Forgiving Porsche’s tenuous link between the Cayenne and the “989”, and its misguided attempt to give the Cayenne “pedigree,” before it even existed, you could never argue against its prowess. Or the fact that an existing 911 Carrera owner would gladly pick a well priced Cayenne for their next family car.

The 2011 Cayenne has been completely redesigned from the ground up and is now 185kg lighter thanks to extensive aluminium usage. More powerful, more efficient and greener to the tune of 25% over the range, its also longer, taller and wider but with less ground clearance, clearly marking a U-turn in Porsche’s belief that the Cayenne had to be unmatched off-road as well as on it.

Beauty, as we know, is in the eyes of the beholder, but I for one think they’ve gone in the wrong direction (if there is such a thing in Sports SUV styling?). Rounder and less masculine rarely works on a big car and the restyle has left it looking too Pacific Rim for my taste.

Drivetrain wise there are five variants:

The entry level Cayenne with a 220kW and 400Nm, 3.6-litre V6 that does 0-100kph in 7.5 seconds and 230kph.

The Cayenne S, with a 4.8-litre V8, pumps out 294kW and 500Nm, tops out at 258kph, and gets to 100kph in 5.9 seconds.

The top dog Cayenne Turbo will blast you to 100kph in a maddening 4.7 seconds on its way to 278kph, thanks to a 383kW & 700Nm, twin turbo 4.8-litre V8.

The V6 felt a little under powered for the big Porsche, the S was blisteringly quick, sounded great and was more than enough Porsche to have fun in. The Turbo, well, that was like time travel. You put your foot down and view outside the cabin instantly went stringy like it might on the Starship Enterprise.

I found myself wanting to deride the diesel; something along the lines of “it has no place in a pedigree Porsche.” Then I remembered that the nine year old Cayenne doesn’t really have any pedigree, and it’s actually the perfect, philanthropic choice from a company that’s never been renowned for compromise. Rest assured; the diesel motor will never find its way into the 911, and that’s all we can ask of them I suppose. It is however, a very fine turbo diesel motor: 176kW and 550Nm from a 3.0-litre V6.

The Cayenne S Hybrid, and you should really stop sniggering under your breath now, is the real surprise. The highly sophisticated drivetrain, feels thoroughly impressive to drive, which is saying something, considering Porsche’s never fail to impress. 280kW and 580Nm are available from the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine and electric motor. Porsche claim the performance of a V8 when you bury your foot, but the consumption of a much tinier engine when you’re just coasting through town. They’re spot on. The hybrid integrates drive seemlessly in any conditions and goes like a fire starter when you light the fuse.

Don’t think of it as a misguided, mushy, green-pea attempt at saving the planet with a sports SUV. They’ve created a genuinely viable, alternative drivetrain here in the S Hybrid, which will do 242kph at the top end, but be ultra frugal everywhere else. The claimed / combined consumption figure is 8.2-litres per 100km, or roughly that of a mid-level family hatchback.

Cayenne –                    (220kW) – R654, 000

Cayenne Diesel –          (176kW) – R680, 000

Cayenne S –                 (294kW) – R775, 000

Cayenne S Hybrid –      (280kW) – R830, 000

Cayenne Turbo –          (383kW) – R1, 430, 000

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