A few years ago, Porsche began installing the 3.6-liter version of this engine, and for 2011 it makes another 10 hp, for a total of 300 hp.
The VR6 has never been short of character—almost as smooth as a straight six, with a distinct velvety purr at the higher revs. Aside from a Porsche-exclusive intake manifold and specially tuned exhaust, it's the same engine that's been used in a wide range of VW products—and no doubt a way to make the numbers work and offer the base Cayenne at such a competitive price. Our only complaint is that you could feel engine vibration through the steering wheel, in a pronounced way, in a pre-production test car.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne V-6 can now accelerate to 62 mph in 7.8 seconds. That's a few tenths of a second faster than before. It's still no speed demon, but the new eight-speed automatic helps it feel more responsive for passing, as well as more fuel-efficient.
The eight-speed automatic transmission, supplied by Aisin, is a good, well-calibrated match for the engine, and you can manually select gears with steering-wheel buttons whenever you wish; howevers, it's not quite as quick as Porsche's PDK dual-clutch gearbox. Thanks to the transmission's wide range of ratios, the Cayenne not only accelerates well but also hits triple-digit speeds better than you'd expect (we noted about 130 mph before we hit an aerodynamic wall, but Turbos can reach 172 mph). And the transmission's extremely low first gear is designed for both a quick takeoff on the road and to help supplement the electronics in providing control off-road. All-wheel drive is provided by an electronically controlled, multiplate clutch system.
Compared with the 2010 Cayenne, Porsche has cut about 400 pounds in the 2011 model, through all sorts of measures, including lighter interior panels, lighter wheels and tires, and greater use of lightweight aluminum in the structure. But one of the most significant weight cuts for 2011 comes from the rethought off-road system. Porsche has dropped the clunky dual-range transfer case setup and instead gone with more modern Porsche Traction Management electronics. With a three-mode off-road system, the Cayenne can now handle needs ranging from loose dune or deep snow surfaces to a wet boat launch or rock scrambling. PTM works the throttle and individual brakes in subtler ways than you could ever manage on your own, maintaining momentum on steep, slippery ascents or keeping control on descents—or sustaining a slow, steady crawling speed over loose surfaces.
Porsche says it has worked to retain both the Cayenne's off-road ability while improving its performance and focusing on "everyday driving qualities," and it's paid special attention to the V-6.
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 be able to achieve 0-60 in 6.1 seconds and a maximum 150 mph; the system is calibrated for a Porsche driving style, and fit for track time just as the rest of the Cayenne lineup. Especially of note is that the hybrid system will disconnect both power sources when you lift gently off the gas, even at speeds of up to 97 mph, allowing a fuel-saving "sailing" mode.
All models get a little borrowed technology from the Hybrid model for 2011, in the way of Porsche's Auto Start Stop function. When you're sitting at a stoplight in Drive, the system will unobtrusively turn off the engine in some situations to save gas, then restart it as you ease your foot off the brake.