PORSCHE Cayenne Diesel Review

OUR TEST CAR: PORSCHE Cayenne Diesel 958 2012

PORSCHE Cayenne Diesel - Page - 1
The Cayenne is so much more than just a car, it is a story, one that shows just how complex human nature can be. So let’s take it from the Big Bang,- its birth was one of the least probable events in the automotive history - how could the most motorsport-addicted automotive producer in the world release a meaty SUV?

Over the years, Porsche has denied the reintroduction of an entry-level model, thus depriving many of the ownership experience, claiming that its cars must meet a certain dynamic standard and that such a vehicle would be to weak to deserve its badge.

Well, the company broke that vow when it released the first generation of the Cayenne, but this didn’t go unnoticed. The Cayenne, and we are going to use another superlative, is probably the most advertised car in recent history, as nothing attracts the masses more than controversy, a concept that surrounded the Cayenne’s launch. Many criticized the looks, others pointed their fingers at the platform sharing with other VW Group cars, while purist considered a Porsche SUV as being a sacrilege.

However, the car took these critics down one by one and not only managed to leave the outcast image behind, but also became a huge commercial success. This is because Porsche didn’t move one finger to wrestle those that were pointed at the Cayenne - instead, the company focused on gifting the car will both elements coming from it legacy, as well as the VW Group’s infinite technical garden.

The shock had not only passed, but the vehicle had turned into a major hit, when the carmaker placed a new wave of pressure on the world (or was it the other way around?) by releasing a diesel version of the car, which would also be the first diesel Porsche. History repeated itself and the vehicle became a huge success.

Now that the second generation of the Cayenne is already an established presence on the market, it has become obvious that the vehicle has gone far beyond offering a package that mixes performance driving with off-roading and luxury, helping Porsche sports cars by pumping profit into Porsche’s veins.

Now that the cities are getting more and more crowded and the fuel prices are more eager to set new records than athletes, the diesel version seems more of a viable option than ever, which is why we invited it to our test drive section. No, there are no badges and the exterior of the car certainly doesn’t lead you to think that there’s an oil burner under the hood, but trust us, this is the version we chose.

Sketches of the Porsche SUV released by third parties before the first generation of the Cayenne was introduced tried to brings us a 911 face with a meatier body and Porsche did use these influences for the design of the first model. However, the vehicle has now grown up, which means that it has received its own distinctive styling, one that, if you ask us, inspires efficiency, one of the carmaker’s core values.

The Cayenne is a master of deceit, but when all the tricks played on you turn out to actually be in your benefit, you can only be happy. Even though the vehicle has grown in size compared to the previous generation it looks smaller. You know how many people criticize Porsche designers for keeping the 911’s shape virtually unchanged for 50 years?

Well, the Cayenne is the best example that this is not true. In the process, which included inspiring from its own classic styling cues, Porsche also made the new generation lighter, a pretty difficult task, if we consider the fact that the carmaker has always had strict efficiency standards.

The vehicle comes with more rounded details, but isn’t exactly consistent in terms of design. To be more specific, both the front and the profile manage to please most eyes, while the rear isn’t as expressive as it could be.

The only part of the back that manages to impress is the integrated spoiler, which we could spend paragraphs talking about, thanks to its complex shape. Somehow the concave-convex shape play of the spoiler resonates with similar curves that can be found in the car’s cabin.

Interior Porsche’s racing heritage meant that the company had to do so much more than just throw some sporty trimming around the interior in order to offer a dynamic impression and the carmaker has gone to the moon and back to make a racing car cockpit, an off-roader’s cabin and a five-star hotel room come together inside the car. The element that perfectly illustrates this is the instrument cluster.

This could very well belong to a motorsport machine, as it comes with water temperature, oil temperature and oil pressure gauges, as well as keeping the rev counter in the middle, displaying both an analogue and a digital speedometer, and coming with a gearbox position indicator.

However, it also shows the functions that are required by any modern SUV, such as the status of the four-wheel drive system, the radio station and so on. Our test car was fitted with a panoramic sunroof, a very popular option, as well as with other goodies that made us think about racing, such as a carbon fiber package, with inserts in the center console handles and steering wheel, and a two-tone black & red leather finished that cover most of the surfaces. While these are options that don’t quite go well with the diesel sitting in the tank, they manage to convince you that you’re sitting in a car that knows a thing or two about driving dynamics.

However, the thing we liked the most about the Cayenne’s interior is the layout chosen for the buttons. As always, Porsche stuck to its tradition, saying “No” to the tendency of grouping many functions under the umbrella of a knob. Thus, we get the opposite of systems such as BMW’s i-Drive, which means that in the Cayenne, there’s a button for everything. However, the layout somehow manages to not be crowded and the ergonomics are top-level.

The ergonomics are so well through out that, apart from the hazard lights button, every other one can be pressed with your eyes closed once you’ve spent a little time in the car. However, the interior doesn’t quite manage to offer the same level of luxury as a Range Rover’ one, but it does offer a cocoon, racecar-inspired feeling, also coming with the Cayenne’s trademark center console handles, which are just as good during off-roading as they are during high-speed corners.

In a typical Porsche fashion, every little detail has been taken care of and the little console above the interior rear view mirror is more complex than the entire dashboard of a cheap car. The all round visibility is good, with a “+” for the little windows placed at the front corners of the front doors, which are really useful inside the city, and a “-” for the rear one - the shape of the rear window, together with that of the rear-view mirrors, means that you really need the camera when you’re reversing.

And don’t think that the back has been left out of this attention story - the entire bench can slide forwards, while the back rest can be placed in three different positions. As for the luggage compartment, this is big enough to accommodate a... couple if, let’ say, the road gets blocked by an avalanche and they have to sleep in the car. Shopping tips? Just choose a city that packed with enough stores, this car can face more than you imagine.

Most SUVs share one main drawback: their shape in size makes them perfects instruments for the open road, regardless of the surface that can be found under their wheels, but the vast majority of owners have to use the to travel through urban areas and thus a compromise is born. Well, in the case of the Cayenne, Porsche must’ve held one or two meetings with Walter Rohl and, even though the race driver might have not been to pleased by having to contribute to the development of a two-tonne plus car, he seems to have done an excellent job.

The steering and the suspension setup form one side of the equation, while the commanding driving position and the good all-round visibility the other one. The air suspension, together with the Porsche Active Suspension Management manage to make the car feel like its half a ton lighter than what it actually weighs when you’re performing swift maneuvers through the urban environment.

The parking job is easily dealt with, as Porsche has smartly integrated the rear view camera, parking sensors display and audible warning into an assistance system that’s very intuitive and helpful. The only thing that limits you is the rear visibility, but the aforementioned system manages to overcome this.

The diesel engine manages to keep a reasonable relationship with the fuel tank – this is an area where Porsche’s obsession for efficiency, developed at the racetrack, brings a serious financial benefit.

We have to tell you that, despite the fact that the Cayenne has already been on the market for one year and that it’s far from the dramatic design of the other models of the carmaker, there’s a pretty hefty number of eyes that target the car as you move along through the city. Want to get rid of all this – go out on the open road!

We’ll start with a little conclusion: the Cayenne’s engine range starts here (or with the V6 petrol, since there’s not such a big difference between the two) and climbs to more than double, but the 240 horses of the VW-sourced oil burner are enough to provide a decent experience.

Of course, you won’t get to enjoy the spirit of the Porsche brand using his engine, which is unacceptable for certain drivers, but the setup allows the car to sustain long distance travel. And this is where we get to the best use for the Cayenne diesel: a long distance companion – the car’s range, along with its interior comfort, basically inspire you to reconfigure your route and go for a longer drive.

The Porche Active Suspension Management and the air suspension make sure that the duality needed to tackle B-roads at Autobahn speeds and to deal with the driving surface’s indiscretions is there.

As for the stopping power, the Cayenne range comes in three sizes for the brakes: under our test car’s pedal, we could find the smallest one (the following one also uses a steel setup, while for the next level Porsche brings out the carbon ceramic weapons), but for the speeds you get to develop with this engine, the handled their job fine.

We were driving along nicely, when we passed a construction site located in a mountain area and the Cayenne seemed like it wanted to steer into it. We obeyed and that led us to a little adventure, with the Cayenne leaving its tux at the entry and putting on a lumber jack shirt and a pair of hiking boots.

Once you get off the road and decide to start playing, the Cayenne brings out a brilliant mix between the rough terrain abilities of heavyweight off-roaders, such as the Mercedes G-Class, with the suppleness of light crossovers. What we got once we raised the air suspension and we engaged the off-road mode, was the power to pass over difficult section, all with a lot of control over the car, gained through the agility of the chassis.

Our test drive car didn’t come with the extensive off-road protection, so we didn’t get to climb all the way to the top of the mountain we were playing on, but we can tell you that the aforementioned combination makes the car unique in its segment.

However, the Diesel Cayenne is actually more about comfort- as we’ve said, it can be dynamic, but the engine doesn ‘t really invite you to step on the throttle.
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autoevolution Feb 2012
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Open road
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57user rating 142 votes
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