Monday, 9 May 2011

Porsche Cayenne - a thrill and a smile

You can no longer argue that Porsche is a slave to the concept of two-passenger sports cars. No siree. Porsche had purists rummaging through the medicine cabinet for their Prozac when it launched its Cayenne SUV in 2003. The release of the four-door Panamera last year had a similar impact. Just what is the world coming to?

Evidently the American public has recovered sufficiently from the shock to have purchased roughly 90,000 Cayennes over the years. This number will no doubt be significantly swelled with the launch of the second generation Cayenne as a 2011 this summer. It is about two inches longer, and slightly wider and taller than the previous model. It weighs about 400 pounds less. EPA-estimated fuel economy for all new versions haven't been announced at this writing; however if they follow those of the V8-equipped S that have been posted, fuel economy across the board will be impressively improved. There will even be a hybrid edition coming this fall that should, once again, throw purists into a tizzy.

When all of the dust settles, there will be four Cayenne models for 2011: Base, S, Turbo and the totally new S Hybrid. Each is defined by its power source: V6, V8, V8 turbo and gas-V8/electric motor, respectively. All four come standard with all-wheel drive. The $46,700 Base and $63,700 S enjoy a modest increase in power, while the $104,800 Turbo stays the same. However all three are quicker thanks to Porsche squeezing out excess weight wherever it could -- 86 pounds from the doors alone.

A breakdown of the specs reveals that a 300-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 powers the Base that uses a six-speed manual transmission to transfer output to the wheels. The eight-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission that is standard in the more expensive Cayennes is an option for the Base. Generating 400 horsepower is the 4.8-liter V8 in the S. A turbocharged version of the same V8 in the Turbo produces 500 horsepower. Mating the V8 to an electric motor delivers a combined 380 horsepower in the $67,700 S Hybrid.
Porsche has posted 0-60 times for all four models. As you might guess, leading the pack is the Turbo with a time of 4.4 seconds; followed by the S at 5.6 seconds, the S Hybrid at 6.1 seconds, and the Base at 7.1 seconds with the manual and 7.4 seconds with the eight-speed automatic transmission. So far the only EPA estimated fuel economy numbers available are the 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway for the S. Those are up from last year's figures of 13 mpg, city and 19 mpg highway. Porsche expects similar fuel savings for the Base and Turbo versions as well. An automatic start/stop function that turns off the engine at red lights and then automatically restarts it also contributes to the improved fuel numbers.

From behind the wheel, it's easy to forget you are in command of roughly two and a quarter tons -- two and a half tons in the S Hybrid. All versions handle brilliantly. Standard on the Turbo is an air suspension system with Porsche's Active Suspension Management (PASM) that provides active, infinite damper control on the front and rear axles. It has a choice of "Comfort," "Normal" and Sport settings. PASM is optional on the Base, S and S Hybrid models. Another bit of technology voodoo is the Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) optional system that uses variable torque distribution on the rear wheels to increase stability in the curves.
Despite being taller, the new Cayenne is sleeker in profile than the first generation SUV. Its front end, hood and lower fascia are also more in keeping with the rest of the Porsche lineup. The exterior changes are evolutionary in their execution, but the differences are apparent.

Styling changes dominate the interior; significantly more is changed than remains familiar. Whether it's the meatier, redesigned three-spoke steering wheel, the more sophisticated, raised center stack, or the simplified pod of gauges facing the driver, the look is dramatically different. There are still grab handles affixed to the center console, but their design has been carried to the door pulls. The seats still feature generous side bolsters and uncommon support. Split and folding, the rear seat reclines up to 6 degrees and offers 6.3 inches of fore-aft travel. Maximum cargo space is increased by 25 percent to 63 cubic feet with the backseat folded down.
A number of standard features are common to the entire Cayenne lineup. Full power accessories, leather seating, Bluetooth connectivity, multi-adjustable power front seats, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, and a Bose-infused 5.1 surround-sound system with CD player, USB port and auxiliary audio input jack are all included in the base price.

Although Porsche has raised prices for the redesigned Cayenne (Base is up $1,200 and the S $3,000), it is a larger, quicker, more fuel efficient SUV than its predecessor. And really, if you are going to spend $50,000 or more on an SUV, are you going to quibble over a grand or two? If you are prepared to spend the money, the 2011 Cayenne will reward you with a thrill and a smile every time you put the whip to it whether it's on the way to work, around the twisties or over uncharted terrain. It is indeed a Porsche and all that name represents.

No comments:

Post a Comment