• Jul 13th 2010 at 11:58AM
  • 41

Displacing 3,598 cubic centimeters, the direct-injected 10.6-degree V6 features an iron block and aluminum cylinder heads. Unlike the all-aluminum 90-degree V6 in the Panamera, the Volkswagen narrow-angle "VR6" powerplant does not have balance shafts (our calibrated rears say the Porsche V6 is slightly smoother). While the Volkswagen variant makes 280 horsepower, Porsche engineers tweaked the tuning and gifted the engine with a new intake manifold to customize it for duty in the Cayenne. The result is a bump to 300 horsepower (at 6,300 rpm) and 295 lb-ft of torque (at 3,000 rpm). Bolted to the back of the engine is a standard 6-speed manual transmission (yes, a manual transmission). We didn't get a chance to try it, as our test models were fitted with Porsche's excellent new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission. In both cases, power is sent to all four corners of the SUV through an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system. There is no low range case anymore, as Porsche says the lower gears are sufficient for serious off-road travel. Even with six-cylinder power, the Cayenne is rated to tow the same 7,700-pound trailer as its siblings.

Aside from the missing cylinders, the six-cylinder Cayenne models also wear slightly smaller standard brakes. The fronts are six-piston aluminum monobloc calipers (painted black) on 13.78-inch iron rotors, while the rears are four-piston calipers on 13-inch iron rotors. Porsche's composite ceramic brake (PCCB) system is optional (and obvious to everyone within eyesight with its huge metallic rotors and yellow calipers). Steel springs and gas pressurized dampers are standard, with air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) optional.

Realizing the wheel/tire/brake packages are upgradeable on all trim levels, it's difficult to tell the models apart without checking the scripted badge on the hatch or catching a glimpse of the front. It's the nose that differs. The Cayenne Turbo wears an aggressively large grille and intake, while the normally-aspirated models share smaller grilles (the V8 model is finished in black, while the V6 receives an aluminized finish). The Cayenne V6 also sports twin brushed stainless steel oval exhaust outlets, just like the Panamera V6.

The lighter powertrain pays off at the scales. The Cayenne SUV weighs just 4,399 pounds, undercutting its sibling Cayenne Turbo by nearly 400 pounds and leaving the competition in line at Jenny Craig, with the Mercedes-Benz ML350 coming in 330 pounds heavier and the six-cylinder BMW X5 lugging around an extra 531 pounds.

With the key in our left hand, we climb into a nondescript six-cylinder Cayenne wearing 19-inch wheels (wrapped with 265/50YR19 Pirelli tires). The all-new interior mirrors the elegant styling of the Panamera sedan – very upscale and meticulously finished from its beautiful wood and aluminum accents to the leather stitching on the dashboard. The seat and steering wheel are infinitely adjustable and outward visibility is good, although the backup camera does help.

As mentioned in our first driving impressions a few months ago, the Cayenne platform is incredibly enjoyable to drive. Its driving mannerism are more "big sedan" than oversized 'ute, meaning the brakes and steering are responsive to the driver's inputs, not merely taking suggestions. It doesn't feel nearly as ponderous as the Audi Q7 or as heavy as the BMW X5 when touring tight city streets.

Acknowledging that it has less mass to haul around than its predecessor, the 0-60 mph sprint now takes about 7.5 seconds, putting it decidedly mid-pack among its competitive segment. Most importantly, with excellent gearing down low, you won't miss the V8 or Turbo under 45 mph as the six-cylinder Cayenne moves off the line enthusiastically thanks to the aforementioned eight-speed Tiptronic tranny.

More than content with its performance around town, we steered the six-cylinder Cayenne towards the Autobahn to try its powertrain under more demanding conditions. As stable at high speeds as it is sitting still in a parking lot, the SUV easily held velocities between 80 and 110 mph. As expected, it does lose most of its stamina as the speed increases over 90 mph (e.g., the Cayenne Turbo rockets to 125 mph in about 13 seconds, while the Cayenne V6 does it in a longish 35 seconds). With patience, and a long open stretch of road, we were able to coax it up to an indicated 134 mph, although Porsche claims it will run 143 mph if given the opportunity. When it came time to bleed off the speed, the standard brakes were more than up to the task.

Porsche has priced the Cayenne very aggressively. The entry-level six-cylinder model starts at $46,700, making the base SUV the automaker's least expensive offering in the States. Shaving more than another second off the 0-60 sprint, the eight-cylinder Cayenne S begins at $63,700. The new Cayenne S Hybrid begins $67,700, while the flagship Cayenne Turbo has a base price of $104,800.

The assertive base price means the entry-level Cayenne is priced in the thick of its European competitors, including the six-cylinder BMW X5 ($45,800), the six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz ML-Class ($45,700) and the six-cylinder Audi Q7 ($46,900). The Porsche offers more power than the Audi and Mercedes, but BMW's new-for-2011 twin-turbo 3.0-liter under the hood of the X5 xDrive35i is stronger than the Cayenne's 3.6-liter.

Porsche does not offer a "token" third-row seating option (like BMW and Audi), but its second-row seats slide on rails and the seatbacks recline/fold making the interior both accommodating and very configurable. To its dynamic advantage, the Porsche has the most modern and lightest platform. And, thanks to its Panamera-inspired interior, the Cayenne's cockpit is arguably the most luxurious and inviting of the foursome, too.

But we wouldn't buy the six-cylinder Porsche Cayenne for its engine.

Despite the fact there's nothing inherently wrong with the lesser power unit – it's more than competent – Porsche offers much better combustion routes if you are seeking pavement-pummeling power and a hybrid option if you are on a quest for fuel economy. Instead, consider the entry-level 3.6-liter V6 variant as a heavily discounted way to enjoy the Cayenne's silky eight-speed Tiptronic, bulletproof platform, refined chassis dynamics, luxurious cabin amenities, surefooted all-wheel drive, accurate steering feel and impressive braking capabilities at less than half the cost of the Cayenne Turbo.

The Panamera sedan is currently basking in the brand's sales-leading spotlight, yet the Cayenne will undoubtedly take back its top position when all the models fill the showrooms later this year. Unlike its predecessor, whose owners were often accused of driving the overweight SUV solely for the polished gold, maroon and black badge emblazoned on the hood, the new six-cylinder model is an agile, attractive and well-mannered gentleman. While it may not run as quickly as its athletic siblings, this Cayenne is stout enough to be distinctive on its own – with or without the Porsche crest leading its way.

Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      awesome, really, proof that focus on lightening new generations and effective platform sharing can maintain character while providing better products. Kids, this is how it's done.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It shares a lot more than just an engine with the Touareg.

      I can't believe you just said that a 4700lb vehicle with a roofline above eye level really "handles like a large sedan". Have you driven a large sedan lately?

      What's with the engine cover? They made a VR engine look like a V engine by applying a tricky cover?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Technically no, the physical runner length is fixed, but by a unique adjunct resonance chamber the effective runner length is shortened.

        But, that is what gives the VR6 its grunty midrange & unique snarl, and that is why you buy it.
        old school VR engine
        new school [before today I didn't know that there where 2 different 3.2 VR6s]
        • 5 Years Ago
        Have you driven the 2011 Cayenne lately?


        - Mike
        • 5 Years Ago
        4399 pounds. Read the article before you comment. Also, and as sad as it is to say, 4400 lbs is par for the course when it comes to new sedans, so that this capable, all-wheel-drive off-roader can weigh that little is damn impressive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That "tricky cover" is the actual intake manifold. Yeah it's that wide and is variable length.

        Mike, you mentioned that only steel springs are available, but I'm pretty sure that air suspension is available as an option on the V6 and V8, and standard on the Turbo. One of the pictures you have even shows the toggle switch.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, while steel suspension is standard (on all models except the Cayenne Turbo), air suspension is optional.

        I corrected the text.

        - Mike
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice and complete report.

      I just drove the Turbo version last week in Carmel. It is much more nible than the earlier versions. These cars do not act like a truck, but a responsive sports car with a view. I agree with many, this one is kinda ugly compared to the previous versions. They made the rear seats simpler than before and more comfortable.

      The control panel is awkward to use as you have to turn your head to look around and it isn't set up intuitively. The smallish stearing wheel also made seeing the compete dashboard tricky.

      It didn't get out of the car with the gotta have it feeling.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I also wanted to add that the 3.0T engines get their peak torque at well under 3000rpm so this generation Cayenne 6 cyl's would acheive 0-60 times in less than 7.0 seconds easily if set up like this.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anyone know the city/hwy mileage estimates of this new v6 Cayenne? Or has it not been released as of yet?
        • 5 Years Ago
        We asked Porsche as recently as yesterday.

        It has not been released (nor has it on the Cayenne Hybrid S). Most likely, it will be reported shortly before the model hits the showroom this fall.

        - Mike
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have a hard time trying to like this Porsche but I just can't. There is nothing I like on this truck.....looks like a mixed bag of parts put together. It has no personality.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't see much difference from a V6 Touareg other than looks. Porsche knows this since it is priced very close to its twin. I have always hated the Cayenne's looks because it is not a 911 and shouldn't try to look like one. Especially these lower priced variants, which don't have the aggressive bodykit which ameliorates the fishy looks. I'd rather get the VW for a little less, or better yet the Touareg TDI for a little more.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What is that thing in the middle of the grille? A Camera? Its throwing me off....
        • 5 Years Ago
        Radar cruise control sensor.

        - Mike
      • 5 Years Ago
      Any guesses on the mileage figures for the V6 and Hybrid? The V8 does pretty well at 16/23.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The new engine is direct injected? You probably should have said so in your review.

        In general, I would say the 10-15% promised by a new zillion-speed transmission is rarely realized except on Monroneys. But since this vehicle lost a lot of weight, there is a lot more hope.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The current V6 Cayenne is 14/20.

        Take the new 8-speed automatic, direct injection and lighter platform into account and things should improve by 10-15 percent, at least.

        No guesses on the Hybrid.

        - Mike
      • 5 Years Ago
      i thought the reason they are using the 3.6L VR6 from Volkswagen was because they has an agreement with VW when the designed the first gen Cayenne saying that they will use the VW sourced engine for 2 full model cycles.. i could be wrong though.
        • 5 Years Ago
        VW is coasting on this agreement providing an iron block to a vehicle that is desperately trying to lose weight. Sad really.

        If VW can't get their next engine over to aluminum, then Porsche really should switch.

        But likely VW will change up their block simply because they finally have a reason to, because Porsche isn't required to use their engine, instead it must be used on merit.
      • 5 Years Ago
      UGLY! i like the look of the X5 M better, its faster then the turbo S too.

      porsche ruined the look of the cayenne, i actually like the 09 look on the cayenne's but now it just looks like a POS. only thing i like is where the nav screen is placed, it looks lower then other SUV's.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The 500lb weight advantage will go a loooong way.

      Entry into Porsche @ 45k while also getting ur hands on "eight-speed Tiptronic, bulletproof platform, refined chassis dynamics, luxurious cabin amenities, surefooted all-wheel drive, accurate steering feel and impressive braking capabilities".

      Apparently the only thing its missing is a third row or bench seat.

      As much anyone hates the cayene for whatever, the Cayenne was the cash cow for porsche, and it will be prove that again more so now, than ever.

        • 5 Years Ago
        "Apparently the only thing its missing is a third row or bench seat."

        And the extra couple of hundreds pounds that adds for a token seat.
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