Across most of the 2013 Porsche Cayenne model line—and that includes the new Cayenne Diesel—you get strong, satisfying performance.
Depending on your expectations, the only exception to that might be the base Cayenne V-6; with its higher power and weight loss since the Cayenne's redesign a couple of years ago, the base Cayenne and its 300-horsepower 3.6-liter (VR6) V-6 engine is sharp enough to execute quick passes—and relatively fuel-efficient—but it's not much quicker than the punchier V-6 minivans on the market (7.1 seconds to 60 mph).
A six-speed manual is standard on the base Cayenne, while Cayenne S, Turbo, and Hybrid models get the eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic (it's optional with the V-6). All Cayennes have all-wheel drive.
Above the base model is the Cayenne S, which performs considerably better and packs a 400-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine. Zero-to-60 mph times are shortened to 5.6 seconds, top speed is 160 mph, and the brawnier powertrain is a more appropriate fit for the look and feel of this performance SUV.
New for 2013 and slotting between the base model and the Cayenne S is the Cayenne Diesel. While the diesel is rated at just 240 horsepower, from its 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine, it's the substantial 406 pound-feet of torque--37 lb-ft more than the Cayenne S and 111 lb-ft more than the base Cayenne--that really matters. The Diesel can get to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds--faster than the automatic version of the Cayenne V-6, with a top speed of 135 mph. And like the rest of the Cayenne lineup, it carries a 7,716-pound tow rating.
The Cayenne Turbo remains oriented toward those who want the most performance, and performance that's more on par with Porsche's sports cars; it gets a 4.4-second 0-60 time from a 500-horsepower turbocharged 4.8-liter engine and a top speed of 172 mph.
Yet another model new for this year is the Turbo S. It gains 50 horsepower over the Turbo's 500 hp, plus an extra 37 pound-feet of torque (554 pound-feet in all)--plus a Dynamic Chassis Control system and Torque Vectoring Plus, to help get all that power to the pavement.
Meanwhile, a new Cayenne GTS model slots in between the Cayenne S and the Turbo; it gets 20 horsepower more than the Cayenne S, as well as a lowered (20 mm) suspension, lower final-drive ratio, and other appearance upgrades. Performance for the GTS slots in between, as you might guess, at 5.4 seconds and 162 mph.
Rounding out the lineup, and appealing to those who want to be a little greener but not give up the engaging driving experience, is the Cayenne S Hybrid. With its hybrid system, combining an electric motor system and a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine, it makes 380 horsepower, with a top speed of 150 mph.
Compared to virtually any other tall utility, handling is exemplary. Plus, you get excellent steering feel (relative to other SUVs), surprisingly little body roll, and immense cornering traction--especially from the huge wheels and tires that you get in the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo versions.
Off-road ability remains a cornerstone of sport-utility vehicles, and while the Cayenne keeps weight under control in going with a more carlike 4WD layout, it hasn't completely abandoned rugged trail ability. While the latest generation of the Cayenne no longer includes a dual-range transfer case, it does get the electronic Porsche Traction Management system, which offers three modes for loose sand/snow, wet surfaces and mud, or rocky terrain. Whether flat, uphill, or downhill, PTM controls the throttle and individual brakes in complex ways to make the most of available traction.