2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Road Test Review

Brian Armstead - CAP staff
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I hurtle along the straightaway, revs building in response to turbo boost pressure. My instructor, legendary racer Hurley Haywood, suggests I brake rapidly as I approach the next corner. Surely, it's not because my test vehicle, the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, is not capable of completing the sharp turn. I think brother Hurley was afraid of my talents, or lack thereof. Proof came on the next lap, where fellow racing legend David Donohue came up on me like I was stuck in mud. His speed through the corners in the Cayenne Turbo defied belief-I watched it unfold before me, but surely this could not be happening. How could a vehicle I had just taken off-road be so supreme and confident on the racetrack?

This, my friends, is the wonder and magic that is the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

The Cayenne first debuted in late 2001 at the Paris Auto Show. Since then Porsche has sold more than 280,000 Cayennes worldwide. Times were lean for Porsche before the Cayenne, and this model is widely seen as the vehicle that saved the company.

For 2011, the Cayenne is an all-new model that features an entirely new exterior design that appears sleeker and smaller when in fact it is larger than the previous model; an all-new interior similar to that found in the Panamera; more rear cargo room and interior space for the rear passengers thanks to a longer wheelbase and rear seats that adjust fore and aft with seatback incline positions; significant weight savings as Porsche engineers shaved more than 180 kilos off overall when compared with previous Cayenne models; a new active all-wheel drive system that can be paired with Porsche's new Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) Plus option to provide agile on-road driving dynamics; new high-end audio systems from Bose and Burmester; and new safety systems like the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), Lane Change Assistant (LCA), and Adaptive Cruise Control.

I'll go out on my own personal limb here, and make a statement that won't seem at all profound once you too, slide behind the wheel of the Cayenne Turbo for a test drive. The only vehicles that come close to the dual-purpose personality of the Cayenne Turbo are the Range Rover Sport SC and the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG-but neither do it with the flair and panache of the Cayenne.

So what makes this premium SUV so special? Well, Cayenne Turbo performance prowess comes in two distinct forms – an advanced turbocharged engine, and a state-of-the-art, air damped suspension.

Let's start under the bonnet, where a 4.8-litre, twin turbo, twin intercooled V8 resides. All the years of Porsche's experience in building superior motors are infused into this mighty V8. Five hundred hungry horses live here, while 516 pound-feet of twisting power is attached the reins designed to run wild and free.  

And despite this prodigious power, the 2011 Cayenne Turbo is 23 percent more fuel efficient than the 2010 model. In addition to Porsche's new eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission with a wide range of gear ratios, other factors contribute to this reduction in fuel consumption. These include the Automatic Start Stop function (first introduced on the Panamera), efficient thermal management of the engine and transmission cooling circuits, on-board electrical network recuperation, variable deceleration fuel cut-off and the Cayenne's lightweight construction (the Cayenne chassis is now 65 kilos lighter thanks in part to the use of aluminum).

The suspension also features Zuffenhausen's legendary prowess in making Porsches stick to the road like glue. For the new Cayenne, Porsche has developed an active all-wheel drive system driving the rear wheels and transmitting power to the front wheels as needed through an electronically controlled, map-based multiple-plate clutch. Porsche selected this technology to reduce weight and make the new Cayenne even more agile on the road. But the Cayenne also offers enhanced off-road capabilities.

The active all-wheel drive system can be paired with Porsche's new Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) Plus option. PTV Plus uses variable torque distribution on the rear wheels as well as an electronically controlled rear axle differential lock that increases driving dynamics and stability in curves. A new Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system, together with the new transmission eliminates the need for a reduction gearbox, which saves 33 kg.  When developing PTM, Porsche engineers wanted to optimize driving dynamics while retaining the Cayenne's impressive off-road ability.

The Cayenne Turbo comes with a new air suspension system with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard equipment. PASM is a sophisticated system providing active, infinite damper control on the front and rear axles. It offers the choice of the three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport. The Cayenne Turbo can be further enhanced with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), an optional system that actively stabilizes the vehicle through dynamic distribution of roll forces.

While I've been gushing about the performance and handling attributes of the Cayenne Turbo, Porsche has also infused a ton of luxury into this premium SUV. The list of comfort and convenience attributes is comprehensive.

First off, the cabin is big enough for big guys. If you are extra long or extra wide, the Cayenne will fit you comfortably. The driver's position offers a commanding view of necessary switchgear and indeed the road ahead (you'll need this commanding view as the asphalt below you disappears at a rapid rate).

The luxurious interior features a high centre console similar to the console in the Panamera that rises up at an incline to meet the dashboard centre stack. If you are a button freak, you will immensely enjoy the Turbo's interior.

Porsche's traditional set of five round instruments in the drivers gauge cluster includes a high-resolution circular 4.8-inch TFT screen to the right of the tachometer. It can be used to change radio stations, vehicle settings, or access the navigation system or view the map. On the racetrack, I set this screen to the navigation system, which can also be shown on the larger centre stack screen. I was able to see the layout of the track, though it did not help my speed much!

The Cayenne Turbo is an amazing all around SUV, though it is far from cheap, starting at $120,000. If you have the financial means to own a superior vehicle that is equally at home on heated asphalt, circular driveways and muddy riverbeds, then this is the vehicle for you.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Porsche, 2011, Cayenne Turbo, $99,999+,

Organizations: Porsche

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