Porsche wants you to believe that the single most important aspect of the 2011 Cayenne is that the big SUV is now available as a 2-mode hybrid. That's impressive, but not nearly as amazing as the fact that the German engineers have managed to trim 400 pounds out of the truck.
Every nook and cranny was re-examined to drop the weight. The result: better performance and fuel economy. How sweet is that?
Model Lineup
While the Cayenne lineup technically starts with a V6-powered base version, the real fun begins with the $63,700 Cayenne S. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels and takes horsepower from 300 to 400 by way of an all-aluminum V8 engine. Brakes are slightly larger as well: 14.2 inches, compared with 13.7 inches.
Step up the Porsche SUV ladder and you'll find yourself behind the wheel of the all-new Cayenne S Hybrid. Priced at $67,700, it's the only Porsche on sale right now that's capable of operating in all-electric mode. With 18-inch wheels and a smattering of high-tech drivetrain technology, it's the most efficient Cayenne of the bunch.
At the top of the pecking order is the Cayenne Turbo. Aside from being the fastest Cayenne you can buy, thanks to a burly twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood, the $104,800 Cayenne Turbo features unique 19-inch wheels for extra style.
Under the Hood
The Cayenne S comes from the factory with a 4.8-liter V8 engine that produces 400 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Fifteen more horsepower than the previous model helps get the S to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds - nearly two seconds faster than the base Cayenne. The S trim also nets buyers the same 8-speed automatic gearbox found in the base SUV, albeit with different gear ratios.
Here's where things get interesting: the Cayenne S Hybrid. The engineers in Stuttgart, Germany, fitted the Hybrid with a supercharged direct-injection 3.0-liter V6 engine. Combined with a small 47-horsepower electric motor, the engine manages to produce 380 horsepower and 427 lb-ft of torque. The system also uses a decoupling clutch in the 8-speed automatic transmission to allow the vehicle to operate in all-electric mode. A 288-volt nickel-metal hydride battery provides power to the electric motor.
The most powerful engine is in the Cayenne Turbo. For 2011, the turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 produces 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the topped-out SUV can scoot to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds — better than most sports cars.
So far, neither Porsche nor the Environmental Protection Agency has released fuel-economy numbers on the next-generation Cayenne SUVs, but we're told to expect a 23 percent bump in efficiency throughout the range, thanks to lightweight design and tricks such as an auto-stop system for the engine in the Cayenne Turbo and the Cayenne S Hybrid.
Inner Space
Inside, the Porsche designers lifted heavily from the all-new Panamera, and the cabin is now drop-dead gorgeous as a result. Every inch of the interior is wrapped in high-quality leather, wood trim and brushed metal accents.
The Cayenne now wears the same elevated center console found in the company's new sedan, though the center grab handles hark back to the last-generation SUV. All of the center-console controls are easy to reach and use — a good thing whether you're tearing across Siberia or down the autobahn — but like the Panamera, they are mostly similar in feel. That means taking your eyes off the road momentarily, which is less than ideal. The upward-stretching center console itself is great, though — both the driver and front passenger get the feeling of being nestled into a sports car rather than sitting on a bar stool.