Porsche Cayenne S Diesel: Is a diesel SUV too much of a stretch for this iconic brand?

2013 Porsche Cayenne S Diesel front three-quarter viewThe Porsche Cayenne was utter blasphemy when it lumbered into dealerships in 2003; not only had Porsche never built an SUV before, some of its fans were still grumbling about the switch to water cooling. Of course, while it has stretched the limits of brand values, the Cayenne has been a big seller for Porsche. Now, the company is taking things one step further with the Cayenne S Diesel.

That’s right: you can buy a Porsche SUV with a diesel engine. Surely, this is a sign of the apocalypse, or is it?

The Cayenne S Diesel’s engine isn’t exactly crude. It’s a 4.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V8, making 381 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. That gives it 81 more horses than a base, gasoline powered Cayenne, and just 20 less than a gasoline Cayenne S, along with much more torque than either.

Porsche says the Cayenne S Diesel will do 0 to 62 mph (0 to 100 kph) in 5.7 seconds, just 0.1 second slower than the regular Cayenne S.

Power is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Cayenne S Diesel also has an engine start/stop function to save fuel while waiting at traffic lights.

Fuel economy is, after all, the main reason to trade the roar of a gasoline V8 for the muffled whine of a diesel. According to Porsche, the Cayenne S Diesel will return 28 mpg on the European test cycle. The gasoline-powered Cayenne S is good for 22 mpg on the EPA cycle.2013 Porsche Cayenne S Diesel engine cover

The Cayenne S Diesel can also go 745 miles between fill-ups, thanks to a 26.4-gallon fuel tank. That should make it an excellent Family Truckster for the gated community set.

If you don’t have a problem with a Porsche SUV, this latest variant seems to offer a reasonable trade between performance and fuel economy. Unfortunately, the Cayenne S Diesel is not coming to the United States; the twin-turbo V8 does not meet federal emissions regulations.

Instead, Americans get a base Cayenne Diesel, powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 240 hp and 406 lb-ft. This diesel will get from 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, and returns 29 mpg highway on the EPA cycle. It goes on sale this month.

The Cayenne S Diesel will go on sale in Europe in January, for the equivalent of $93,806. The regular Cayenne Diesel starts at $55,750.

The Cayenne S Diesel proves that a diesel SUV can still be sporty, although the base Cayenne Diesel might be taking things a little too far. Of course, neither car is a 911. Buyers who want a truly sporty car, and not just something that is sporty for its class, should try that rear-engined wonder.