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#11

in 2011 Luxury Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $44,365 - $83,410
Original MSRP: $47,700 - $106,000
MPG: 15 City / 22 Hwy
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2011 Porsche Cayenne Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2011 Cayenne's performance capabilities are commendable -- especially because on top of its burly engines and surprising agility, the SUV can also fend for itself on rocky terrain. New for 2011 is a gas/electric hybrid model that reviewers say drives just as well as a conventional Cayenne. It’s undoubtedly the most fun-to-drive hybrid SUV on the market.

Check out our 2011 Porsche Cayenne video for an up-close look at the Cayenne's performance.

  • "For those who want the best-handling SUV money can currently buy, then the Cayenne, with any of its powertrains, is probably what you're looking for." -- Road and Track
  • "Considering the Cayenne S Hybrid's excellent acceleration and high-speed stability, this is an impressive hybrid, even as a hybrid. But it's still a hybrid, with most of the compromises in its visceral impact that we've come to expect from previous hybrids." -- Edmunds
  • "A primary goal of Porsche engineers was to make the Cayenne S Hybrid drive like a ‘normal vehicle,’ and that it does to a large extent. Under normal acceleration, the vehicle runs up the rev-range and shifts into the next gear like a standard Cayenne." -- Motor Trend
  • "But Porsches, even the Cayenne SUVs, have always been about driving. And there's simply no way a Hybrid with its dance between drivetrain components can deliver a driving experience like a conventional vehicle. But considering how much technological mediation is going on between the driver and SUV, the Cayenne S Hybrid does compensate well." -- Popular Mechanics

Acceleration and Power

The base Cayenne comes with a 3.6-liter 300-horsepower V6, while the Cayenne S comes with a 4.8-liter 400-horsepower V8. The super-powerful Cayenne Turbo comes with a twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 that makes a whopping 500 horsepower. While the base engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission, all others get a new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic. Test drivers say all three engines provide more than ample power, and they’re simply blown away by the rocket-ship-like Cayenne Turbo.

The S Hybrid comes with a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine and a 47-horsepower electric motor. The Cayenne is a parallel hybrid, which means it can run solely on the electric motor, solely on the gasoline engine, or on both units together. Test drivers have only good things to say about the hybrid powertrain, noting that there’s a seamless transition between gasoline and electric power.

An especially nice feature is the hybrid’s ability to “coast” or “sail.” When it doesn’t need drive power and the driver takes his foot off the accelerator at speeds up to 97 mph, the gasoline engine completely switches off and disengages the drivetrain.

The EPA has not yet rated the 2011 Porsche Cayenne. However, Porsche expects the Hybrid S to return ratings similar to a four-cylinder engine. As for the other models, the base and Turbo models are expected net increases of 20 to 23 percent as compared to last year’s model, thanks to the all-new transmission and an Automatic Start Stop function. The S model, however, will offer decreased fuel economy because of its increase in horsepower for 2011.

Any fuel economy increase is a plus for the Cayenne. The EPA rated last year’s base model at 14/20 mpg city/highway, which was one of the worst ratings in the class.

  • “We found that the hybrid system works very well. There's just a slight whine to indicate that the Cayenne is operating in electric mode, and it moves seamlessly between gasoline and electric power. Under hard throttle, the vehicle gets along smartly, the torque from the electric motor impressively augmenting the smooth and sonorous V-6." -- Car and Driver
  • "With 500 hp at 6,000 rpm, the Cayenne Turbo possesses the sort of power reserves to make some so-called supercars appear almost tame by comparison. All it takes to breech the sort of speed limits posted in North America is a slight brush of the throttle, even at low revs in high gears." -- Edmunds
  • "The transition between electric and gasoline power occurs in just 300 milliseconds and is virtually undetectable, even at higher speeds -- a testament to Porsche engineers' efforts to make the transition seamless." -- Motor Trend
  • "The massive computing power aboard this Porsche determines that it doesn't need the internal-combustion engine to sustain forward momentum. So, using a clutch, it disengages the engine and then turns it off. It's a little spooky at first -- gone is the engine braking of a conventional drivetrain -- but it's relatively easy to adjust to. It's like driving a really large electric vehicle." -- Popular Mechanics
  • “Most hybrids use continuously variable automatic transmissions that are sometimes slow to react as you nail the gas pedal at a green light; the Cayenne's eight-speed gearbox gets things moving quickly without all of the CVT's linear-revving fuss." -- Cars.com
  • "The new Cayenne has smooth power delivery...Even the Cayenne V6 is quick, although its automatic transmission shifts more often than with the V8s to keep the V6 in the right power band for the best performance." -- MSN

Handling and Braking

The redesigned Cayenne has lost about 400 pounds, and test drivers say it’s more nimble than ever. Most of them comment on the all-new S Hybrid model, saying its steering system provides more feedback than most hybrids.

An adjustable air suspension is standard on the Cayenne Turbo and optional on the base and S models. Porsche Active Suspension Management, which automatically adjusts suspension damping based on road conditions, is also standard on the Turbo and optional on the base and S.

  • "The [hybrid’s] electrohydraulic power steering is a touch light, but this is still a very sporty SUV. On the highway, it's eerie when the engine goes quiet while coasting, but reengagement of the gasoline engine is amazingly smooth. Our only reservation was the occasional clunky downshift while braking from low speed, no doubt caused by the locked torque converter as energy is redirected into the battery. Porsche claims this is a prototype glitch.” -- Car and Driver
  • "Underway, the Cayenne S Hybrid's new electrohydraulic steering felt precise, if just a tad overboosted, and despite the hybrid's extra 350 pounds over the V-8 Cayenne S, it still felt well buttoned-down over the twisty hills of Bel Air, California." -- Motor Trend
  • "The braking is bit odd feeling -- there's some pedal mush not present on other Cayennes. And of course, an electric motor's hum is no substitute for a thick exhaust note. But it's a seriously quick machine with low-end torque that is particularly satisfying in urban stop-and-go traffic." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "In terms of driving feel, a new electrohydraulic power-steering system actually delivers better feedback in the hybrid than the traditional unit found in the Cayenne Diesel we also tested on the same route." -- Cars.com
  • "The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo belies its increase in size by remaining poised and fluid when hustled quickly down a winding road.” -- Edmunds
  • "As nimble as can be expected of a tall, 5500-lb SUV. Cayenne corners with good grip and balance with direct steering and modest cornering lean. Strong brakes are more than up to any stopping task." -- Consumer Guide

Off-Roading

Although it's unlikely many people would take a Porsche off-road, reviewers say the 2011 Porsche Cayenne can adequately handle rough terrain. All models come with Porsche Traction Management. In non-hybrid models, the system comes with active all-wheel drive, while in S Hybrid models it comes with permanent all-wheel drive and a self-locking center differential.

A new option for 2011 is the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system, which makes the car more agile and precise in curves.

  • "While we expected the Porsche Cayenne to excel in spirited on-road driving, it was the extensive off-road driving we did in the Cayenne that was a revelation to us. Thanks largely to its very sophisticated systems like the optional air suspension system, traction management and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, the Cayenne is a superior off-highway performer, making quick work of imposing grades." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Flaunting a three-level off-road system that alters the height of the air suspension, locks the center and rear differentials as needed, and utilizes a fully variable Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system that can apportion up to 100 percent of torque to the front or rear axle, the Cayenne Turbo easily conquered a muddy course riddled with kitchen-sink divots, waist-deep pools, and black-diamond slopes." -- Motor Trend

Next Steps: 2011 Porsche Cayenne

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