First Look: 2011 Porsche Cayenne

2011 Porsche Cayenne

Go ahead Porsche purists, sigh once again. The controversial Cayenne soldiers on into a second generation thanks in large part to a successful worldwide sales campaign launched in 2002. As one might expect, the 2011 Porsche Cayenne improves on many of the outgoing's traits while getting a boost in fuel economy and in some cases, more power. And of course, the Cayenne lineup is even greener thanks to a new hybrid model.

Designers reworked the Cayenne's façade to provide a more contemporary form. If you notice hints of Panamera, it's no mistake. The sculpted hood, headlights, and grille mimic Porsche's other contentious model. Dimensionally, the Cayenne is 1.9-inches longer than its predecessor overall with a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase. More interior passenger and cargo space are the result, Porsche points out. Its backend gets restyled LED taillights, also very reminiscent of the Panamera's wide, curvaceous units.

But the longer body doesn't necessarily mean more mass. Thanks to a new all-wheel drive setup and the use of new materials (Porsche wasn't specific), the range as a whole is promised to be lighter and more efficient. The Cayenne S, for example, sheds some 400 lbs.

The lineup's shining star is the Cayenne S Hybrid. It's a full parallel hybrid, meaning it can run solely on the 333-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 or its 47-horsepower electric motor. It can also be powered by both simultaneously. Combined, the SUV packs 380-horsepower and 427 pound-feet of torque and is said by Stuttgart to match the Cayenne S in straight line performance. The brand's new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic gearbox gets it up to speed.

A decoupling clutch connects the engine to the electric motor and ensures a smooth transition of power throughout the driving cycle. Electric power can propel the Cayenne at speeds up to 40 mph, according to Porsche. It can also "sail" on the highway by shutting down the V-6 at speeds up to 97 mph. The Cayenne S Hybrid qualifies as the cleanest Porsche in the portfolio, with emissions output at 193 grams per kilometer. No EPA fuel economy ratings have been published as of yet.

The entry-level Cayenne maintains its 3.6-liter V-6, but thanks to a few tweaks and eight-speed transmission, it gets 10 more horses (for a total of 300-horsepower) and is 20 percent more fuel efficient on the combined European cycle. Occupying the middle ground is a more powerful 400-horsepower (up 15 ponies) Cayenne S. Its 4.8-liter V-8's fuel efficiency is 23 percent better than last year's model. Same goes for the Cayenne Turbo's 500-horsepower V-8. Interestingly, there was no word on the autobahn-eating 550-horserpower Turbo S or sportier GTS.

The modern design continues inside. With more room to work with, engineers implemented a high center console between the two front passengers. Like the Panamera, it bears an elongated form, with a litany of control buttons set below and on either side of the Tiptronic lever. The leather dash gets a TFT screen capable of controlling all the pertinent in-cabin goodies. It's flanked by tall aluminum-surrounded HVAC vents. The whole is attractive, in true Porsche style.

Porsche's 2011 Cayenne will first bow at next week's Geneva motor show, followed by a North American debut at the New York Auto Show in April. U.S. Cayenne S and Turbo sales are scheduled to begin in July, while standard Cayenne and the Cayenne S Hybrid arrive this fall. Expect full details and pricing to arrive nearer to its U.S. sale date.

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