For a lot of people, it was strange enough when Porsche introduced a sport/utility vehicle at all. Yet, once the second generation arrived, the Cayenne was lauded for being more of a Porsche than the first generation was, and the controversy had eased. The Cayenne had been accepted as a Porsche, and as a capable SUV.

There have been many trim levels and engine options introduced in the Cayenne, but implementing the diesel engine is a true milestone: This marks the first time Porsche has powered any of its passenger vehicles with a diesel engine. It's not that Porsche has zero experience with diesels, though. The last time there were diesels was when the company used them to power its tractors.

While at first glance, the combination of diesel motivation and sportiness don't seem to go together, if you look at motorsport, companies have won championships with diesel-powered sports cars and SUVs, on the track and in the dirt. Just because the Porsche has a diesel engine does not mean it isn't fun.

In this case, the diesel is a 3.0-liter DOHC turbo V-6 that puts out 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque -- and the peak torque is at a low, low 1750 rpm. It's backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission. If that combination sounds familiar, it's because its Volkswagen kin, the Touareg, also is offered with that combination.

There is no power penalty with the diesel. In fact, having massive amounts of torque on hand at low rpm meant that acceleration was strong and swift from a stop, and climbing steep hills was effortless. In addition, driving on twisty roads made it clear the Cayenne is essentially a sports car that can tow 7700 pounds and carry gear. Our tester came equipped with air suspension, and with Sport Mode engaged, the vehicle did not feel like a large, 5122-pound SUV. It was tremendous fun on twisty roads, and the Porsche felt smaller and more athletic than an SUV should. The steering was responsive, brakes reacted well, and the Cayenne's behavior in turns was predictable and inspired confidence. The suspension tuning was excellent, and there wasn't a severe compromise in ride quality on the highway and straightaways. The Porsche wasn't as cushy as other SUVs in that size category, but it was certainly pleasant and comfortable. That same air suspension also proved its worth off-road, where the Cayenne had little trouble conquering the soft-road paths, hill climbs, and rocks we put in its way. It was easy to put the Porsche in off-road mode, and it did well in the dirt.

At the track, the Cayenne reached 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, and completed the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 87.7 mph. It came to a stop in an impressive 116 feet from 60 mph. During our evaluation, we also looked at fuel economy, and it was impressive; we recorded an average of 29.2 mpg.

The cabin is quintessential Porsche: High-quality, attractive black leather is draped over the seats and much of the cabin. There are paddle shifters, but they weren't the best ones we've ever used. The location on the front of the steering wheel is awkward. There is an easy solution: Just move them to the back of the wheel. There is no shortage of buttons and switches on the center stack, and while that seemed intimidating at first, the controls are grouped in a logical way and are easy to learn. For example, climate control is in one area, and suspension controls are in another. Sound isolation was excellent, and there were wonderful touches, like the traditional compass at the top of the dash, the altimeter, and bolstered seats that seemed to offer infinite adjustment choices.

However, the Cayenne has three shortcomings. One is cargo volume. With the seats up, there's only 23.7 cubic feet of space, and with the second row folded, that number goes up to 62.9. Whether the seats are up or down, that's less than what the Touareg, M-Class, or BMW X5 offer. Second, the rear window and rearview mirror are too small, reducing visibility.

The third shortcoming is the hardest to deal with: the as-tested price. It costs over $93,000 as equipped. For that price, you could buy a Touareg, which uses the same engine, plus a Ford F-150 FX2. We know that you get a lot more because it's a Porsche, that it offers the suspension tuning and driving dynamics of a Porsche, and that, frankly, people who want a Porsche won't be the least bit concerned about the price. This is an excellent vehicle, one that provides everything a Porsche driver would want, but for those of us where money is an object, that's a tough pill to swallow.


2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
BASE PRICE $59,725
PRICE AS TESTED $93,035
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/240-hp/406-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5122 lb (52/48%)
WHEELBASE 114.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 190.8 x 76.3 x 67.4 in
0-60 MPH 6.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.3 sec @ 87.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 116 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.85 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 19/29 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY201/132 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.99 lb/mi