A great piece of engineering, but we'd still rather have a VW Touareg.

What is it?

It's the recently tweaked Porsche 4x4. This is the mid-range S model, which now has a 4.8-litre V8 rather than the old 4.5. Power is 380bhp, and torque 369lb ft (up from 310).

The Cayenne has been massaged visually (though to our eye it's still no looker), but it's what's gone on under the skin that really counts.

The engine now has more efficient direct injection, and the chassis has been altered. There is also a sturdier transmission and revised brakes.

What's it like?

Ugly on the outside (the 18in wheels look tiny), really rather pleasant on the inside. The cabin is beautifully crafted and very well laid out, although we were disappointed by the lack of steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

We soon forgot about the (really quite good) stereo, however, and concentrated on the driving.

When you’re wafting about town with the optional air suspension (coil springs are standard) set in 'comfort' mode, the Cayenne is a docile companion. The steering is light and accurate, and the optional Tiptronic auto 'box slurs shifts effectively. Even in 'normal' mode the ride is well-cushioned, and body control good for a two-tonne 4x4. Our only complaint is that it can feel slow to get going at points (yes, even with 380bhp and 369lb ft).

And then you select 'sport'. This firms up the dampers, sharpens throttle response and makes the auto 'box hold onto gears for longer. Suddenly you’re in a sports car, not a 4x4.

The Cayenne S has unseemly urge and agility, the latter especially with the optional active anti-roll bars. You chuck it along a country road and it's only when it comes to stopping that you remember you’re in a big 4x4; the brakes are very good, but you can't change basic physics. It also feels very wide on narrow UK roads.

Should I buy one?

Here's the rub. The Cayenne S is very good. But by the time you've added the air suspension, auto 'box and a few other goodies, you’re looking at least £55k. And for that money you could have a VW Touareg V10 diesel, which is far prettier, not much slower in the real world, little less agile and more economical. It's what we'd go for.

Rory Lumsdon

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