Launched five years ago as the world's first true performance SUV, the Porsche Cayenne was a resounding success. Big, brash and fully loaded, the Cayenne was the fastest 4x4 around, matching its angle-defying stability off-road with some G-force-inducing performance on tarmac. Ever heard of a two-tonne SUV that could hit 100km/h in 5.5 seconds? The Cayenne Turbo was doing this back in 2002. But it had its detractors. Some slated its cut-and-shut looks and others complained of its thirst and emissions. Porsche purists dismissed it sniffily and those able to afford the world's most expensive SUV had to contend with the Turbo's breakneck performance. So, did Porsche take all this on board when developing the Cayenne's next generation? It certainly seems so. For starters, the new Cayenne's exterior styling is a subtle improvement on the original, which was brutishly menacing, looking like a 911 grafted onto the body of an Abrams tank. The 2007 model is still imposing, but not so much of a jigsaw puzzle, with a more curvaceous, cohesive silhouette. The minimalist leather interior is still slick, especially in black, and although the cabin isn't as spacious as you might expect, the boot is huge. The cheapest of the three versions on offer, the 3.6-litre V6 Cayenne comes with all the same kit as the sporting S and the muscular Turbo as standard - from the electric-everything creature comforts (windows, CD, air con) right down to mechanicals: the six-speed tiptronic transmission and the sure-footed Porsche traction management (PTM) system. All Cayennes come with Porsche active suspension management as standard, but the Porsche dynamic chassis control system is optional on all but the Turbo model. It continually monitors, checks and limits the Cayenne's body-roll when cornering and counterbalances it completely in almost all other driving conditions. Yet it's probably not a necessary addition for the V6, which gets six airbags as standard - two at the front, two at the rear and two full-length curtain airbags for each side - and features roll-over sensors and a list of safety features as long as your arm (see At a Glance). There are also upgraded H7 headlights that project light onto the road via a lens rather than a reflector, making the beam sharper and stronger. Taking a spin in the V6 Cayenne around Chai Wan was pretty similar to driving the V8 Turbo I tested a few years ago. Sure, it's not as fast as the V8 Cayenne S (HK$1,098,000) and Turbo model (HK1,698,000), which can hit 100km/h in 6.6 and 5.1 seconds, respectively, but with 40bhp more than its predecessor, the 290bhp V6 is no kitten, charging from zero to 100km/h in a healthy 8.1 seconds and topping out at 227km/h. But sticking to the roads east of North Point, the Cayenne does a great job of, well, sticking to the road. The permanent all-wheel-drive coupled with the PTM system makes the V6 feel extremely well-planted, distributing engine power to the front and rear wheels at a 38:62 ratio. It's also easy for the driver to vary the front-rear power distribution using the multi-disc clutch to direct up to 100 per cent of the drive traction to the front or rear if required - which is handy if you're towing a boat or a trailer, or if you want to get stuck into the muddy stuff. The tiptronic gear change is easy to get to grips with (although there is something disconcerting about chucking a 2.5-tonne machine around with such tiny plastic paddles) and the responsive six-speed automatic box does a wonderful job of provoking a snarl from the V6, which delivers a punchy 385Nm of torque. Even as an entry-level foray into the world of sporting 4x4s, the V6 Cayenne is an impressive performance car and all that you really need from an SUV in practical terms. If going off-road is your wont, then the Cayenne S may be your best bet, with the out-there performance of the Turbo best left to those with money, fuel and an ozone layer to burn. The Cayennes are undoubtedly great to drive, but all that motoring prowess comes at a price. The V6 is HK$250,000 more expensive than the Lexus RX400h (which is far kinder to the environment and still delivers a spirited performance). The Turbo is even more expensive, at three times the price and belching out double the CO2 emissions. Ouch. AT A GLANCE What drives it? A 3.6- litre, V6, all-wheel-drive, direct fuel injection engine linked to a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. How fast is it? 0-100kmh in 8.1 seconds, topping out at 227km/h. How safe is it? It's super-stable, no matter how you drive it. Porsche's stability management system comes with brake assistance and pre-loader, trailer stability control (for towing), off-road ABS and a hill-holder function to prevent roll-back on uphill starts. Hong Kong friendly? Not really. Despite an improved drag coefficient of 0.35Cd, the V6 Cayenne drinks 12.9 litres per 100km, with emissions of 310 grams of CO2 per kilometre - the fug equivalent of 2.5 Smart ForTwos. Nice touches: Great engine, nice cabin. Good for off-roading or (more likely) towing. Availability: HK$798,000 from the Porsche Centre, tel: 2926 2208.