In 2011, the Porsche Cayenne emerges as a lighter, faster, more fuel efficient version of its former self. With new powertrains, a significantly lower curb weight, an improved interior and sharper handling, the 2011 Porsche Cayenne is one of the best luxury midsize SUVs around.
The Cayenne's redesigned exterior doesn't deviate too much from the previous model's aesthetic, refining the distinctive Porsche looks. Whereas "one of the main criticisms of the previous Cayenne was its blob-like shape, which looked a bit like an eroded brick," according to Car and Driver, the tweaks to the 2011's looks make it appear "lighter" and "more sculpted." Though surely reviewers' opinions on the Porsche SUV's design are still divided, reviews of the 2011 model don't focus on this, as the biggest changes have occurred elsewhere.
Porsche cuts its 2011 model options down, offering the Cayenne only as a base model, Cayenne S or Cayenne Turbo. Each model brings its own engine and performance level. New standard features can be found on the base model this year, such as dual-zone automatic air conditioning, cooled front seats and linking to Bluetooth devices. The rear bench seat now has a 40-20-40 split and armrests for more comfort and utility in the back, and the wheels sport larger, 18-inch silver aluminum rims.
The revised interior is pretty snazzy, according to the experts; Porsche designers applied many cues from the lauded interior of the 2011 Porsche Panamera sedan. AutoBlog.com calls the interior "very upscale and meticulously finished from its beautiful wood and aluminum accents to the leather stitching on the dashboard." Rear seat comfort is excellent as well, with chairs that can slide back and forth for legroom adjustment. Maximum cargo capacity with the seats folded is 62.9 cubic feet. Rearward visibility is viewed as a shortcoming by critics.
Powering the base Cayenne is a revised 3.6-liter V6 that pushes 300 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque. The 2011 Cayenne comes with a six-speed manual transmission, which can be replaced with the same eight-speed automatic that comes standard in the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. The 3.6-liter manual transmission combo has a fuel average of 15 city/22 hwy/18 combined. This drops by 1 mpg with the automatic transmission.
The mid-range 2011 Cayenne S runs a 4.8-liter V8, boosting the horsepower by 100 and torque by 74 pounds-feet over the base engine. Drivers can expect the same 22 hwy/18 combined fuel efficiency as the base Cayenne, but get a slight nudge up to 16 mpg in the city. The eight-speed automatic found in this model and the Cayenne Turbo shifts smoothly and can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel, though a few reviewers note that a double-clutch gearbox may have been an appropriate option for the Cayenne.
The 2011 Cayenne Turbo's 500-horsepower 4.8-liter twin turbo V8 is certainly the performance champion in the Cayenne model line, but it comes at a steep price tag that rings in at over six figures. While on the track, Cars.com notes, it "simply goes like mad, with a throatier exhaust note and a satisfying blat with each upshift when under full throttle." The Environmental Protection Agency estimates this powertrain will achieve fuel economy of 15 city/22 hwy/17 combined, which is excellent for the amount of power it produces.
All trim levels have a very impressive maximum towing capacity of 7,716 pounds, making the Turbo one of the best luxury midsize SUVs for towing applications.
When it comes to performance and handling, no luxury midsize SUV beats the 2011 Porsche Cayenne, reviewers say. One of the 2011 Cayenne's major changes is its weight loss, which improves handling, fuel economy and performance. Ron Kiino of Motor Trend says that "extensive use of aluminum in the doors, hood, and chassis," along with a lighter engine, radiator, exhaust and transfer case, bring the curb weight down from 4,762 to 4,398 pounds.
Edmunds.com praises the steering for its "linearity, making it easy to place this 4,500 lbs. vehicle on the road," and goes on to report that the priciest Cayenne Turbo "came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet -- exceptional for an SUV." AutoBlog.com summarizes reviewer sentiment by calling the base Cayenne "incredibly enjoyable to drive." Many experts also enjoy the adjustable suspension, which is optional on all trims but the Cayenne Turbo, where it's standard, as it allows the driver to select the desired level of suspension stiffness. A Motor Trend comparison test found that the Cayenne Turbo was "the most fun drive of them all, by far," referring to the competing 2011 BMW X5 M and 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 they also tested.
Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tested the 2011 Porsche Cayenne. The Cayenne comes with plenty of safety equipment, including antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, driver knee airbags, side curtain airbags for all rows of seating and more. The Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system is an option that uses an electronically controlled limited-slip differential to shift torque between the wheels, which increases performance-oriented handling. A blind-spot warning system is available as well.
A major consumer publication predicts that the reliability of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne will be worse than average, according to survey-based data.
1. Motor Trend
A team of test drivers with Motor Trend compares the 2011 BMW X5 M, 2011 Porsche Cayenne and 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. The Porsche gets top nod because it "does many things -- towing, cargo carrying, canyon carving, circuit slaying -- with an extraordinary skill set."
Review: Comparison: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 vs. 2011 BMW X5 M vs. 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Nate Martinez, Aug. 22, 2011
In his review of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne, Popular Mechanics journalist James Tate says that "everybody wins" when "the company's best-selling model continues to give drivers everything they love about powerful SUVs, but in a 23 percent more fuel efficient package."
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne Test Drive, James Tate, June 3, 2010
In this single-car review, Joe Wiesenfelder discusses the changes to the 2011 Porsche Cayenne and the differences between all of the models.
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne, Joe Wiesenfelder
In their single-car review, editors at Edmunds.com say the redesigned 2011 Porsche Cayenne is "far more refined and street-friendly," and with its improvements becomes one of their "favorite luxury SUVs."
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne, Editors of Edmunds.com
5. Motor Trend
Motor Trend's Ron Kiino decrees "that Porsche's second-generation sport/utility indeed possesses genuine Porscheness" in his review of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Porsche Cayenne, Ron Kiino, May 28, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports fuel estimates for the 2011 Porsche Cayenne -- equipped with either the manual or automatic transmission -- the Cayenne S and the Cayenne Turbo.
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy
The editors of ConsumerReports.org discuss all aspects of most new vehicles. They also provide useful survey-based data.
Review: Porsche Cayenne, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
8. Car and Driver
This first-drive review highlights the changes to the complete Cayenne model lineup, and discusses the benefits of the weight reduction and new engines.
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne/S/Turbo/Hybrid, Csaba Csere, May 2010
9. Car and Driver
This full review provides plenty of detail on the 2011 Cayenne's improvements and gives insight into its driving dynamics.
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne, Juergen Zoellter, Feb. 2010
AutoBlog.com reviewer Michael Harley samples the redesigned 2011 Porsche Cayenne, focusing on its updates and the everyday experience of the 300-horsepower V6 base model.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Porsche Cayenne Sports a 300-hp V6, but Its Engine Isn't the Focus, Michael Harley, July 2010
Michael Harley tests the highest-spec 2011 Cayenne Turbo. Like other Cayenne trims, this model benefits from significant weight loss, but has a monstrous V8 engine to complement it.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Sheds 4,177 Twinkies -- and It Shows, Michael Harley, May 2010