2012 Porsche Cayenne Expert Review:Autoblog
Imagine, for a moment, that the Porsche engineering team has dropped 4,177 individually wrapped Twinkies on the lab floor. The yellow cream-filled sponge cakes are scattered shin-deep across the smooth ceramic tiles and kicked into the corners by technicians wearing white lab coats as more hit the floor. Individually, the cakes aren't very heavy. However, add 4,177 of the treats together and they weigh nearly 400 pounds.
Those thousands of Twinkies represent the average weight removed by Porsche on its all-new 2011 Cayenne. Thanks to a massive diet, the automaker's SUV emerges as a toned athlete – and we just spent two days flogging it on the track and off-road course at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. What's under its fresh new skin, and where did all that weight go? How does the Cayenne perform on the track? Just as importantly, has it lost its off-road capabilities? Find out this and more after the jump.
Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
The Cayenne Turbo takes it up several notches thanks to its twin-turbo V8 (you cannot mock 516 lb-ft of torque), adaptive air suspension and Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) which helps set the chassis up in the turns (further reducing understeer). Fitted with the automaker's PCCBs (the ceramic brakes easily pull us down from triple-digit speeds), the only weak link seemed to be the contact patch after several hot laps (we can neither confirm nor deny rumors that the Cayenne Turbo is quicker around a road circuit than a standard Carrera... until the tires get overheated). We are seriously enjoying this.
Whether we liked it or not, Porsche's first sport utility vehicle debuted for the 2003 model year. A marked departure from the automaker's countless sports cars before it, the original Cayenne was a five-passenger sport utility vehicle that boasted both on- and off-road prowess and a choice between six- and eight-cylinder front-mounted, water-cooled powerplants. It was unlike anything that had ever worn a Porsche badge. If its design and primary mission weren't enough to petrify stubborn loyalists, the fact that it shared platforms and many of its components with the Volkswagen Touareg (and Audi Q7) was sure to have them choking on their salted pretzels.
Regardless, the 2.5-ton Cayenne flew out of showrooms faster than the venerable 911 – it soon became the automaker's best-selling vehicle. In truth, it is argued in many circles that the sports car company was saved by its SUV.
Eight years later, Porsche is rolling out the all-new 2011 Cayenne – arguably one of the company's most important debuts ever – especially if one considers sheer sales volume and potential profits. Like its predecessor, the new Cayenne shares its platform and components with its Volkswagen siblings, but Porsche has taken this model much more seriously. While the first-generation Cayenne was very competent, it was burdened by a heavy four-wheel-drive system and an appearance that never really looked completely cohesive.
With its engineers fresh out of SUV-rehab, the new Porsche model emerges with a purpose. The engaging new sheetmetal (all-steel fully-galvanized body panels) wrapped around the unibody platform speaks Porsche – from the raised fenders sitting higher than the hood to the instantly recognizable ovoid headlights. The designers blacked-out the B-pillars on the new model, and lowered the waistline, so it no longer looks like it's wearing its pants too high. The rear lights now wrap onto the liftgate, and the exhaust has been more cleanly integrated. While the overall package appears much sleeker, the drag coefficient has actually increased a hundreth to .36 – styling took precedence. Vielen dank, Porsche!
Influenced heavily by the Panamera sedan – and moved upscale in appointment as a result – the Cayenne's cabin is greatly improved. The five-ring main instrument cluster is cleaner as it now features the familiar multi-function flat-screen display to the right of the tachometer. Dash vents have been lowered to flank the large navigation screen, while the center console picks up the HVAC controls. The buttons are overwhelming at first (when you get done with those, there are a dozen more overhead), but familiarization helps.
Porsche will offer four Cayenne models in North America in 2010. The first to arrive in just a couple months will be the eight-cylinder Cayenne S and the flagship Cayenne Turbo. The Cayenne S Hybrid and Cayenne V6 won't arrive until later in the year. As of now, there are no plans to offer the Cayenne Diesel on our shores.
Like the outgoing model, the 2011 Cayenne features fully independent double-wishbone suspension up front, and an independent multi-link design in the rear. Ground clearance, for the standard steel springs, is 8.7 inches. The Turbo model is also fitted with a self-leveling air suspension that adds variable ride height.
The front brakes are Porsche's six-piston aluminum "monobloc" calipers over 14.15-inch iron rotors on the S and S Hybrid models. The Turbo we spent most of our time driving wears similar six-pot calipers with larger 15.35-inch two-piece rotors – the rear rotors on all models are only slightly smaller in diameter, although clamped with four-piston aluminum calipers. As is the case with the rest of the automaker's lineup, Porsche's formidable "PCCB" carbon ceramic brakes (above) are optional. The standard wheel package includes 18-inch alloys wrapped in 255/55R18 tires on all four corners (all are "square" setups – none staggered). The Turbo is shod with 19-inch alloys wearing 265/50R19 tires (the one we drove on the track was fitted with optional 21-inch wheels wearing 295/35R21 tires).
The 2011 Cayenne S is fitted with a 4.8-liter V8, the same direct-injected 32-valve unit as last year's model, but minor tweaks have improved the engine's power slightly so it's now rated at 400 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The 2010 Cayenne Turbo bolts twin turbochargers to that direct-injected 4.8-liter V8 to produce 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Both powerplants share a new slick-shifting eight-speed "Tiptronic" automatic transmission with sliding shift levers on the steering wheel spokes.
While all of this sounds rather enticing on paper, the assemblage of German SUVs currently sold in North America includes not only the Porsche Cayenne, but the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML-Class – heavy hitters. Masterfully blending luxury, sport and utility, each of the fierce competitors is brimming with technology and innovation, not to mention volumes of excess poundage. Realizing that weight is the Achilles heel in this segment, the team at Porsche decided to get up off the sofa and do something about the problem.
Porsche's engineering team didn't just accept minor liposuction, they axed the fat off. The weight was shed from the body structure and wheels (lots more aluminum), but most of it was lifted when the Cayenne received a new electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system. All told, Porsche shaved roughly 400 pounds off the Cayenne's curb weight (yes, the weight loss works out to 4,177 Twinkies). On the scale, the new Cayenne S weighs 4,553 pounds while the Cayenne Turbo is 4,784 pounds. For comparison, the BMW X5 xDrive48i spins the dial to 5,335 pounds and the flagship X5 M simply flattens the gauge at 5,368 pounds. The Mercedes-Benz ML550 is 4,883 pounds, while the ML63 AMG weighs in at 5,093 pounds.
Low mass translates to better performance. Porsche says the 2011 Cayenne S model needs just 5.6 seconds to hit 60 mph (top speed is 160 mph) while the Turbo rockets to 60 mph in a conservative 4.4 seconds (top speed: 172 mph). Fuel economy numbers have not been released, but the automaker says we can expect double-digit percentage improvements.
As previously mentioned, our introduction to the all-new Porsche Cayenne was, interestingly enough, at the racetrack. This is no ordinary circuit – Barber Motorsports Park is a huge racing facility just outside Birmingham, Alabama. Opened in 2003, it features a beautifully manicured 16-turn, 2.3-mile road course that shames our West Coast facilities (if the Four Seasons hotel chain inexplicably dove into auto racing, this would be its inaugural facility). In addition to the very visible main circuit, hidden within the surrounding woods are countless off-road courses on the 740-acre property, which provided plenty of mud, ruts, hills and water obstacles. And yes, it's home to the Porsche Sport Driving School.
We've driven the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG and BMW X5 M (and X6 M) on the track more than once. Although all were plenty fast, the excitement level of driving 2.5-ton SUVs, even those "race-prepared" models, around a road circuit is akin to shooting glass bottles with a Nerf gun. It simply doesn't get our adrenalin flowing.
Expecting the same (so much for our optimism), we settled into the passenger seat of a normally-aspirated Cayenne S for an orientation lap with David Donohue, the famed 24 Hours of Daytona winner (currently driving a Daytona Prototype for Brumos Porsche). With bottled water in his right hand, Donohue guides the SUV around the corners at a brisk pace, yet he displays a casualness more commonly associated with driving to Sunday services.
Minutes later, we are strapped into the bolstered front left seat of the Cayenne. There is plenty of elbow and headroom in the cabin (even for the helmeted), and our view outside to the circuit is excellent (the exterior mirrors have been moved to the door, and there is now a small window at the base of the A-pillar to improve visibility). Our left hand turns the key and the V8 awakens with a throaty growl.
Maneuvering through the corners, we expect body roll, squealing tires and understeer, but the Cayenne fails to deliver the bad news. Instead, it seems to land on its feet with the competence of a luxury sport sedan (it felt like we were driving a BMW 5 Series). Flat in the corners, the center of gravity feels two feet lower (it isn't) as we smoothly flow around the track. This is crazy; the Cayenne has forgotten that it is a sport utility vehicle.
Just to ensure we aren't completely inebriated with Porsche's 2011 Kool-Aid, we grab the keys to one of the school's 2010 Cayenne Turbo models for a back-to-back comparison. On the circuit, the current-gen Cayenne is pretty quick, but its steering feels loose and it understeers shamefully when really pushed. It's markedly evident that everything, from seats and steering wheel to suspension and chassis tuning, has been improved.
To demonstrate the new electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system is every bit as capable as its predecessor, we took a Cayenne Turbo (wearing standard 19-inch wheels) into the woods surrounding the track. While you probably won't see a Cayenne bopping over rocks at Moab, it is fully capable of doing so (Porsche notes that first gear on the new eight-speed automatic is low enough to pass for a low-range "crawl gear"). Even with standard all-season tires, no amount of muck could stop us. We climbed hills, dropped down paths (easy with a trick new hill descent system) and forged streams so deep that water flowed over the top of the hood – no joke. Even when the terrain was too much for the available suspension travel, the electronics took note and shut down power to the airborne wheel. If you get stuck in a new Cayenne, your common sense has failed you, not the other way 'round.
We left the paddock of the track and headed out on the highway to check out the Cayenne's on-road etiquette. While it isn't nearly as fun at 65 mph, the lower velocities gave us some time to play with the navigation system and other controls. Porsche's logic is that switches are easier and faster to use than fumbling with a joystick-type controller. We agree, once you learn where the buttons are (did we mention that there are a lot of buttons?). Our other nitpick had to do with cabin noise as our ears picked up a bit more road thrum than we recall from its predecessor (remember, there is a lot of weight tied up in sound absorbing materials).
The V8-powered Cayenne S model will set you back $63,700 when it arrives this summer, while the range-topping Cayenne Turbo starts at $104,800 (none of the prices include destination charges). Of course, these are all base prices. Porsche will merrily dangle a long list of attractive options to successfully extract another 20+ percent out of you before you leave the dealership floor.
Back in 2002 when the first Cayenne hit the pavement, many of us around here aligned with the naysayers and grumblers, those who felt the traditional sports car manufacturer had betrayed its loyal following by introducing a 5,000-pound sport utility vehicle. Truth is, even after the automaker bolted on a couple of turbochargers to mask most of the weight, the original SUV still had a certain elephantine feel about it.
Today, fresh out of the fat farm with a refined set of running gear and some sexy new clothes, the automaker's hot pepper finally dances like a sport sedan. While it's no twinkle-toed Fred Astaire – and it never will be – the all-new 2011 Porsche Cayenne is finally good enough to turn those petrified cynics into believers.
Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
New technology, new Hybrid, V6 models.
The Porsche Cayenne SUV has generated huge amounts of cash, enabling Porsche to return to racing and expand its sports car lineup with more variants of the 911, Boxster and Cayman sports cars. The Cayenne is the company's best-selling model ever, with 282,000 vehicles sold as of the end of July 2010.
For 2011, Porsche Cayenne receives significant changes, plus new V6 and Hybrid models, in addition to the V8 and turbocharged V8 models. Porsche Cayenne competes against the Range Rover, the BMW X5 and X6, and the Mercedes-Benz ML 50 and ML63 AMG, depending on model and engine.
The 2011 Cayenne has all-new front, side and rear appearance. Through careful application of engineering, the 2011 Cayenne is an astounding 400 pounds lighter than the previous-generation even though it is better equipped and two inches longer overall. The 2011 Cayenne hood, doors, and decklid are all made of aluminum.
New technology added to the 2011 Cayenne includes a new lightweight all-wheel-drive system with a multi-plate clutch to manage torque between the front and rear axles, eliminating the normal reduction gearbox and saving 73 pounds of weight.
While the entry level Cayenne has a 300-horspower 3.6-liter V6 engine, the new 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission makes it approximately 20 percent more fuel efficient than the previous model.
The 2011 Cayenne S with its 4.8-liter V8 also has a significant decrease in fuel consumption, down by 23 percent on the European driving cycle, with engine output now 400 horsepower compared to 385 horsepower in the previous Cayenne S.
The pinnacle model, the 2011 Cayenne Turbo with the 500-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 4.8-liter V8 is also 23 percent more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.
Porsche's new 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission with wide gear ratios contributes to fuel economy, along with the Automatic Start Stop function first introduced on the Panamera, efficient thermal management of engine and transmission cooling, on-board electrical network recuperation, deceleration fuel cut-off and lightweight construction.
Another new technology is Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTVP). PTV Plus uses variable torque distribution on the rear wheels as well as an electronically controlled rear axle differential lock, increasing both driving dynamics and stability in curves. The system automatically brakes the inside rear wheel in turns and racetrack corners in order to make the Cayenne turn in like a race car. We drove Cayenne S models first without and then with the system at Barber Motorsports Park, home of the Porsche Sport Driving School in Alabama, and the difference in cornering performance was dramatic.
The Cayenne S Hybrid, after some three and a half years in development, uses a supercharged version of the VW/Audi 3.0-liter V6 engine, generating 333 horsepower, with a 47-horspower electric motor added in for a total of 380 horsepower and a total of 428 foot-pounds of torque at just 1000 rpm. close to the output of the 4.8-liter V8 engine in the regular S model. Porsche says the Cayenne Hybrid will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, and reach 150 mph. It's the cleanest, greenest model in Porsche history at 193 gram of CO per kilometer on the European testing cycle.
The hybrid system uses a 288-volt nickel metal-hydride (NiMh) Sanyo battery fitted beneath the luggage compartment and regenerative braking, the process of storing electricity regained from applying the brakes and driving under normal conditions. Porsche's very first hybrid system has an E-mode switch, which can operate the vehicle entirely on electricity in slow-moving commuting situations up to 37 mph (we actually saw 41 mph going downhill).
In the sailing mode, which can operate up to 97 mph, both the engine and electric motor shut off completely, and the vehicle also shuts down every time it comes to a stop, with regenerative braking to recharge the battery. The battery charging system, developed with battery partner Sanyo, keeps the charge between 45 and 75 percent.
The Cayenne S Hybrid is a full parallel hybrid, meaning that it can operate on electricity, gasoline, or both, and uses the standard 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission. The electric motor and the decoupler or clutch mechanism are placed ahead of the transmission. The system incorporates hill descent control as well as a hill-holder.
Porsche estimates that the Cayenne S hybrid will achieve 21 miles per gallon in the city (a 30 percent improvement compared to the V8-powered S version) and 25 miles per gallon on the highway.
All Cayenne models except the Turbo come with steel suspension as standard equipment, but for the first time it can be combined with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as an option. PASM is a highly sophisticated system providing active, infinite damper control on the front and rear axle. It offers the choice of the three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
The Cayenne Turbo comes with a new air suspension system with PASM standard. Any 2011 Cayenne can be ordered with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), an optional system that actively stabilizes the vehicle through dynamic distribution of roll forces.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne lineup includes Cayenne V6 ($47,600), Cayenne S ($63,700), Caynne S Hybrid ($67,700), and Cayenne Turbo ($104,800). (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.).
The 2011 Cayenne has all-new front, side and rear appearance.
The Cayenne is easily identifiable as a Porsche with design cues shared with the 911 and Panamera. The more powerful models have functional design cues indicating higher levels of performance. The Cayenne Turbo is distinguished by larger grilles that increase the amount of air flowing through the engine bay.
The Cayenne is not small, measuring nearly 191 inches in length. That's about the same length as the current BMW X5 (191.2 inches) and Mercedes M-Class (188.5 inches). Cayenne is 75.9 inches wide, about the same as the X5 (76.1 inches) or a half-inch wider than M-Class (75.2 inches). Cayenne's wheelbase measures 114 inches.
In size, Cayenne most closely matches Volkswagen's Touareg, which is no surprise given the two vehicles were developed jointly by Porsche and VW. Engines and other Cayenne components are built by Porsche in Zuffenhausen, Germany, and mated to the Cayenne at an assembly plant in Leipzig. Cayenne, Touareg, and the Audi Q7 share basic structures, though the Audi is stretched for more passenger space. Engine and suspension tuning, styling and all the finish work were the separate responsibility of each manufacturer.
The 2011 Cayenne is 400 pounds lighter than the previous-generation even though it is better equipped and two inches longer overall. The 2011 Cayenne hood, doors, and decklid are made of aluminum.
Inside, the 2011 Cayenne features a high center console that, like the Panamera's, rises up to meet the center stack with a touch-screen infotainment interface to provide a cockpit environment. The center console grab handles that were a trademark of the original Cayenne are still there, with a new design.
Rear-seat room is more generous, thanks to the 1.6-inch extended wheelbase for 2011. The second seat now slides fore-and-aft by 6.3 inches, and the backrest can be adjusted to three different angles, or up to 6 degrees.
Porsche's traditional five round-instrument gauge cluster now includes a high-resolution circular 4.8-inch TFT screen to the right of the tach. It can be used to change radio stations, vehicle settings, access the navigation system or view the map.
The Cayenne S Hybrid instrument cluster differs as the instruments provide the driver with all information he or she needs to monitor car's innovative hybrid system and maximize its efficiencies.
The 2011 Cayenne comes with the same audio and communication systems found in the Panamera, with a standard Bose Surround Sound and the optional Burmester high-end Surround Sound System. All U.S. Cayenne models include Bluetooth telephone connectivity and an audio interface to connect an iPod or a USB stick with the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system as standard equipment. Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering and a moonroof are standard on the Cayenne S, Cayenne S Hybrid and Cayenne Turbo.
During our time in and around Birmingham, Alabama, and at Barber Motorsports Park, we were able to drive the Hybrid, Turbo and S versions of the Cayenne, and we came away impressed.
The Cayenne in any form is a wonderful, quiet, plush, and luxurious highway cruiser, but the V8 S version and the Turbo will find their way around a racetrack with amazing alacrity, very little body lean in hard corners, and no bad behavior. The Turbo version is rated by Porsche to run the 0-60 mph sprint in a mere 4.4 seconds, and has a top speed of 172 mph, about 50 mph higher than a typical SUV. There are very few twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V8 engines in the SUV world, and this one generates 500 horsepower and 516 foot-pounds of torque, which gives the Cayenne absolutely breathtaking performance, but also allows towing of over 7700 pounds.
The highway cruising behavior of any of the Cayenne models is exemplary. The air spring suspension and the big tires act together as giant shock absorbers for whatever dips, ruts, hole and bumps are in the road.
The brakes on the Cayenne are enormous, with six-pistons calipers up front and four-piston calipers at the rear, with 15.3-inch front discs and 14-inch rear discs, enough braking power to stop a freight train on a dime.
The hybrid version is meant to be clean and green without being boring or underpowered, and Porsche has done a wonderful job mating a real engine, a real transmission (instead of a CVT), and a clever hybrid package of battery, motor, charging system and electronic controls.
The Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) is a further development of the existing Bi-Xenon light system that offers not only dynamic and static cornering lights, but also continuous light leveling and speed-sensitive headlight control with separate modes for roads and interstates. The system is standard on the Cayenne Turbo and an option on the other models.
The new Lane Change Assistant (LCA) monitors traffic in the adjacent lanes up to 230 feet behind the vehicle, including the driver's blind spots. As soon as another vehicle enters the blind spots or approaches rapidly from behind within a range of 180 feet, an LED warning light illuminates on the inside of the corresponding exterior mirror. If the driver uses the turn signal, the flashing light appears to alert the driver of the approaching vehicle.
Adaptive Cruise Control uses radar to monitor and maintain the preset distance between the Cayenne and vehicles in front of it by restricting the throttle or applying the brakes. If the vehicle in front decelerates, ACC will continue to reduce speed, all the way down to a complete stop. ACC operates at speeds from 20 to 100 mph. The required braking power is calculated by the system and by Porsche Stability Management (PSM) building up brake pressure. If the distance between the Cayenne and the vehicle ahead becomes too small, the system alerts the brake standby function to shorten the stopping distance required. It also pre-fills the brake system for quicker response and gives the driver both a visual and an acoustic warning and an additional brake pulse.
The Cayenne was designed by a sports car specialist company to be the sports car of luxury SUVs, and this second generation Cayenne in all its forms is a superlative driving machine, whether for everyday trips to drop off the kids at school to very serious off-roading to cross-country family jaunts. The total safety and chassis control package is as good as it gets. It's beautiful, comfortable, and capable, well beyond most people's driving skills on a race track, but it won't beat you up on a long Interstate Highway trip. Possibly the best high-performance SUV there is.
Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Birmingham, Alabama.
Porsche Cayenne ($46,700); Cayenne S ($63,700); Cayenne Hybrid ($67,700); Cayenne Turbo ($104,800).
Options As Tested
Porsche Cayenne Turbo ($104,800).
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