow mountains of kids and cargo, traverse muddy fields, looks perfectly at home outside a five-star hotel, yet tames stretches of tarmac as quickly as your average sports car.
Acceleration isn’t as brutal as it’s Turbo S brother – 542bhp and 750Nm plays this car’s 377bhp and 850Nm – but the way it builds its speed seems never-ending. Depress the throttle from a standstill and there’s a momentary pause in the proceedings while the Diesel S gathers all that torque and lunges towards 62mph in 5.7 seconds. Keep the pedal pinned and, with smooth – if not lightening-fast – gear changes, the Cayenne just keeps heading for the horizon. Ridiculous speeds arrive in mere seconds, and on the road it pays to keep a tight reign on your right foot.
The Porsche Cayenne Diesel S continues to challenge perceptions in the corners as well, where it grips hard and resists roll admirably. There are three settings to the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) but in truth we’d leave Sport for silk-smooth racetracks and leave it in Normal or Comfort almost all of the time.
Braking’s taken care of by some over-sized discs and meaty calipers, and in most instances the pedal feels strong and progressive – but properly spirited driving where big speeds need to be wiped quickly can overwhelm them to the point of smoking.
Economy & environment
It’s at this point that most performance SUV owners would wince – not only does a full tank of petrol for a premium-branded tank cost around £140, but 100 litres of the stuff will only get you around 550 miles. So while the price of diesel is similar, the Cayenne Diesel S’ 85-litre tank will cost around £120 to fill but travel a further 100-miles. Opt for the 100-litre tank and the claimed range is 748-miles. That’s all thanks to its claimed 34mpg. True it’s unlikely to achieve those numbers in the real-world, but driven carefully you can expect to see near enough 30mpg in varied use. And with standard-fit stop/start its 218g/km CO2 emissions mean annual road tax is a reasonable £280.
Equipment & value
At nearly £60,000 before you add any options, the Cayenne Diesel S isn’t a cheap car, and to be honest the standard specification – while acceptable – isn’t going to blow anyone away. What’s more, Porsche has one of the most extensive, and often expensive, options lists in the whole industry.
On the exterior you’ll notice 18-inch alloy wheels, matt silver tailpipes and a tailgate spoiler, while the inside features partial leather seats that are electrically adjustable for the front pair. If you want them heated you’ll pay extra (£295), though you can also fork our for an electrically-warmed steering wheel too (£182).
At least the climate and cruise control functions come as standard. But though the 7-inch touch screen for the stereo looks good, you’ll have to dig deep if you want to add sat-nav (£2,157). In short, it’s easy to spend a lot of extra money on the Cayenne Diesel S, so be careful when ticking those boxes.
Euro NCAP has never tested a Porsche, so there’s no official star rating for the Cayenne Diesel S. However, the firm has a reputation for producing safe and dependable cars, and this performance SUV shouldn’t be any different. On-board you’ll find six airbags as standard, with a pair of rear side bags on the option list.
The words performance and SUV rarely sit well together; there’s always some compromise along the way, whether it be in the way it handles or how much fuel it burns. To be fair the Cayenne Diesel S still can’t quite ignore those rules of physics, never completely disguising its weight and height if you stay fully committed to a corner at higher speeds. But it is far better at this than nearly all of its rivals, and it even manages to tick the efficiency box too. In fact, when you consider this £59,053 Cayenne Diesel S can crack the 0-62mph sprint in only 5.7 seconds, while providing bonkers mid-range torque and is just as adept at everyday duties as the rest of the talented Cayenne range, you have to wonder if you really need that £89,324 Cayenne Turbo after all.
Model tested: Porsche Cayenne Diesel S
Engine: 4.2-litre turbocharged V8
Acceleration: 0-62 in 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Emissions: 218g/km CO2