Despite a chilly reception from die-hards when it debuted for 2003, the Porsche Cayenne utility quickly became a success, and today accounts for almost 30% of the brand’s American sales. For 2011, Porsche’s hot-rod Cayenne is all-new inside and out, with more power across the lineup. And there’s even a hybrid on the way. So let’s give this spicy new sport-ute a go.

While clearly evolutionary, there is a fair amount of Panamera DNA at work on the exterior of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne. That includes the shape of the better integrated bi-xenon headlights, and the outer front fascia air intakes with LED daytime running light strips. The profile has more sculpting too, which tends to make the extra couple of inches added to overall length appear even longer.

Our Meteor Gray Metallic Cayenne’s optional RS Spyder-style 20-inch wheels came shod in 275/45 Michelin Latitude Sport rubber. Except for the commanding altitude above the asphalt, the interior styling doesn’t fit an SUV. The dash and sloping center console again favor the Panamera.

A traditionally-styled five-gauge Porsche cluster is there, but it adds a reconfigurable screen that relays all manner of info to the driver.

Available amenities cover the LUXURY gamut, including ventilated seats, navigation, and rear view monitor.

With about an inch and a half added to wheelbase, adult comfort in the 40/20/40 split-reclining second row is improved. It also slides 6.3 inches fore-to-aft. Fold the seats flat, and the 62.9 cubic feet of cargo space is about as before.

Power is also evolutionary. The entry-level Cayenne sports a 3.6-liter V6, but horsepower is up 10 to an even 300, and 295 pound-feet of torque, a bump of 22. Our S grade test ute’s 4.8-liter direct injected variable timing V8 rates 400 horsepower—15 more than last year. Torque is unchanged at 369 pound-feet. The top-line Cayenne Turbo V8 still bolts on twin-turbochargers for an even 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.

But soon, a Cayenne Hybrid will arrive with a 333-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 coupled to a 47-horsepower electric motor. Except for the base V6-powered Cayenne, which comes standard with a six-speed manual, shifting is through a new eight-speed Tiptronic automatic with paddle shifters and automatic stop/start.

Combined with better traction control, the new, lower gear tranny allowed Porsche to drop its two-speed transfer case. That, plus lots of new aluminum body bits, saves 400 pounds.

We saw the results quickly. 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds, about three-quarters of a second faster than before. The quarter mile took just 13.9 seconds at 108 mph.

Faster response was even more evident thought the slalom. With the optional Porsche Active Stability Management System on, the Cayenne proved unbelievably stable as the new transmission showed off near intuitive gear changes. The high-speed lane change was equally impressive, without notable electronic nanny-ing, and near-zero body roll. Steering is weighted and sports-car precise, but lacks a bit in feedback.

Four-wheel vented disc brakes snapped the Cayenne to a stop from 60 in an excellent average of 120 feet. But there was more fade and twitchiness than expected, and the pedal was quite mushy. Our Cayenne’s highway manners also benefited from PASM, with settings for comfort, normal, and sport.

While adventurous off-roading requires adding the height adjustable air suspension. It mates well with the lower transmission gearing, standard hill descent control, and the all-wheel drive system’s four traction settings. The results are impressive.

More good news is that Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Porsche Cayenne S jump 23% from last year, to 16 city, 22 highway on premium gas. Pricing starts at $47,625. Our Cayenne S is 64,625 to start, with the Hybrid next at $68,625. The mighty Turbo starts at a whopping $105,725.

Traditional Porschephiles may never respect the Cayenne, but the 2011 edition clearly deserves its Porsche badge. It looks more like a Porsche, feels more like a Porsche, and most importantly, drives more like a Porsche than ever.



  • Engine: 4.8-Liter Direct
  • Horsepower: 400
  • Torque: 369 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 5.7 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 108 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 120 Feet
  • EPA: 16 MPG City/ 22 MPG Highway