For a relative minnow in the automotive world, Porsche is a company punching well above its weight.
It may “only” be a small sportscar manufacturer, but such is the level of desirability of its cars and the efficiency of its systems that it is the most profitable car company in the world, and it owns a fair chunk of Volkswagen to boot.
And pushing much of this is the success of its biggest-selling, and most controversial, model – the Cayenne.
Launched four years ago, the Cayenne was criticised from the outset for a) being ugly, and b) not being a proper Porsche because it is an SUV (and a Volkswagen one in disguise, no less) weighing more than two tonnes.
But like it or not, the Cayenne has “done a job” for Porsche – high sales in the US have allowed the company to fund development of its core 911 sportscar range.
And Porsche has recently revised the Cayenne family in an attempt to make it less ugly and also more viable in this environment-focused world.
While a two-tonne-plus petrol-engined SUV will never be seen as remotely green, Porsche has made it more aerodynamic and more fuel efficient.
The new headlights and revised air intakes make the Cayenne more slippery through the air than before, while in the V6 model on test a new 3.6-litre direct fuel injection engine has been used.
This offers 290bhp – 40bhp more than the old 3.2-litre unit – yet is up to 15% more fuel efficient.
OK, so it still only returns an average of 21.9mpg in Tiptronic automatic mode, but at least things are heading in the right direction. And when Porsche unveils its hybrid Cayenne next year, things will be better still.
But for the moment the V6 is the most affordable and viable Cayenne to run, priced on a par with entry-level models such as the Audi Q7 3.6 FSI and Mercedes-Benz ML350.
Where the Porsche scores above them is in driving dynamics.
Although it is still a tall SUV, the Cayenne does well to hide its bulk and provide strong performance. Although it isn’t in the same league as the awesome Turbo version, the 290bhp V6 Cayenne teamed with the Tiptronic transmission makes for a strong combination for real-world driving.
With the Porsche badge on the front, a strong RV forecast and a decent level of equipment, it makes a strong case for itself if one of your drivers desperately wants a petrol-engined SUV. Fact file
P11D value: £38,860
CO2 emissions (g/km): 310
BIK % of P11D in 2008 : 35%
Graduated VED rate: £300
Insurance group: 19
Combined mpg : 21.9
CAP RV (3yr/60k) £17,150/44%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £598
Three rivals to consider
Unsurprisingly, the Porsche is the most expensive and the Volkswagen is the cheapest, reflecting the level of prestige behind the badges.
Interestingly, both models are based on the same chassis. The Mercedes-Benz and Audi look good value with plenty of kit and a prestige badge.
Emissions and tax rates
All four are taxed at the highest level thanks to their emissions.
Most people choose a diesel-engined SUV, preferring the extra economy and better driveability.
Company car tax bills range from £422 a month for a 40% taxpayer in the Volkswagen to £453 a month in the Porsche.
The Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes-Benz are closely matched on service, maintenance and repair costs, costing between £3,000 and £3,500 over 60,000 miles.
The Porsche is well off the pace, despite being mechanically very similar to the Touareg – due to much higher labour rates at Porsche dealerships.
Touareg: 5.18 (pence per mile)/£3,108 (60,000-mile total)
With claimed combined fuel economy of 24.1mpg, the ML350 leads this sector, and will cost just under £11,000 in petrol over 60,000 miles.
The Audi is second on 22.2mpg, while the Volkswagen trails, returning 20.5mpg.
The Porsche returns a claimed 21.9mpg.
ML350: 18.22(pence per mile)/£10,932 (60,000-mile total)
The Audi and Porsche have a significant advantage here, with CAP estimating both will retain 44% of their cost new after three years/ 60,000 miles.
The Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen will both retain 40%.
The Audi’s low front-end price sees it lose the least cash.
Q7: 34.95 (pence per mile)/£20,970 (60,000-mile total)
The Audi enjoys an almost two pence-per-mile advantage over the second-placed Mercedes-Benz.
The Q7’s main advantage comes in depreciation, where its high RV and low front-end price see it lose the least cash. The Porsche’s high RV sees it outperform the Touareg.
Q7: 59.96 (pence per mile)/£35,976 (60,000-mile total)
In the real world no-one is going to choose any of these cars – instead they will opt for the diesel versions.
But if petrol is a must, the Audi makes a strong case for itself.
It is the cheapest to run and is competitive with the others on tax bills.
The Porsche drives very well for a car of this type and is worth considering for its badge appeal and strong RV.