Porsche Cayenne Off-Road Capable, Lighter Weight

Lose weight and gain muscle. It sounds like a late night TV infomercial pitch, but it’s a big part of why the new Cayenne is better than the old one. For 2011, the utility vehicle from Porsche enters its second-generation. And it does so as a shadow of its former self.

Engineers found ways to save roughly 400 pounds from its curb weight. At the same time, the 2011 Cayenne is also bigger (1.9 inches longer) and has more power.

Cayenne’s 2011 lineup stretches four wide. The Cayenne base version ($46,700) is joined by Cayenne S ($63,700), the Hybrid ($67,700) and Turbo ($104,800) models. My test drive was in a Cayenne S and under its hood is a 4.8-liter V-8 now rated at 400 horsepower (a gain of 15 over the former model) and 369 lb.-ft. of torque.

An eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission is newly available on Cayenne, and standard equipment on S level models. The additional gears allow for a wide, even flow of power with the V-8.

The 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds for Cayenne S would be quick for a sport sedan, much less a 4,500-pound SUV. The Tiptronic has an Auto Start/Stop function. First seen on the Porsche Panamera sedan, this feature switches the engine off when the vehicle is at a standstill (for example, at a traffic light). When the driver releases the brake, the engine pops back on.

Collectively, the combination of the added two gears, start/stop functionality, the Cayenne’s weight loss and other refinements make for a noticeable improvement in gas mileage. The EPA estimates for the 2011 Cayenne S are 16 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway. Compare that to the 2010 model’s ratings of 13/19 mpg.

Cayenne’s all-wheel-drive system has also been revamped for the second-generation models. In Cayenne, S and Turbo models, Porsche’s Traction Management features active AWD, with an electronically controlled, map-guided, multiple plate clutch.
Driving bias is towards the rear wheels, with power channeled to the front as needed to maintain traction. Less hardware-oriented than a traditional, dual-differential 4×4 system, Cayenne’s PTM setup nonetheless offers more off-road capability than its owners will ever need.

The active AWD system also pays dividends in driving dynamics on the road, especially when paired with the optional, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus package. PTV Plus improves vehicle stability through a combination of an electronically controlled rear-axle differential lock and variable torque distribution on the rear wheels. So equipped, Cayenne is one the very few SUVs that can justify having “Sport” as a first name.

Completing the thorough makeover for the 2011 Porsche Cayenne is a new design interior. Handsome and well finished, with its switchgear arrayed across the center console, the Cayenne cabin draws an immediate comparison to the Panamera. The similarities continue with the main dash. The five-gauge cluster includes a high resolution, 4.8-inch color screen to the right of the center-mounted tachometer. The driver can access a number of different vehicle systems on this secondary screen. For instance, if you locate the navigation system map here, it’s less distracting from your driving than the main screen in center dash.

A pair of supportive bucket seats straddles the center console up front. The rear bench seat has the capability to slide up or back by 6.3 inches, making it adult friendly as well, and the backrest has three, possible angles of recline. Cargo capacity ranges from 23.7 to 62.9 cubic feet, with a low liftover height in back.

Like other Porsche models, Cayenne can be outfitted with a jaw-dropping array of available features and technology. Choices are limited only by the depth of your pockets.
Cayenne has been a surprise, success story for Porsche. The idea of an SUV from the sports car experts was such a stretch that it raised plenty of eyebrows, when it first appeared in 2003. While some Porsche purists may have turned up their noses at the notion, the marketplace has signaled its approval with over 280,000 Cayenne total sales to date. Cayenne offers a unique blend of sportiness and all-season capability, wrapped in a luxurious, versatile package. — Dan Lyons, Motor Matters

Manufacturer photo: The 2011 Cayenne is truly an all-new Porsche model that is even more sporting and dynamic, more fuel efficient, and more spacious and lighter than its predecessor. Cayenne improves with a new active all-wheel drive system that can be paired with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus option to provide agile on-road driving dynamics, yet it’s still extremely capable when the pavement ends.

Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011

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