Back in 2002, when Porsche introduced the Cayenne, purists went crazy. One of the world’s most respected sports car companies was making a truck? Just what were these Germans smoking, anyway?

Some pretty good stuff, as it turned out. The Cayenne has proved to be a smashing success, and judging by my 2009 V6 tester, has earned its keep.

At a starting price of $56,100, the V6 is the entry-level model to the V8 engines in other trim lines. Its 290-horsepower, 3.6-litre V6 may take 1.5 seconds longer to get to 100 km/h than the next-step-up V8 Cayenne S, but it’ll cost you another $18,000 to go that heartbeat faster: other models range from $74,100 to $152,200. And this isn’t a low-slung chicane carver, but realistically, a 2,160-kg, top-heavy hauler. This is not to say it doesn’t have sporty character, which it does, but that there shouldn’t be any shame in showing up at the country club minus two cylinders.

The base model comes with the expected standard features, including 12-way power seats, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, and power liftgate.

Cayenne sounds great and offers plenty of power, and at 12.7 L/100 km with my heavy foot, did better than I expected. It would have probably been near the top of my “all-time favourites” list except for its six-speed manual transmission.

I love rowing gears as much as the next person, but this time around, I’d opt for the available automatic, which is a much better fit to this vehicle. The throws are too long and the clutch is too short, making it tough to get a smooth shift; I had trouble finding a comfortable seating position for the pedal, and the foot-operated parking brake is a no-no on a vehicle that already has your left shoe occupied.

This Porsche’s all-wheel-drive is split 38/62 front to rear under normal driving, but can sent up to 100 percent torque either way if necessary. Its off-road cred is further enhanced with locking differentials that, if matched with good knobbly tires, could take it just about anywhere.

But I couldn’t see anyone crawling into my tester’s lovely beige leather interior with muddy boots. The seats are exceptionally comfortable, most of the controls are easy to figure out, and there’s considerable rear-seat legroom. Complaints include a low-slung climate control readout that’s impossible to see in bright sunlight, and cheap-looking plastic buttons attached to the otherwise handsome steering wheel.

2009 Porsche Cayenne
Type: Luxury SUV
Price: from $56,100
Engine: 3.6L V6
HP: 290 hp

• Porsche style and power at an affordable price
• Sporty character