Pop quiz: What's a Porsche and a Peterbilt have in common? In the case of the Cayenne, it's a diesel engine that feels as if it could pull a house.
And yes, you just read the words "Porsche" and "diesel" in the same sentence. We'll understand if this takes you by surprise. After all, Porsches -- even SUV Porsches -- have long been associated with high speed, nimble handling and svelte design. Diesel engines, in contrast, are often equated with smoky tailpipes, raucous noise, and use in the kind of vehicles whose design appears inspired by a box. Well for those who haven't heard, today's diesels are totally different. And so is this Porsche, which recently arrived in the U.S. for the 2013 model year.
To get you up to speed on the first point, today's diesel engines are cleaner, quieter and just strikingly better than their oil-burning ancestors of the '80s. Thank advanced technology and increased environmental awareness. Regarding the second point, the Porsche Cayenne Diesel remains a Porsche, meaning it's quick, agile and as gorgeous as any other Cayenne since its main differentiator is what's under the hood.
Improved fuel economy is one of the biggest motivators for buying any diesel-powered passenger vehicle, and this sleek Porsche is no exception. To put it succinctly, diesel fuel has more energy density and their engines operate more efficiency than gasoline models, which adds up to markedly improved fuel economy. In the case of the Cayenne, the diesel V6 engine boasts an EPA highway rating of 29 mpg, vs. a 23 mpg best from a gasoline V6 Cayenne. (Gasoline V8-powered Cayennes, meanwhile, have lower digits in the mpg department but also lower times in the 0-60 mph one.)
And the good news doesn't stop there. Over days in a 2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel, I easily bested its EPA-rated figures. In highway driving, I was averaging around 33 mpg. That would be impressive in a family sedan, never mind an all-wheel-drive SUV that tips the scale at nearly 4,800 pounds. For that you can thank the heart of this Porsche: a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel that makes 240 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque.
It just feels different
It's that stout torque figure that enables the diesel Cayenne to accelerate quickly and pull like a tractor. In fact, with a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds, this more fuel-efficient Cayenne is just as fleet off the line as a Cayenne with a 300-horsepower gasoline V6.
Aside from the Cayenne Diesel's impressive fuel economy, acceleration and towing capacity (up to 7,716, like its petrol-powered counterparts), there's just something intrinsically satisfying about it. That diesel engine, similar to the one used in its cousins the Audi Q5 and VW Touareg, makes the Cayenne feel like a different animal. Hear the still-audible but not intrusive diesel patter, feel the way it pulls, and suddenly the Cayenne Diesel just feels more rugged, more adventurous, more ... SUV-like. Yet it retains the dynamic handling, easy maneuvering, and comfortable ride quality of any other Cayenne. What a fine balance.
The Cayenne Diesel is not quite perfect, with my biggest qualm being turbo lag. This momentary lapse between your right foot flooring the accelerator and the Cayenne transmitting that action to forward momentum is a characteristic of turbodiesels, and this model is not immune. But it's a small gripe, and if you anticipate needing quicker access to the freeway or for passing slower vehicles, you can always put the rig in Sport mode for faster acceleration and snappier shifts.
Higher cost, better resale
The diesel version of the Cayenne comes at a price premium over the base V6 gasoline version, but the cost gap isn't as wide as it may first appear, and almost negligible over a few years. A base Cayenne arrives with an MSRP of $50,575, while the diesel version starts $7,000 higher at $57,575. But a big chunk of that cost is made up when you factor in transmission. The Cayenne Diesel comes standard with a wonderful 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic with manual control. A base, gasoline-powered Cayenne is equipped with a 6-speed manual, and opting for the 8-speed automatic is a $3,000 upgrade.
In the long-run, the Cayenne Diesel pencils out even more favorably. Thanks to factors such as an improved resale value and better fuel economy, the 5-Year Cost To Own between a base V6 Cayenne with automatic transmission and a Cayenne Diesel is less than $300.
Factoring in those financials over a gasoline V6 Cayenne and the aforementioned intrinsic satisfaction of driving a diesel, this would easily be my Cayenne of choice.
More 2014 Porsche Cayenne diesel...
More Quick Takes...
Popular at KBB.com