No car company or brand is more feverishly committed to its image than Porsche. It’s feverish to the point of fetish.
It works and, for that, I have a grudging admiration – because while Porsche is many good things, the company is something less than modest about its success, not to mention the on-road performance of its vehicles.
I suppose Porsche has earned the right to strut a little. Look at sales: 3,003 Porsches sold in Canada for 2012 and Porsche AG tells us the company “sold more sports cars in 2012 than ever before: 141,075 customer deliveries equal an increase of 18.7 per cent compared to last year’s record of 118,868 vehicles sold.”
Except Porsche didn’t sell 141,075 “sports cars.” No, Porsche sold 25,475 911 sports cars and another 9,253 Boxster roadsters, but the “model most in demand worldwide” was the Cayenne: 74,763 sold.
The Cayenne is an SUV and, without question, the saviour of the company. We are talking about a wonderful, brilliant SUV, but not a sports car. Some from the old school are still getting accustomed to Porsche the truck company and Porsche itself hedges on this matter once in a while.
Still, I love Porsche’s trucks and, after a week in the latest, the 2013 Cayenne Diesel ($64,500 base), I remain smitten. The Cayenne Diesel may be an SUV, but it’s as close to an oil-burning sports car as you can buy anywhere in the SUV world.
Thankfully, you can now purchase the Cayenne Diesel in Canada. We have known about this one since the Cayenne Diesel hit European showrooms in 2009; it just took Porsche Canada three years to come around to importing the Cayenne you should buy. I say that because the only SUV engine that makes any sense at all is a diesel.
In this rig, the 3.0-litre V-6 turbo-diesel engine pulses with 240 horsepower and a scary 406 lb-ft of torque – torque available from 1,750 rpm. So the power is just there, right there, when you mash the throttle. Whoosh, off to 100 km/h from nothing in a Porsche-claimed 7.6 seconds. Top speed is 218 km/h though, if you do that in Canada, you will likely have your car confiscated and all joy in your life will end with fines and suspensions and God knows what else.
All that muscular engine output comes with a 30 per cent increase in fuel efficiency “over the equivalent gasoline engine,” says Porsche. Look at the numbers: 10.8 litres/100 km in the city and 6.7 on the highway. Those are better than the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe Sport with its 2.0-litre gasoline turbo engine, for instance (11.0 city/8.4 highway).
I love that kind of fuel economy in a racy SUV with all-wheel drive that weighs 1,752 kg and will hold four big adults and all their ski gear while cornering on a rail after sprinting away from lesser cars and SUVs. Moreover, the Cayenne Diesel meets some tough emission standards, thanks to, among other things, what Porsche calls “selective catalytic reduction [SCR] technology.”
The SCR system boils down to urea injection technology and a tricky catalytic converter that reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The key ingredient is something called AdBlue, which is tanked in the car’s spare-wheel well. AdBlue is essentially a mixture of urea and deionized water. You need to refill this tank from time to time and that’s a rub.
According to Consumer Reports, AdBlue is pricey. To refill the tank in a big Mercedes-Benz GL diesel, the bill came to a “stunning $316.99 (all figures in U.S. dollars).” The magazine refilled at 16,566 miles, with the tank down to 18 per cent. The 7.5 gallons of AdBlue cost “an eye-opening $241.50 for the fluid alone” and labour took care of the rest.
“None of this was covered by the warranty,” noted CR, adding that refilling the AdBlue in this rig for 100,000 miles would cost $1,457.80. “That’s a lot of money, knocking about a third off of your fuel savings versus buying a GL450 V-8.”
So be warned. Some of what you’ll save at the pump will be offset by the AdBlue. I still like the Cayenne Diesel, though. It’s a gem of a performance machine.
The engine is as modern as they come, with high-pressure common rail fuel injection and a slick turbocharger. The power responses are instant, yet you do not hear any clackety-clack diesel sound. Ever. The eight-speed transmission delivers shifts so smooth you hardly notice them. The performance package rounds out with Porsche Traction Management (PTM): all-wheel-drive and a mechanically-locking rear differential. Again, when the AWD system is working, you never notice it.
This one’s a delight, though take note of the AdBlue cost – and the cost of extras. My tester started at $64,500, but the total price came to $97,385. And you wondered why Porsche is so phenomenally profitable and just a little smug.
2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Type: Luxury SUV
Price: $64,500 (freight $1,720); as tested, $97,385
Engine: 3.0-litre V-6, turbocharged diesel
Horsepower/torque: 240 hp/406 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.8 city/6.7 highway; diesel fuel
Alternatives: BMW X5 xDrive 35d, Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec
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Globe rating for the 2013 Porsche CayenneOur ratings guide
It’s not a sports car, but plenty of fast cars will have trouble keeping up with this SUV. The diesel engine delivers instant thrust and the handling is delightful without compromising a comfy ride quality.
Not everyone is in love with the looks of the Cayenne. But it is instantly recognizable as a Porsche.
The cabin is roomy and well-put-together, but the controls can be finicky and over-complicated.
Loaded with airbags and electronic aids and they are all there to protect you inside that robust safety cell.
For a big, heavy, fast rig, the fuel economy is terrific. Just watch out for the cost of those AdBlue refills.
(out of 10 / Not an average)
The numerical ratings are assigned by The Globe and Mail’s car reviewers on a scale out of ten. Each car is assigned a separate rating in five key categories - plus an overall satisfaction rating that is calculated separately, and is not an average of the five category ratings.
Vehicles that do not yet carry ratings on this site will be assigned them when the latest model is reviewed.