DIESEL has undergone a huge change of image in the last couple of decades.
Several popular misconceptions grew up around it when it first became widely used after the Second World War.
Many espoused the view, due to its high sulphur content, that diesel was a heavy pollutant, while others said it was unreliable and inefficient.
Most of these early concerns, though, probably related more to the primitive nature of early diesel engines than to the juice itself.
Today, with the advent of very low sulphur mixes and vastly improved engine technology, what was once seen as dirty diesel is regarded by many as the ideal green fuel.
Better economy than petrol and durable hard-wearing engines mean that diesel propelled cars go on for miles and miles in every sense – and they have become hugely popular across the world.
Still, though, there seems a reluctance to acknowledge it’s merits.
Despite the fact we drive them in our droves we don’t get excited about our diesel motors – especially us blokes.
Most likely that is something to do with our machismo and the final falsehood that oil burners somehow lack the power and performance of their petrol-driven cousins and are, therefore, beneath the serious petrol head.
If anything is designed to debunk that final myth, though, then it is surely the Porsche Cayenne diesel.
The oil-burning version of Porsche’s SUV wears it’s diesel status like a badge of honour, the word emblazoned on the front flanks of the vehicle.
And perhaps like no other car this luxury 4x4 proves that diesels can turn in high performance and be great fun.
First introduced early in 2009 it was the first, and is still the only, diesel produced by the German marque – and they certainly haven’t gone in for any half measures.
There are 240 horses lurking beneath the bonnet which offer an intoxicating mix of power and poise when they are unleashed.
You’ll scamper from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and the 3.0-litre, V6 turbo diesel power pack offers a top speed of 136 miles per hour.
But there’s more to this behemoth than brute force and the latest version features a number of tweaks which, while maintaining that impressive performance, also make it more agile on the road and kinder to the environment.
The re-vamped edition is lighter than it’s predecessor, despite being about five centimetres longer, resulting in sharper handling for the driver and space aplenty for passengers to swing several proverbial cats.
A key change in the upgrade is the introduction the eight gear Tiptronic S transmission for the first time, which offers increased fuel efficiency and super smooth acceleration courtesy of a wider spread of gear ratios.
The new transmission comes coupled with an automatic start-stop function which sees the Cayenne Diesel’s fuel economy rise from 30.4 miles per gallon to 38.2 with CO2 emissions of 195g/km – down from 244g/km.
Inside, the cabin is plushness personified with high quality materials throughout and leather upholstery as standard as well as dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking aids, cruise control, audio system with seven-inch touch-screen, eight-way powered front seat adjustment, 18-inch alloy wheels and electric windows all-round.
The new rising centre console echoes that of the Panamera and extends to surround the gear lever, giving the driving environment the familiar Porsche ‘cockpit’ feel and, while there may be more buttons and switches than you find on a mixing desk, it means they are all within easy reach.
In typical Porsche fashion the rev-counter sits in the centre of the dash – a nod, as is much of the exterior styling, to the company’s sports car heritage.
In the rear, the seat bench can move forwards and back by 16 centimetres and the backrest angle has three different position settings.
The boot is cavernous and extra versatility and luggage space is offered by the 60/40 split rear seats although Porsche has eschewed the option, offered by some rivals, of a fold-away third row.
Porsche Traction Management will help to keep you glued to the road while there are front, side and curtain airbags fitted just in case.
At just over £44,000 – which can easily rise to nearly 60 grand if you want satnav, an integrated communication system and any number of extra driving aids or sporty styling touches – the Cayenne certainly does not come cheap.
But if you are in that league financially, then you’ll be hard pressed to find another SUV which you can take off-road with confidence but which handles almost like a sports car on it.
At least the diesel engine and new tweaks mean that, by Porsche standards, the running costs will be a little lower.
Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Mechanical: 240bhp, 2,976cc, 6cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Combined mpg: 38.2
Insurance group: 40
CO2 emissions: 195g/km
Bik rating: 31%
Warranty: 2yrs/ unlimited miles