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En route to the local launch event of Porsche Cayman GT4 in Johor recently, Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP) was kind enough to grant us a test drive down and back in its new, facelifted Porsche Cayenne. Of the seven variants that were launched here in mid-2015, three were handpicked for our outing.

Specifically, we were given a go in the new RM640,000 Porsche Cayenne V6, the similarly-priced Cayenne Diesel, and the RM760,000 Cayenne S. The variants effectively form the cheaper-end of the Cayenne’s full range, leaving behind the remaining RM770k S E-Hybrid, RM780k S Diesel, RM900k GTS and the range-topping RM1.15 million Turbo.

To briefly recap, the facelifted Cayenne saw the introduction of subtle exterior and interior enhancements. Up front, a reshaped bumper and redesigned headlamps were added. At the rear, the tail lights were made slimmer, with new graphics for a more modern look. Several other items like its rear bumper and tailgate were also tweaked.

Lined up in front of us, these three variants look near identical to each other. Yes, all cars here have been specified very similarly, inside and out, save for their powertrain differences and a few other minor items.

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Without having to peek around the car to glance at their variant designations, the Cayenne Diesel is probably the easiest one to distinguish. It uses the standard bi-xenon headlamps that exclude the new daytime running lights with four LED spotlights. Those are, however, standard fare on the two other petrol variants.

Another feature that sets the sole diesel apart from the two petrol variants are the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) seen on the Cayenne V6 and S. The extra stopping power is optional, so keep in mind that full prices of these cars are expectedly higher than what’s listed above.

The Cayenne Diesel also features dual exhaust tips, while the V6 and S get quad finishers. Wheels are identical across the board, being the optional 21-inch multi-spoke alloys in different paint finishes for each variant, all wrapped in 295/35 tyres. Smaller diameter 18-inch alloys are otherwise standard.

With several upholstery colour options available, showcased here are three unique interior variations. The Cayenne Diesel is unquestionably the most ostentatious of the bunch, featuring red over black leather with contrasting red stitching on the leather-covered dashboard.

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The facelifted Cayenne also features a new 918 Spyder-inspired steering wheel that now includes proper shift paddles. Owners of the pre-facelifted model may recall the thumb-operated shifters of old. The new Cayenne also gets a set of reshaped seats that as promised, offer more back support.

As before, the Porsche’s centre console is jam-packed with switches. It’s all beautifully crafted and give passengers instant one-touch access to almost every function of the car. However, working the controls isn’t easy while driving. Something as supposedly mindless as setting the climate control becomes a daunting task if you’re not familiar with the layout.

Just like the cluttered centre console, drivers unfamiliar with the Cayenne may also find the five-binnacle instrument panel to be a bit overkill, initially. Four of the dials are analogue gauges, while one is a full digital display. The full-colour screen can call upon navigation, audio, trip data and several more key car visuals. Just like us, you may question its appearance at first. Give it some time and you’ll soon mould your intuition around it.

There isn’t much else we could say about the rest of the cabin, apart from it being gorgeously crafted and sufficiently spacious. As ever, there isn’t a flaw about the standard of build quality here either. Personally, my only grief with the interior surrounds the cluttered centre console. A BMW iDrive-like system would definitely free up some space.

The Cayenne Diesel features an updated 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 engine that makes five hp more than before, for a total 245 hp and 550 Nm of torque. Its performance figures include a 0 to 100 km/h time of 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 221 km/h. Notably, all cars here feature the carry-over eight-speed Tiptronic S torque converter automatic transmission.

The base petrol model’s 3.6 litre naturally-aspirated V6 has an unchanged 300 hp and 400 Nm of torque. On paper, the petrol-powered Cayenne is a tad slower than its diesel counterpart, clocking 7.6 seconds (Sport Chrono Package included) in its run up to 100 km/h from standstill.

As introduced on the facelift cycle, the Cayenne S gets a new 3.6 litre twin-turbo V6 that replaces the previous normally-aspirated V8. Despite the fewer cylinders, turbocharging has left the Cayenne S with a steady 420 hp and 550 Nm of torque. It performs the century sprint in just 5.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 259 km/h.

We were quick to single-out the Cayenne Diesel as a firm favourite, purely because of its on-paper bang-for-your-buck value. The Diesel has more than enough power listed, is styled next to no differently, and offers as much standard kit as the other two variants, bar the differences in power.

Having driven the three back-to-back and several times over, it was the Cayenne Diesel’s powertrain that had us pulled. The diesel mill was immensely quick off the line and had good low- to mid-RPM torque. It’s an ideal package for city dwellers who enjoy lots of power at their toe tips.

On highways, there’s healthy power delivery all the way up to 130 km/h. The diesel starts to lose its bite past that mark, but will still soldier on to higher speeds – only with a little less aggression as diesels do. This is where the petrol duo may excel, but they are not without faults of their own.

The base Cayenne variant struggles to match the diesel’s brute force at lower speeds and thereafter still appears a little bit underwhelming for a Porsche SUV. The more powerful Cayenne S on the other hand, seems to have it all. But unless you plan on breaking speed limits on trips across state lines every other day, the RM120k premium over the Cayenne diesel wouldn’t feel justified.

The full Sport Chrono Package with the additional Sport Plus drive mode was optionally added to the base Cayenne V6 petrol variant. The variable exhaust flap made a beastly noise and the Sport Plus button could summon every ounce of power available to it. Still, the effortless low-range power delivery of the Diesel remains this writer’s choice.

Regardless of which variant you choose, the Cayenne is still a proper Porsche when it comes to holding its own in the corners. Despite its size and weight, lateral roll is kept to a minimum without sacrificing too much comfort, and the front wheels track corners surprisingly well. You should also know that all variants in this review were equipped with the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system.

Again, do expect to cough up a fair bit of change for the air suspension. Dry your pockets doing so, however, and you aren’t likely to regret its significantly positive influence over the Cayenne’s handling and comfort. The PASM features an automatic ride-levelling function and has adjustable ground clearance for when a spot of off-roading is required.

Unfortunately, we weren’t taken off-road to explore the PASM and all-wheel drive system’s capabilities. On the road, the dynamic features allow the Cayenne to switch from comfort cruising to tarmac abusing at the flick of a switch.

With the drive mode set to Sport, the SUV is relentlessly hard and back-breaking, yet very rewarding under track-like situations. The steering is weighted too lightly for an SUV of this size and doesn’t do much to encourage you to drive more quickly. Although, some confidence is won back by the awesome stopping power provided by the optional Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB).

Sadly, only the two petrol powered models here were specified with the PCCB system, leaving the Diesel with the standard discs at all fours. Porsche’s official technical materials also show that the Cayenne Diesel is fitted with a different Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive system to the other petrol variants.

Simply put, all Cayenne models are capable of variably splitting engine torque between the front and rear axles. The only difference is that the Diesel relies on a more mechanical, self-locking differential PTM system to achieve this.

The Cayenne V6 and S variants get a more advanced system. Its PTM combines the use of an electronically variable, map-controlled multi-plate clutch, an automatic brake differential (ABD) and anti-slip regulation (ASR) to achieve its results

On a circuit, yes, the petrol-powered Cayenne may run away with a slight advantage. But on more routine scenarios, we doubt that anyone will notice the difference. The Cayenne Diesel will still burst out of an intersection with as much traction as anyone would expect from a performance SUV.

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This writer isn’t prepared to go as far as to call the Cayenne an ideal family SUV. Likewise, Porsche doesn’t quite plainly position the car as such. It’s a performance SUV, anywhere you look in the line-up.

Even with everything dialled back to optimise comfort, its ride is still too firm, further exaggerated by our terribly uneven roads. All that surrounds you in the Cayenne’s cabin serves as a reminder that this is a Porsche and that it loves to be driven quickly, all the time.

Would I spend more than half-a-million ringgit on this to tour my family around? Maybe not. But should I be so lucky to one day require making a “statement” on wheels, then yes, the Cayenne Diesel with the optional sports exhaust and those 21-inch wheels would do very nicely, indeed.

GALLERY: Porsche Cayenne Diesel

GALLERY: Porsche Cayenne V6

GALLERY: Porsche Cayenne S