Firm’s first-ever oil-burner adds better economy to muscular package

The Diesel is the best car in the Cayenne line-up, as it’s more frugal than the petrol models. Rugged ability and a spacious interior make it a stronger all-rounder than the X6, but the ungainly looks and less involving handling count against it.

A Porsche with a diesel engine is big news, but nobody told the firm’s designers. From the outside, there’s nothing to set the Cayenne Diesel apart from its petrol stablemates – not even a special badge!

The SUV’s styling has changed subtly over the years, and always divided opinion. Even Porsche fans agree its 911-inspired front end and round body look a little awkward, and parked next to the X6, the Cayenne is virtually nondescript. What it lacks in style it makes up for with practicality. Rear headroom is generous, while the conventional bench seat means you can carry three in the back. The tumbling squab also provides a maximum boot capacity of 1,770 litres – that’s 320 litres more than the BMW.

With the rear seats in place, the Cayenne’s boot is 30 litres smaller at 540 litres, but its opening rear screen makes loading easier, so the Porsche is clearly the more practical car. Climb aboard, and the driving position offers excellent visibility. The high-mounted seats are pure SUV, while the dash has the clear design we’d expect from the firm. Build quality is hard to fault, too, but the cabin is beginning to feel dated and isn’t as luxurious as the X6’s.

Crucially, fitting a diesel engine hasn’t hampered the Cayenne’s desirability. The VW-sourced 237bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI unit is mated to a six-speed Tiptronic auto, and the drivetrain is well proven. At start-up, it’s clatter-free and smooth enough not to offend those used to petrol Porsches. On the road, it lacks the deep reserves of torque that the BMW has, but performance is still strong. A 0-60mph time of 7.4 seconds is only six-tenths slower than the X6, while acceleration in kickdown is a close match. Unfortunately, the Cayenne’s Tiptronic gearbox is showing its age. It hunts for ratios too much in auto mode, and manual changes using the fiddly steering wheel buttons simply aren’t fast enough.

Yet while the gearbox takes the edge off the driving experience, Porsche’s engineers have worked hard to preserve the sharp handling of the petrol models. The steering is fluid and accurate, and the Cayenne feels surprisingly agile. It’s just a pity body roll is more pronounced than it is in the X6. Optional air-suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management improves the ride and tightens body control, but adds a hefty £1,931 to the £39,904 price. Even if you choose this costly extra, the Porsche is still cheaper than the X6. Improved economy and lower emissions make it much more attractive than its petrol stablemates, too.

The penalty comes on the price lists, where the diesel costs £2,603 more than the entry-level petrol Cayenne. But does it offer more driver appeal than the BMW?

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: High-powered VW V6 diesel is gutsy, and makes Cayenne a more attractive buy.

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