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2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel: First Drive

Redefining Performace

Text By , Photography by 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.

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.

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.

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.

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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