2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel: First Drive

Redefining Performace

Feb 1, 2013
Photographers: Courtesy of Porsche
Porsche is a brand that is synonymous with performance, innovation, and driver experience, so what does it mean when the brand adds a diesel-powered vehicle to its lineup? In the case of the ’13 Cayenne, it means a new definition of performance in Porsche showrooms.
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The modern diesel market in the U.S. has been in its infancy for a number of years, but thanks to higher levels of consumer acceptance and parity in emissions standards between the U.S. and Europe, all of that is poised to change. It doesn’t hurt that diesels are now seen as a premium product and also help manufacturers meet fuel economy goals.
On sale in Europe since 2009 (and commanding a full 25 percent of European sales), the Cayenne Diesel will be the first vehicle in Porsche’s lineup to test the waters for a diesel in the U.S. So what does Porsche know about diesels? Believe it or not, Porsche has a diesel lineage that reaches back to its line of tractors, so popular in the ’60s that they outsold the company’s own sports cars of the same era. Also, as part of the Volkswagen Group, Porsche has access to class-leading diesel technology that has been co-developed along with the company’s sister brands.
In the case of the Cayenne Diesel, the engine is the same excellent 60-degree 3.0L DOHC V-6, four-valve-per-cylinder unit found in the VW Touareg and Audi Q7, but with Porsche-specific tuning, it has the highest output of any version—240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.
With a compression ratio of 16.8:1, the engine uses high-pressure common-rail fuel injection with piezo injectors capable of operating at 29,000 psi. A variable-vane geometry turbocharger feeding dual intercoolers improves throttle response and aids fuel economy. The block is constructed from vermicular, or compacted graphite iron, which reduces mass over a similar cast-iron block by about 55 pounds, while also increasing robustness. A fast-start feature, with two pre-injections on a cold engine, allows the combustion chamber to reach 1,800 degrees in just two short seconds.
Photo 3/10   |   With the optional 21-inch wheels, the Cayenne looks athletic and purposeful.
The engine’s emissions equipment is composed of a catalytic converter, EGR, DPF, and SCR, allowing it to meet rigid U.S. Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions standards, as well as Euro 5. The SCR system relies on AdBlue fluid (urea), which uses a 5.5-gallon tank mounted in the spare tire well that is heated for cold-weather performance. Porsche tells us that the average consumer will see about 10,000 miles between refills. Sadly, if you ignore the warnings and allow the tank to run dry, you won’t even be harangued by a “limp” mode—the Cayenne just won’t start. Presumably, this is an effort to preserve baby seals everywhere, as well as your relationship with the EPA.
Photo 4/10   |   Porsche has a feature in the filler nozzle to prevent filling up with the wrong fuel. By only accepting the larger, diesel-sized nozzle, gasoline can’t be accidentally introduced into the tank.
Mated to the diesel engine is Porsche’s eight-speed Tiptronic, which can be found in other Cayenne variants, minus the start-stop feature. From there, power flows into a full-time all-wheel-drive system, which utilizes a Torsen locking center differential. The whole system is controlled by Porsche Traction Management (PTM), which should allow the Cayenne to be an excellent all-weather vehicle.
With an invite from Porsche to join the company in Anchorage, Alaska, we were able to sample the new Cayenne firsthand on Alaska’s scenic Seaward Highway. Our first impressions of the Cayenne were in favor of the chiseled styling, which is athletic and modern. We were also pleasantly surprised that the Cayenne Diesel’s only tell is small “diesel” fender badges.
Photo 5/10   |   The only way to identify the Cayenne Diesel is to look for these badges on the front fenders.
Slide your seating surface into one of the comfortable, thickly bolstered chairs, and you’ll find that the supportive seats fit like a glove. Showcasing the same raised, full-length-style consoles, the Cayenne has the driver-centric cockpit feeling of other Porsche vehicles. The sumptuous interior is finished in some of the highest automotive-grade materials available, and while the controls take a little bit of time to master, after a while they feel like second nature. Sealing yourself in the cabin, the doors close with a pleasing, wrought-from-billet “thunk.”
With a twist of the key, it’s hard to tell the engine is running in the well-insulated cabin, let alone that it is a diesel. The only indication from the inside is the redline on the tach, which makes an appearance at 4,600 rpm. Under load, the 3.0L offers up a subdued, if not a satisfying, growl. At cruise, it is docile as the quietest gasoline engines, but with a dip into the throttle, the engine wakes up with deceiving power.
The 406 lb-ft of torque is accessed as low as 1,750 rpm and helps the Cayenne Diesel achieve 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds—quicker than the standard Tiptronic-equipped Cayenne gasoline V-6 model (7.4 seconds). It also has exceptional passing power, which not only means confidence on two-lane roads but will also have you easily threatening your clean driving record when overtaking others. Several times we passed a motorhome only to look down and see close to triple digits—it’s that quick.
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The diesel model has the same 175-mph speedo as other, lesser Cayennes, which is a bit optimistic, considering Porsche claims a top speed of just 135 mph. Although we can confirm that at 130 mph, our test example was still ticking off numbers as if it was capable of something north of 140. At those higher velocities, wind noise was negligible, and the Cayenne was rock solid.
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With nicely weighted, communicative steering and fully independent suspension, the Cayenne proved adept at toying with Alaska’s twisty roads at speed. Our tester was equipped with the optional air suspension system, which adds to the Cayenne’s versatility. On the highway, it hunkers down to improve aerodynamics, while in the dirt it rises to the occasion with increased ground clearance. We were also impressed with the linear feedback of the braking system, which grabs the vented rotors like a Starbucks junkie after a Vente. With huge rotors and six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears, fade was never an issue during our test.
On our return from Alaska, we wanted to get more seat time in the Cayenne Diesel to better assess range and fuel economy, so Porsche lent us one for a weekend. On a trip from Los Angeles to St. George, Utah, and back, we achieved an impressive 30.29 mpg, with a best tank of 31.21 mpg. This gave us a maximum theoretical range of more than 800 miles, beating Porsche estimates for both mileage and range. After this trip, the Cayenne Diesel quickly rose to the top of our list as a favorite road trip vehicle.
Photo 8/10   |   Here you can see that when the air suspension is at its highest setting, the Cayenne has enough ground clearance to safely explore areas away from the pavement.
Let’s go back and review this notion of redefined performance. The Cayenne Diesel is not the fastest Cayenne, or even the quickest, and you won’t be chasing anyone down on the Autobahn with it. So in the traditional sense, it might not meet your initial perceptions of the Porsche brand. However, if you look at performance as an indicator of efficiency and capability, the Cayenne Diesel stacks up nicely. It boasts a best-in-class 7,716-pound towing capacity and with highway fuel economy rated at 29 mpg, it bests the $14,100 more expensive and more complex Cayenne S Hybrid’s performance by a full 5 mpg.
Starting at just $55,750, the Cayenne Diesel is at a reasonable price point for what you get, including an impressive chassis and impressive standard amenities. Although, customers who like to go wild and personalize with accessories and options should proceed with caution, as checking off every option box can easily inflate your out-the-door price to the neighborhood (as in, next door) of $100,000.
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Porsche is planning for the Cayenne Diesel to make up 10 percent of total sales this year, with a goal of eventually reaching 15 to 20 percent of the total mix in the U.S. After our time in the Cayenne, we think these goals are within reach, as the Cayenne Diesel offers true capability without compromise in a package worthy of the Porsche name.
We also have to wonder if this is just the first volley in a stream of future diesel products for Porsche’s U.S. showrooms. As for now, the more performance-oriented Cayenne S Diesel with the 4.2L V-8 is a Europe-only model, but could the success of the Cayenne Diesel in America open the door for a U.S. version? With 377 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque on tap, you can be sure that diesel development is alive and well within the Porsche portfolio. As good as the Cayenne Diesel is, it just might be the beginning of what Porsche has planned for diesels in America.
Photo 10/10   |   The 3.0L DOHC V-6 doles out torque like an ATM machine on the fritz discharges cash.
FAST SPECS
Vehicle model: 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Base price: $55,750
Engine type: 3.0L 60-degree V-6
Valvetrain: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Aspiration: Turbocharged, single VGT
Mfg.’s hp: 240 hp at 4,000 rpm
Mfg.’s torque: 406 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic
Axle ratio: 3.27:1
Suspension (f/r): Independent, double wishbone/Independent multi-link
Steering: Variable ratio power rack and pinion
Brakes (f/r): 13.78x1.34-inch vented rotors with six-piston monobloc calipers/13x0x1.1-inch vented rotors with four-piston monobloc calipers
Wheels/Tires: 18x8-inch aluminum wheels/P255/55R18
Curb weight: 4,795 pounds
Max payload capacity: 1,488 pounds
Max towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
Fuel capacity: 26.4 gallons
DEF capacity: 5.5 gallons
EPA city/hwy mileage estimates: 19/29 mpg
Observed fuel economy: 30.29 mpg
Estimated Range: 765 miles
Fast Look
We like: Great chassis and engine, solid build quality, fuel economy and range
We’d change: Options get pricey quick
We say: One of the best diesel-powered SUVs around

2015 Porsche Cayenne Specifications

VIEW ALL
Fair Market Price $59,633
MSRP $61,700
Editors' Overall Rating
Mileage 20 City / 29 Highway
Engine 3.0L V6
Horse Power 240 hp @ 3,500 rpm
Torque 406 ft lb of torque @ 1,750 rpm
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Porsche Cayenne

Fair Market Price
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Editors' Overall Rating
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MSRP: $61,700
Mileage: 20 / 29
Engine: 3.0L V6
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