First drive: Porsche Cayenne S Diesel
The most un-vulgar overpowered SUV in its class has arrived, says Paul Horrell
Posted: 25 Oct 2012
I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but here's a version of the Porsche Cayenne that's about the most un-vulgar vehicle in its class.
OK, so the class in question is consumptively vulgar and overpowered enormo-SUVs. It qualifies for that class because it has a twin-turbo V8 with 381bhp and 627 torques, weighs 2.2 tonnes, and is so bulky that even the 20-inch wheels of my tester looked like castors.
Still, among its peers this Cayenne is comparatively subtle and thrifty. It gets all that thrust from a diesel engine that can do 34mpg - at least when you drive it as gingerly as they do in the official test.
And the one I'm driving is painted a non-shouty soil colour, so you can even read some curves into the bodywork. It avoids the brutal blocky look of all those SUVs running black paint, black glass and too-shiny rims.
Driving it, there's a pleasure to be had from wafting along. The diesel engine really does manage, most of the time, to sound like a distant big-cube petrol V8. Luckily it doesn't drink like one. The transmission smoothly defaults to a high gear, the revs drop to a easeful woofle, and the air-sprung ride is mostly very bottom-soothing. The steering is accurate but not so involving that you constantly feel the need to get involved. Instead you enjoy the scenery from the elevated view out.
But you never were really going to let all that power and torque go to waste were you? Not all the time anyway. This is a 5.7 seconds to 62 mph sort of car. Well, the transmission's happy to make the most of it, and with the standard electronically controlled centre diff, and the optional rear one, the torque gets played out among the wheels to dramatic advantage. Not so long ago you'd have needed a posh GT car to sweep through bends like this. Now a huge diesel SUV can manage it.
At a starting price of £58,243, you could almost say it's a bargain. I mean, some people spend that on a Boxster S. OK, my taste leans decisively to the Boxster, but you've got to agree that this is - by Porsche standards - a whole lot of car and engine for the money.
Too many hyper-engined SUVs are ruined by their power. They have suspensions and tyres that make them ride like carts, and they get stopped in their silly tracks by snow and mud or rocks. They need filling with fuel every couple of hours. They render themselves humiliatingly pointless.
This one doesn't. And of course since it's a Porsche, it's built so beautifully it feels like it'll last until the end of the world. Luckily, you won't want to die of embarrassment first.