You scream, I scream, we all scream for – diesel?
The scenario: automotive writers are invited to test-drive new vehicles at a launch, often on foreign soil. There are frequently a few diesel versions of the car of the moment in the fleet. The auto writers all fight over the diesels, they fall in love with those diesels, then are told that those diesels will not be available in their markets. They include this information in their article, and readers all write and yell at them to tell them how much they would appreciate the availability of a diesel version.
And the readers are right – and as has been noted in Globe Drive over the past year or so – more diesels are coming. Much of the hesitation in rolling out diesels for some auto makers has been the disinterested shrug from American buyers, along with tougher emission standards. Canada's market needs to tag team with the American one to make the numbers work, with notable exceptions from Mercedes and Volkswagen, which recognized the love affair Europeans – and European-influenced buyers – have with diesels, and have been offering them for years.
Porsche recently launched its second entry into the North American diesel arena with the 2013 Cayenne; the first was in the 1960s, when it sold tractors here – a fun barn find. If it weren't for the lower-case "diesel" on the front fenders of the Cayenne, you'd be hard-pressed to know this was a diesel. It's a little noisier than a gasoline Cayenne, but even that is really picking and, in the cabin, tire sizes affected noise more than the engine did.
A diesel weighing 2,175 kg that hauls itself from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds has no lack of guts. Doing that repeatedly will probably destroy the posted fuel economy numbers (10.8 litres/100 km city and 6.7 highway), but there's no doubting you're driving a Porsche. I felt only a slight tug when giving it more gas – sorry, diesel – in the middle of an incline, but the recovery was instant. The 240 hp may seem low, but the 406 lb-ft of torque is outrageous and, in this class of vehicle, that number matters more than wanting horsepower to thrash around a racetrack. Consider the base Cayenne, starting at $56,600 that has 295 lb-ft of torque, or the V-8 Cayenne S with 369.
For the first time, ever, my ride matched the fuel economy numbers as posted. A couple of driving days would have been better to truly test it, but for a new vehicle on Alaska's excellent highways (the topography varies, but it was more elevation and curves than Enter at Your Own Risk zones), I'm confident owners will realize the range as advertised. The optional Porsche Active Suspension Management ($3,980) let us raise the truck to skirt down some Alaskan river banks – to a maximum ground clearance of 269 mm. You'd want this as well as the optional skid plates ($1,480) and underbody protection ($1,330) to assault more than cottage roads off season.
Imagine getting from Toronto to Montreal – and back – on a 100-litre tank of fuel, with some to spare. Or from Thunder Bay to Kelowna on two. The Cayenne Turbo sucks so much gas it's hard to believe these two vehicles – identical twins on the outside – could share a market. A better comparison? The diesel boasts 30 per cent better fuel economy over the same-sized gas engine. Porsche says in ideal conditions you could get nearly 1,500 km on that tank. It'd be fun to test that number.
People want diesel for a reason: in Canada, it's readily available, it's comparable in price to gasoline, and it makes sense if you haven't reached a comfort zone with the newer technologies that are changing rapidly. Diesel is tried and true and, with emission-scrubbing technology removing the ick factor, look for a stampede in all segments of the diesel market over the coming years.
The diesel sits just below the S model on the Cayenne hierarchy, and above the base model Tiptronic. While Porsches are famous for escalating wildly from their offered base price by the time you go trick or treating in the add-ons, Porsche owners already know this. The diesel has a base price of $64,500, though the stock model will still have you in an interior of great bolstered seats, a capable sound system and the most important part of this vehicle: those fuel consumption numbers, that handling and that ride.
Porsche may have waited 50 years to bring a diesel back to these shores, but its prediction of this diesel to take 10 per cent of the model's sales may prove to be too humble.
2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Type: Five-passenger SUV
Base price: $64,500; as tested, $85,310
Engine: 3.0-litre, turbo-diesel, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 240 hp/406 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with available manual
Fuel economy (litres/100km): 10.8 city/6.7 highway; diesel fuel
Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz ML350, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Volkswage Touareg (both the Audi and VW use the engine the Porsche engineers started with for the Cayenne diesel)