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The Porsche Cayenne Diesel gives you 10.8L/100km in the city and 6.7L/100km on the highway. — rob rothwell photos/for the province

Prior to this week’s First Steer test drive, I’d always considered Porsche’s mid-size Cayenne to be more of a performance SUV than one oriented toward off-road driving, but the availability of a new diesel engine has altered that perception. The engine’s deep well of low-end torque and its exceptional economy make it better-suited to journeying beyond pavement’s end than any other Cayenne power plant.

Turbo-diesel’s no slouch

While the inherent characteristics of a diesel engine are generally preferable for off-road excursions than a gas counterpart, it can still deliver startling on-road performance, especially if Professor Ferdinand Porsche’s moniker is affixed.

Displacing 3.0-litres, the latest version of Porsche’s turbocharged diesel V6 power plant is 20kg lighter, featuring Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG) to enhance the turbocharger’s contribution to low-end torque, which is rated at 406 lbs.-ft at just 1,750 rpm.

The wallop of twist is accompanied by 240 horsepower, all of which is harnessed by an up-to-date 8-speed automatic transmission. According to Porsche data, the potency will hurl the luxury-laden ride from nada to 100km/h in just 7.6 seconds. Perhaps more impressive is how little fuel the new diesel-fed mill uses to accomplish it.

Clout with economy, the best of both worlds

The Cayenne Diesel is rated at 10.8L/100km and 6.7L/100km city and highway driving respectively. To put that into perspective, the new 5.0-litre V8 engine in the Land Rover LR4 I recently reviewed developed less torque while consuming more than its official rating of 17.1L/100km for city driving, which sadly is where most of us spend an inordinate amount of time.

With today’s fuel prices, the consumption penalty assessed the LR4 equates to roughly $10 for every 100km of city travel.

One further stat to consider is the LR4’s zero to 100 km sprint time.

It’s rated at 7.5 seconds, merely 1/10th of a tick faster than the diesel-sipping Cayenne; similar performance with radically dissimilar consumption. Of course, not everything happens in the passing lane.

Cayenne also rough worthy

My tester was equipped with Porsche’s optional air suspension, capable of raising the vehicle 58mm above its normal ride-height, for a total ground clearance of 268mm. The same setup automatically lowers the vehicle at predetermined speeds for improved aerodynamics and stability at high speeds.

Multiple traction-related programs aid the Cayenne’s intelligent all-wheel drive system in delivering torque where it’s needed most, front to back and side to side.

And when gravity replaces diesel propulsion, Porsche’s Hill Control (PHC) assist applies anti-lock braking to maintain a preset speed between 3 and 30 km/h.

Most Porsche owners are unlikely to stray far from a paved world, they are however, likely to encounter foul weather commutes and snowy excursions to the ski resort.

During these outings, Porsche’s Most Porsche owners are unlikely to stray far from a paved world, they are however, likely to encounter foul weather commutes and snowy excursions to the ski resort.

During these outings, Porsche’s on-board stability and control technologies will serve to enhance safety and comfort.

In the seat and on the road

I don’t want to sound cold and emotionless, though I may be, but the optional 18-way adaptive, heated sports seats in my tester were a marvellous replacement for the warmth and intimacy of a passionate embrace. I’m not sure that I’ve ever sat in automotive seats so infinitely supportive or form-fitting. Twisting the key brought Porsche’s diesel to life sans any hint of clatter or objectionable refrain. This is a quiet diesel with remarkably refined manners, yet slightly more pronounced operationally than its gasoline equivalent. The mighty mill is able to control torque like the Hoover controlling the Colorado; its linear output builds progressively as one sinks into the throttle. Unlike some power plants with aggressive throttle-mapping, the Cayenne’s go-pedal resists neck-snapping responses unless one really lays into it.

Impeccable driving dynamics

Even with the vehicle’s adjustable suspension set in its Comfort mode, the Cayenne Diesel felt stable and fully composed when cornered assertively. This sled doesn’t wince at the arrival of off-camber corners with a little too much speed under its belt. Exhibiting near zero body lean, it carves through turns in pure Porsche fashion while delivering an unexpectedly benevolent ride for such a capable beast.

Switchgear overkill

The sense of driving something far more thrilling and exotic than a typical SUV is underscored by the Cayenne’s racy instrumentation and complex switchgear.

The cockpit experience reminded me of occupying the left seat in a Boeing 747 flight simulator that I had the privilege to fly, but the multiplicity of the Cayenne’s controls tend to resist intuitive usage. And where’s the backup camera in my as tested, $97,385 example of German frugality? While there’s an audible park-assist program, the navigation screen doesn’t double as a camera when reversing the Cayenne, which has impeded rearward visibility. Then again, with a Porsche the action’s always up front, and the Cayenne Diesel is no different despite its meagre VW appetite.

2013 Porsche Cayenne a dynamic ride
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