The Porsche Cayenne remains problematic from a brand purist’s point of view: it’s too big, too mass-market, too similar to other products from the Volkswagen Group (in this sense, it’s a harbinger of the future). For the luxury SUV buyer unburdened by such philosophical concerns, however, the Cayenne is a compelling vehicle. With last year’s redesign, the Cayenne looks much trimmer–and it is. An aluminum-intensive structure and a revised all-wheel-drive system shave up to 400 pounds from the previous Cayenne, depending on options. There are, of course, lots of options, from four powertrains to $2330 painted air-conditioning vents. The Hybrid achieves 20/23 mpg thanks to the 47-hp electric motor paired with its Audi-sourced 3.0-liter V-6, but it suffers from the dynamic pitfalls typical of this technology, including unnatural-feeling brakes. We hope the Cayenne diesel, headed to our market later this year, will serve up efficiency with fewer compromises. Those who don’t really care about fuel efficiency in their German luxury crossover can opt for the 500-hp, 4.8-liter twin-turbo V-8, which makes the Cayenne Turbo feel far more agile than the previous version. The interior, even without those fancy A/C vents, will please even the pickiest luxury customers. The cornucopia of buttons on the center console may confound drivers at first, but they become rather intuitive over time.

Drive: 4-wheel

Trim levels: Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne S Hybrid, Cayenne Turbo

Body style: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger

Engines: 3.0L turbo-diesel V-6, 236 hp, 406 lb-ft (est.)

3.0L V-6/electric hybrid, 380 hp, 428 lb-ft

3.6L V-6, 300 hp, 295 lb-ft

4.8L V-8, 400 hp, 369 lb-ft

4.8L twin-turbo V-8, 500 hp, 516 lb-ft

Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic

Passenger volume: 95.0

Capacities: Towing 5952-7716 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 20.5-23.7/59.7-62.9 cu ft

The big news for 2012 is that a diesel Cayenne will soon come to the United States. That 3.0-liter V-6 will deliver 236 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque (although final U.S. specifications may change a bit). Porsche has not yet announced EPA fuel economy estimates, but in European tests the diesel matches the Cayenne S Hybrid’s city mileage and scores an impressive 7 mpg better on the highway.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard on the Cayenne, as are rear side curtain air bags and a knee air bag for the driver. Traction control, stability control, and ABS are standard.

All: 15-22 mpg city/22-28 mpg highway

  • Sports car acceleration
  • Recent redesign cut some fat
  • Well-appointed interior
  • Still a big, heavy vehicle
  • Exorbitant prices for some

A slimmer and sleeker SUV.

  • BMW X5
  • Land Rover Range Rover Sport
  • Volkswagen Touareg

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