2011 Porsche Cayenne V6 Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Highway performance is brilliant. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

OK, this is more like it. The new 2011 Cayenne's interior is way upscale. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Centre console design is borrowed from the Panamera... no bad thing. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Oh those seats! Very, very nice. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

The Porsche designed for hauling is now arguably the best luxury sport-SUV on the planet. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Published on June 17, 2011

Porsches have been six-cylinder powered for decades, and that tradition continues from the brand's entry-level Boxster right up to its supercar-like 911 GT2. So why a lackluster response from Porsche enthusiasts and auto journalists alike way back in 2004 when the V6-powered Cayenne was introduced?

Quite simply, with only 250-horsepower and 228 lb-ft of torque under-hood to motivate 2,244 kilos (4,949 lbs) of mass all-round, it didn't exactly live up to Porsche's renowned athleticism. What's more, its 6-speed manual was a clunker to operate and worse needed some deft pedal placement acrobatics to actuate the left-foot parking brake and clutch simultaneously, if you didn't opt for the pricier 6-speed automatic. While the left-foot brake pedal problem persisted and base weight continued to range from 2,160 to 2,288 kilos (4,762 to 5,045 lbs) depending on year and features, the 2008 model remedied the engine output problem by upping displacement to 3.6 litres for 290-horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, certainly a move in the right direction albeit still bested by V6 engines sold through less respected nameplates. 2011 is an entirely different story.

The latest generation Cayenne, completely revised from the ground up, not only gets an all-new direct-injection 3.6-litre V6 capable of 300-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, but the base 6-speed manual is complemented by an electronic parking brake engaged by the touch of a dash-mounted button. My tester sported the all-new ultra-efficient 8-speed automatic with steering-spoke mounted paddles, a transmission that adds significant snap off the line and a much taller final gear for better highway fuel economy. Pump frugality has improved all-round thanks to something Porsche fans will likely admire more than the added power and thrifty transmission. A much lighter curb weight now tips the scales at a mere 1,995 kilograms (4,399 lbs), which of course improves handling too.

The 2011 Cayenne is also visually lighter. As part of its update it gets a styling redo that gives its front end a cleaner more elegant and more traditionally Porsche-like design. It follows that through with more muscular fenders that pull additional cues from its sports car lineup and likewise adds beautifully sculpted LED taillights out back.

Of course, Porsche updated the interior too, but this time chose to emulate its brilliantly executed Panamera cabin to the point that the Cayenne can easily stand neck to neck with a Range Rover for design, quality of materials and overall richness. And if tech is your thing, the new Cayenne surpasses most in the class with a touch-screen infotainment system that's not only filled with features but also ultra-easy to use. Of course, all the expected luxury niceties are standard, but a couple of items included for the Cayenne's $55,300 asking price came as a bit of a surprise, such its heated steering wheel and powered rear liftgate. Even Porsche's comparatively low $1,115 destination charge had me nodding my head in approval.

The Cayenne V6's off-the-line acceleration had my head moving the other way, mind you, making me glad for a well-placed headrest. OK, it's not going to get your mojo going like a 400-horsepower Cayenne S and won't have you peeling your eyelids back from inside their sockets like the 500-horsepower Cayenne Turbo, but as far as V6-powered, 4x4-capable, luxury-laden SUVs go, it's a real bahn-stormer.

Its low-carb diet means that agility around corners is enhanced too, as is its braking capability. The Cayenne, once porky from living the highlife off of a decade or so of SUV spoils, now feels like its been given a new lease on life.

It still enjoys ample seating for five, with a rear row that slides fore and aft for more cargo capacity or legroom respectively, and 60/40 split-reclining seatbacks that fold down for yet more of the former at 670 or 1,780 litres of capacity before and after (23.6 / 62.8 cu ft).

I didn't off-road the new Cayenne, but it was nice to know I could. It offers a decent 215 mm (8.4 inches) of ground clearance in base trim, which is good enough for all but extremely challenging terrain.

I have to admit that I like the new Cayenne's fuel efficiency as much as its all-round performance. I managed a combined 13 L/100km city/highway (including a lot of hills and a prodigiously excitable right foot), which is really good compared to my experience with the previous version. The US EPA rates the 2011 V6 automatic at a converted equivalent of 10.2 in the city and 14.7 on the highway, whereas the Canadian rating system has it pegged at a slightly less realistic 9.3 and 14.1 respectively. The only negative is the requirement of premium fuel.

I couldn't say this before, but now I'm willing to claim the 2011 Porsche Cayenne as the best performance-luxury SUV on the planet. From this entry-level V6-powered base model and its all-new hybrid-enhanced sibling, to the V8 powered S and top-line twin-turbocharged Cayenne Turbo, there's nothing that can touch it.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Porsche, 2011, Cayenne, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Porsche

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