2011 Porsche Cayenne Expert Review

You'll Like The 2011 Porsche Cayenne If...

If your sixth sense is a keen appreciation for driving feel - or maybe high-style interiors - the 2011 Porsche Cayenne is the SUV for you. And it's just as utilitarian as any of its two-row competitors.

You May Not Like The 2011 Porsche Cayenne If...

The 2011 Porsche Cayenne isn't the smoothest highway cruiser in the segment, and it's pretty pricey.

What's New

The all-new 2011 Porsche Cayenne larger and roomier, but 400 pounds lighter. It's more powerful, but more fuel-efficient. The lineup now includes a hybrid model, and offers a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system that actually raises its Porsche-ness to a new level.

Interior Features

The interior of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne is instantly reminiscent of the Porsche Panamera's. Fine design and materials combine with a multitude of controls in an elegantly busy cockpit that's richer and more interesting than a BMW X5's. Rear passengers are treated to a roomy backseat that slides 6.3 inches, reclines and offers 40/20/40 split-folding for maximum passenger/cargo compatibility.

Exterior Features

The slightly larger 2011 Porsche Cayenne actually looks smaller than its predecessor, thanks in part to a more forward-leaning rear window and black side pillars. Some of our favorite design touches include the Cayenne Turbo's larger trapezoidal grille and the fact that the Cayenne S Hybrid is distinguished from the Cayenne S by only a Porsche-script "Hybrid" on the front fenders. Some purists are sure to be put off by the addition of "Porsche" spelled out on the tailgate. Cayenne spotters take note: black brake calipers indicate a V6 model, silver calipers denote Cayenne S or Cayenne S Hybrid, and red calipers are reserved for the Cayenne Turbo. Yellow calipers announce the presence of the $8,000+ ceramic brake option.

Driving Impressions

Our track time with the 2011 Porsche Cayenne included back-to-back drives in the new and old Cayenne Turbos. When we got out of bed that morning, the outgoing Cayenne Turbo was the performance SUV benchmark; at the end of the day, we talked about it pushing in corners and looking bloated. With 400 fewer pounds to lug around and an available new torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo just feels more Porsche-like in translating driver input into action. Fortunately for those trying to keep the final tally south of six figures, the Porsche Cayenne and Porsche Cayenne S benefit from the same the improvements. We were also impressed by the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid on the track, but were more interested in testing its around-town performance, during which it demonstrated the little brake and throttle quirks still present in most hybrids. The 2011 Porsche Cayenne is also quieter and more comfortable than its predecessor, but it's still not the softest-riding car in its class.

Pricing Notes

The 2011 Porsche Cayenne starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $48,000 and tops out at more than $140,000 for a fully loaded Cayenne Turbo. Base price is similar to the BMW X5's, but the X5 includes features like an automatic transmission, speed-sensitive power steering, adaptive headlights, dynamic cruise control, HD radio, seat-position memory and a panoramic moonroof - so be mindful when cross-shopping. The Cayenne's predicted resale values also fall short of the X5's, so that's another factor to consider when weighing its pros and cons.

Notable Equipment

At its base price of about $48,000, the 2011 Porsche Cayenne includes a 300-horsepower V6 engine, six-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive, a power rear liftgate, Bluetooth phone connectivity, auxiliary audio input, dual-zone auto climate control, a 10-speaker/100-watt sound system and leather seats. The 2011 Porsche Cayenne includes six airbags as standard equipment, plus electronic stability and traction controls that deliver both performance and safety benefits.

Notable Options

A fully-loaded 2011 Porsche Cayenne will have a 16-speaker, 1,000-watt Burmester audio system, panoramic glass roof, 18-way adjustable front seats, adaptive cruise control, lane change assist, active headlights and many of the other options you'd expect in the category. Performance upgrades include torque vectoring, ceramic composite brakes, air suspension, active suspension, chassis control and off-road underbody protection for those inclined to take their Porsche off-pavement.

Favorite Features

Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus
In short, PTV Plus sends more torque to the outside rear wheel when cornering, helping the vehicle track truer to steering input. Especially when combined with PASM and PDCC suspension and chassis control, PTV Plus can make the 2011 Porsche Cayenne feel like a lightweight, low-slung sports car.

Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB)
On one hand, the Cayenne's ceramic composite brake option adds more than $8,000 to the sticker. On the other hand, shorter braking distances, more fade resistance, rotor lifespan of up to 200,000 miles and a notable reduction in unsprung mass are all very good things.

Under the Hood

In addition to more powerful, more fuel-efficient engines, 2011 Porsche Cayenne powertrain highlights include a new eight-speed automatic transmission, new torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system and an Auto Start Stop function that mimics hybrid-car behavior, shutting off the engine at full stops and quickly restarting it when the brake pedal is released. The available air suspension automatically lowers the Cayenne at 86 mph – and lowers it some more at 130 mph – and can also raise the vehicle a couple inches to provide more than 10 inches of ground clearance. Other physics-defying features familiar from the outgoing Cayenne include electronic dampers with Comfort, Normal and Sport modes (PASM), plus active anti-roll bars that reduce corner lean and improve off-road traction (PDCC). The Cayenne's new all-wheel drive system is lighter and less complex than the previous system, but can now distribute 100 percent of the available torque to the front or back. The reduction gearbox is gone, but first gear is lower and the system can still be locked for more extreme off-road conditions. The multi-tasking 2011 Porsche Cayenne also offers impressive max towing capacity of 7,716 pounds.

3.6-liter V6
300 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/22 (manual), 16/23 (auto)

4.8-liter V8
400 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
369 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22

3.0-liter, supercharged V6-based hybrid
380 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
427 lb-ft of torque @ 1,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/24

4.8-liter twin-turbo V8
500 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22

Editors' Notes

The first Cayenne felt like a Porsche SUV; this one feels more like a Porsche. The all-new, second-generation Cayenne is lighter, more powerful and delivers even more Porsche-like precision, especially when outfitted with all its high-tech handling technologies. It's also roomier and more fuel efficient, still overly capable off-road, and now the lineup includes a hybrid model. There's still no third-row option - see the BMW X5 lineup if you need one – and its attractive $47,000 base price can be deceptive if you want "extras" like an auto transmission and a decent sound system.
Last four: Real Porsche, real SUV.

Road Test Video Reviews

  • 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Review and Test Drive by Bill Auto Europa Naples
  • 2011 Porsche Cayenne Review - Kelley Blue Book
  • Porsche Cayenne SUV review - CarBuyer
  • 2011 Porsche Cayenne S
  • 2011 Porsche Cayenne 3.6 Start Up, Engine, In Depth Tour and Short Drive (Video #900!)
  • Road Test: 2011 Porsche Cayenne

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