2011 Porsche Cayenne

Expert reviews

These reviews are written by independent automotive journalists providing an objective and reliable assessment to help you make a smart buying decision. 2011 Porsche Cayenne.

Reviewed By: Jim McCraw
© 2011 NewCarTestDrive.com


The Porsche Cayenne SUV has generated huge amounts of cash, enabling Porsche to return to racing and expand its sports car lineup with more variants of the 911, Boxster and Cayman sports cars. The Cayenne is the company's best-selling model ever, with 282,000 vehicles sold as of the end of July 2010.

For 2011, Porsche Cayenne receives significant changes, plus new V6 and Hybrid models, in addition to the V8 and turbocharged V8 models. Porsche Cayenne competes against the Range Rover, the BMW X5 and X6, and the Mercedes-Benz ML 50 and ML63 AMG, depending on model and engine.

The 2011 Cayenne has all-new front, side and rear appearance. Through careful application of engineering, the 2011 Cayenne is an astounding 400 pounds lighter than the previous-generation even though it is better equipped and two inches longer overall. The 2011 Cayenne hood, doors, and decklid are all made of aluminum.

New technology added to the 2011 Cayenne includes a new lightweight all-wheel-drive system with a multi-plate clutch to manage torque between the front and rear axles, eliminating the normal reduction gearbox and saving 73 pounds of weight.

While the entry level Cayenne has a 300-horspower 3.6-liter V6 engine, the new 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission makes it approximately 20 percent more fuel efficient than the previous model.

The 2011 Cayenne S with its 4.8-liter V8 also has a significant decrease in fuel consumption, down by 23 percent on the European driving cycle, with engine output now 400 horsepower compared to 385 horsepower in the previous Cayenne S.

The pinnacle model, the 2011 Cayenne Turbo with the 500-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 4.8-liter V8 is also 23 percent more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.

Porsche's new 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission with wide gear ratios contributes to fuel economy, along with the Automatic Start Stop function first introduced on the Panamera, efficient thermal management of engine and transmission cooling, on-board electrical network recuperation, deceleration fuel cut-off and lightweight construction.

Another new technology is Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTVP). PTV Plus uses variable torque distribution on the rear wheels as well as an electronically controlled rear axle differential lock, increasing both driving dynamics and stability in curves. The system automatically brakes the inside rear wheel in turns and racetrack corners in order to make the Cayenne turn in like a race car. We drove Cayenne S models first without and then with the system at Barber Motorsports Park, home of the Porsche Sport Driving School in Alabama, and the difference in cornering performance was dramatic.

The Cayenne S Hybrid, after some three and a half years in development, uses a supercharged version of the VW/Audi 3.0-liter V6 engine, generating 333 horsepower, with a 47-horspower electric motor added in for a total of 380 horsepower and a total of 428 foot-pounds of torque at just 1000 rpm. close to the output of the 4.8-liter V8 engine in the regular S model. Porsche says the Cayenne Hybrid will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, and reach 150 mph. It's the cleanest, greenest model in Porsche history at 193 gram of CO per kilometer on the European testing cycle.

The hybrid system uses a 288-volt nickel metal-hydride (NiMh) Sanyo battery fitted beneath the luggage compartment and regenerative braking, the process of storing electricity regained from applying the brakes and driving under normal conditions.

Porsche's very first hybrid system has an E-mode switch, which can operate the vehicle entirely on electricity in slow-moving commuting situations up to 37 mph (we actually saw 41 mph going downhill).

In the sailing mode, which can operate up to 97 mph, both the engine and electric motor shut off completely, and the vehicle also shuts down every time it comes to a stop, with regenerative braking to recharge the battery. The battery charging system, developed with battery partner Sanyo, keeps the charge between 45 and 75 percent.

The Cayenne S Hybrid is a full parallel hybrid, meaning that it can operate on electricity, gasoline, or both, and uses the standard 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission. The electric motor and the decoupler or clutch mechanism are placed ahead of the transmission. The system incorporates hill descent control as well as a hill-holder.

Porsche estimates that the Cayenne S hybrid will achieve 21 miles per gallon in the city (a 30 percent improvement compared to the V8-powered S version) and 25 miles per gallon on the highway.

All Cayenne models except the Turbo come with steel suspension as standard equipment, but for the first time it can be combined with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as an option. PASM is a highly sophisticated system providing active, infinite damper control on the front and rear axle. It offers the choice of the three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.

The Cayenne Turbo comes with a new air suspension system with PASM standard. Any 2011 Cayenne can be ordered with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), an optional system that actively stabilizes the vehicle through dynamic distribution of roll forces.

Model Lineup

Porsche Cayenne ($46,700); Cayenne S ($63,700); Cayenne Hybrid ($67,700); Cayenne Turbo ($104,800)

Walk Around

The 2011 Cayenne has all-new front, side and rear appearance.

The Cayenne is easily identifiable as a Porsche with design cues shared with the 911 and Panamera. The more powerful models have functional design cues indicating higher levels of performance. The Cayenne Turbo is distinguished by larger grilles that increase the amount of air flowing through the engine bay.

The Cayenne is not small, measuring nearly 191 inches in length. That's about the same length as the current BMW X5 (191.2 inches) and Mercedes M-Class (188.5 inches). Cayenne is 75.9 inches wide, about the same as the X5 (76.1 inches) or a half-inch wider than M-Class (75.2 inches). Cayenne's wheelbase measures 114 inches.

In size, Cayenne most closely matches Volkswagen's Touareg, which is no surprise given the two vehicles were developed jointly by Porsche and VW. Engines and other Cayenne components are built by Porsche in Zuffenhausen, Germany, and mated to the Cayenne at an assembly plant in Leipzig. Cayenne, Touareg, and the Audi Q7 share basic structures, though the Audi is stretched for more passenger space. Engine and suspension tuning, styling and all the finish work were the separate responsibility of each manufacturer.

The 2011 Cayenne is 400 pounds lighter than the previous-generation even though it is better equipped and two inches longer overall. The 2011 Cayenne hood, doors, and decklid are made of aluminum.

Interior

Inside, the 2011 Cayenne features a high center console that, like the Panamera's, rises up to meet the center stack with a touch-screen infotainment interface to provide a cockpit environment. The center console grab handles that were a trademark of the original Cayenne are still there, with a new design.

Rear-seat room is more generous, thanks to the 1.6-inch extended wheelbase for 2011. The second seat now slides fore-and-aft by 6.3 inches, and the backrest can be adjusted to three different angles, or up to 6 degrees.

Porsche's traditional five round-instrument gauge cluster now includes a high-resolution circular 4.8-inch TFT screen to the right of the tach. It can be used to change radio stations, vehicle settings, access the navigation system or view the map.

The Cayenne S Hybrid instrument cluster differs as the instruments provide the driver with all information he or she needs to monitor car's innovative hybrid system and maximize its efficiencies.

The 2011 Cayenne comes with the same audio and communication systems found in the Panamera, with a standard Bose Surround Sound and the optional Burmester high-end Surround Sound System. All U.S. Cayenne models include Bluetooth telephone connectivity and an audio interface to connect an iPod or a USB stick with the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system as standard equipment. Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering and a moonroof are standard on the Cayenne S, Cayenne S Hybrid and Cayenne Turbo.

Driving Impressions

During our time in and around Birmingham, Alabama, and at Barber Motorsports Park, we were able to drive the Hybrid, Turbo and S versions of the Cayenne, and we came away impressed.

The Cayenne in any form is a wonderful, quiet, plush, and luxurious highway cruiser, but the V8 S version and the Turbo will find their way around a racetrack with amazing alacrity, very little body lean in hard corners, and no bad behavior. The Turbo version is rated by Porsche to run the 0-60 mph sprint in a mere 4.4 seconds, and has a top speed of 172 mph, about 50 mph higher than a typical SUV. There are very few twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V8 engines in the SUV world, and this one generates 500 horsepower and 516 foot-pounds of torque, which gives the Cayenne absolutely breathtaking performance, but also allows towing of over 7700 pounds.

The highway cruising behavior of any of the Cayenne models is exemplary. The air spring suspension and the big tires act together as giant shock absorbers for whatever dips, ruts, hole and bumps are in the road.

The brakes on the Cayenne are enormous, with six-pistons calipers up front and four-piston calipers at the rear, with 15.3-inch front discs and 14-inch rear discs, enough braking power to stop a freight train on a dime.

The hybrid version is meant to be clean and green without being boring or underpowered, and Porsche has done a wonderful job mating a real engine, a real transmission (instead of a CVT), and a clever hybrid package of battery, motor, charging system and electronic controls.

The Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) is a further development of the existing Bi-Xenon light system that offers not only dynamic and static cornering lights, but also continuous light leveling and speed-sensitive headlight control with separate modes for roads and interstates. The system is standard on the Cayenne Turbo and an option on the other models.

The new Lane Change Assistant (LCA) monitors traffic in the adjacent lanes up to 230 feet behind the vehicle, including the driver's blind spots. As soon as another vehicle enters the blind spots or approaches rapidly from behind within a range of 180 feet, an LED warning light illuminates on the inside of the corresponding exterior mirror. If the driver uses the turn signal, the flashing light appears to alert the driver of the approaching vehicle.

Adaptive Cruise Control uses radar to monitor and maintain the preset distance between the Cayenne and vehicles in front of it by restricting the throttle or applying the brakes. If the vehicle in front decelerates, ACC will continue to reduce speed, all the way down to a complete stop. ACC operates at speeds from 20 to 100 mph. The required braking power is calculated by the system and by Porsche Stability Management (PSM) building up brake pressure. If the distance between the Cayenne and the vehicle ahead becomes too small, the system alerts the brake standby function to shorten the stopping distance required. It also pre-fills the brake system for quicker response and gives the driver both a visual and an acoustic warning and an additional brake pulse.

The Cayenne was designed by a sports car specialist company to be the sports car of luxury SUVs, and this second generation Cayenne in all its forms is a superlative driving machine, whether for everyday trips to drop off the kids at school to very serious off-roading to cross-country family jaunts. The total safety and chassis control package is as good as it gets. It's beautiful, comfortable, and capable, well beyond most people's driving skills on a race track, but it won't beat you up on a long Interstate Highway trip. Possibly the best high-performance SUV there is.

Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Birmingham, Alabama.

35 Porsche Cayenne vehicles in stock at carmax.com

35 Porsche Cayenne vehicles in stock