When Porsche launched its first diesel Cayenne back in 2009, I was surprised at the choice of motor. Why had a larger, more powerful engine not been opted for? Audi, which makes the 3.0 V6 for Porsche, had diesel V10s and V12s, and there was a V8 on the drawing board too.
I put my question to Porsche’s R&D head Wolfgang Dürheimer when I met him a few months later, expecting to hear of other larger- capacity motors down the line. But he brushed off my question like a horse flicking off an irritating fly. “Diesels,” he spat dismissively in his thick Swabian accent, “are for customers who want their Porsches to be more efficient, full stop. If you want performance, buy one of our three new petrols. They are much, much sportier”.
However, in the land of ‘Average kya hai?’ diesels rule. And going by the first impression I get from this car, this one is set to become fiercely popular. Like Dürheimer said, the performance of the petrol-powered Cayennes is far superior. But on the other hand, the diesel has enough to keep you satisfied too. The V6 diesel under the hood of this SUV makes 240bhp, which in itself isn’t too much when you consider that this car weighs over two tonnes.
However, when combined with its 56kgm of torque and Porsche’s new eight-speed automatic (Tiptronic), this car displays a surprising turn of foot. The first three gears are quite tightly packed, and the torquey nature of the motor combined with its responsiveness results in a claimed 0-100kph time of 7.8 seconds. And the surge in power continues all the way upto 180kph. While this is nowhere near as quick as the V8 diesel-engined Q7 which, in comparison, feels at least a second or so quicker, with masses of more power and torque, the Porsche doesn’t feel slow either.
But sportiness isn’t about straightline power and performance alone. There’s the other real challenge – of making two tonnes feel more like 1200kg and Porsche has succeeded gloriously at that. No other SUV drives like the Cayenne. Period. For a start, it feels ultra- compact from behind the wheel, more like a large hatch than a full-sized off-roader. It responds almost perfectly to the slightest tweak of the steering wheel and the steering is so accurate that you are soon driving almost sub-consciously, almost completely unaware of the bulk. And there is very little body-roll or pitch from the car too.
It’s so good that you feel you are driving a slightly raised sports saloon, not a bulky SUV. And the massive six-piston monoblock discs are just perfectly weighted. While it may not have that massive hit of performance we expect from a car bearing a Porsche badge, it really does drive like a real Porsche, which is what matters. However, what has been sacrificed is ride quality which, even when the Cayenne is not in Sport mode, can get thumpy at times.
The German sportscar maker has also pulled out all the stops on the cabin front. Porsche’s attention to detail and fit and finish are beyond compare in many places, even outshining Audi in many areas. Almost every black plastic piece has perfectly executed chrome highlights, the design of the chromed vents and aircraft-like central console is special and the insides feel like they are hewn from a single block.
Interior space is not an issue and the front and rear seats are both ample and supportive. And the leather simply oozes quality. Providing a new dimension to the cabin, Porsche has placed a mini replica of the centre console for the rear seat passengers, equipped with a full array of air-con controls.
The Cayenne diesel is also well kitted out and you can opt for a wide range of goodies as long as you pay for it. The Cayenne also has just about enough Porsche DNA in its design. It looks compact, tight, and nicely tapered, and the new wedge-like nose works really well. However, the tail-lights look out of place and out of sync with the rest of the design.
Sufficient pace, outstanding driving manners, top-class quality and build, these are the Porsche Cayenne diesel’s key attributes. Of course, there’s the efficiency of the diesel motor, the allure of the badge and the practicality of an off-roader. Though it lacks a low range for serious mud-plugging duties, this Rs 59.2 lakh SUV could be the ideal way to discover India. Finally, a Sport Utility Vehicle where the word Sport is not a massive exaggeration. And yes, a genuine Porsche that just has the finest driving manners. But do drive the petrol-powered 400bhp V8 before you buy this one – you might just get tempted, even though it costs approximately Rs 18 lakh more and is nowhere near as efficient.