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Driving impression: Porsche Cayenne Diesel S

24 December 2013

A little earlier this year we took some of SA’s most popular SUVs to Botswana for a vehicle safari through the Khwai Conservancy. We’ll be posting reviews of all the vehicles that accompanied us over the next couple of weeks. You can read our travel article about the trip here

What words spring to mind when you read the terms “spirited driving” and “dynamic handling”? Chances are they weren’t “diesel” and “SUV”. But perhaps it’s time for a change of thinking…

Let’s be frank: the Porsche Cayenne doesn’t receive the admiration and recognition it deserves. Among hardcore SUV fans and Porsche purists alike, the Cayenne is viewed with some suspicion. Why, after all, has a company synonymous with small and nimble performance cars ventured into the SUV market?

The answer can be found in the Cayenne’s impressive sales figures. Porsche’s SUV has been a great success, and will continue to make profits to support the company’s funding of more ambitious sportscars for many years to come.

And why has the Cayenne been so successful? Yes, the Porsche badge has bolstered its popularity but it is also a properly impressive SUV in its own right.

Porsche has successfully married the spaciousness and commanding driving position of an SUV with the handling and performance of a sportscar. The Cayenne handles better, and remains more composed through corners, than one could reasonably expect from a heavy SUV. At times, it seems to defy the laws of physics.

Arguably the most impressive model in the Cayenne line-up is the S Diesel which, like its sort-of-cousin the Touareg, combines impressive performance with astounding fuel economy.

The S Diesel’s 4134cc V8 oilburner develops 281 kW of power and 850 Nm of torque, all while needing only 8,3-litres of fuel per 100km.

The Cayenne is an SUV that has been imbued with the spirit (and performance) of a sportscar but, as we discovered on our trip to Botswana, it isn’t out of its depth when hitting the rough stuff. With 18-inch tyres fitted, the Porsche never missed a beat while traversing Botswana’s sandy roads and fording its streams.

Who would expect to spot a Cayenne crossing a river in the middle of Botswana?

“We were very impressed by the performance of the Cayenne S Diesel,” says driver Christo Kruger. “I believe that the Cayenne astounded cynical bystanders.”

Indeed, those who thought the Porsche was nothing more than a Sandton 4×4 got an excellent demonstration of what the vehicle can do.

Yes, there is a place for a no-frills, hardcore 4×4, but there is also a place for an SUV that provides the sort of thrills you normally get only from a performance car. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.