- Improved performance
- Plush new interior
- Confident high-speed feel
- Nimble handling for such a hefty vehicle
- A Hybrid model that's good for the track
- Not especially space-efficient
- No third-row seat, and tight second row
- Base Cayenne V-6 is still barely worthy of the badge
The new 2011 Porsche Cayenne is one of the few vehicles you can take off-road and out to the track on the same day; it's leaner and more athletic than before, without giving up the off-road ability.
Seen by high-end luxury shoppers as either a practical way into ownership of a prestigious sports-car brand or by longtime Porschephiles as a bit sacrilegious and a necessary evil for keeping the brand aloft financially, the Porsche Cayenne has turned into Porsche's best-selling model and is definitely here to stay. But for 2011, Porsche has redesigned the Cayenne to improve its performance on the road and track while maintaining its level of off-road capability.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne has become a little more svelte in appearance and officially gets all-new sheetmetal, but unless you take a look at a 2010 and 2011 model side by side, the changes are rather subtle. More curvaceous door panels and curvier-looking rear flanks hint more strongly of the sports cars in the Porsche family. The new version also has a new air dam design, different detailing in front and in back, and a few more curves, with a lower stance being the most noticeable effect. Inside, the Cayenne picks up the instrument panel and center-console look of the plush Panamera fastback sedan, with a sweeping, more coupe-like feel and matte-metallic brightwork.
With an extensive lineup of engines and trim levels, the Cayenne can be equipped to suit affluent suburbanites, up-and-coming families who want the Porsche badge on a bit of a budget, or enthusiasts who want track time on the weekend. Prices range from under $50,000 for the base Cayenne V-6 up to the $150,000 mark or higher for the Cayenne Turbo S.
The base Cayenne is powered by a 300-hp, 3.6-liter narrow-angle V-6 engine, while the Cayenne S comes with a 400-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 and the Cayenne Turbo gets a 500-hp, 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. A new Hybrid model also joins the mix for 2011, pairing a 333-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6—through a clutch pack—with a 47-hp (34 kW) electric motor system. In each case, power is delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Altogether, the Hybrid will top 20 mpg, yet achieve 0-60 in 6.1 seconds and a maximum 150 mph. While performance for the V-8 models is especially impressive, V-6 models still take more than 7 seconds to 60 mph. But thanks to a weight-loss regimen across the entire line, the Cayenne feels significantly nimbler than before.
All three models have all-wheel drive, and due to a full roster of electronics, including a sophisticated air suspension and stability control system, the Cayenne manages to pull off both roles quite deftly.
As with Porsche's other models, you can easily blow 20 grand or more on options, including a panoramic roof, heated windshield, high-end Burmester surround-sound system, or wheel, brake, or trim upgrades. Safety and connectivity/tech content is also strong, with a Lane Change Assistant, bi-xenon adaptive cornering lights, and Adaptive Cruise Control all on offer.