The second-generation Cayenne is a wholesale improvement over the first-generation car, which was a pretty sweet thing itself. From behind the wheel, it feels significantly lighter, tighter, and more energetic. The steering is light but incredibly precise, the ride is plush yet firm, and the grip and body control are absolutely amazing for an SUV. Of course, this top-spec Turbo model has power and torque in spades, so when you gun the accelerator, the Cayenne sprints forward with effortless ease and speed. Addictively so, I might add; I think I’d be having a few roadside chats with the Michigan State Police if I drove one of these every day.
I also think that the styling has come a long way. This is now a downright handsome vehicle, with none of the awkwardness of the first generation. I had occasion to admire its lines, its fancy LED headlamps, and its 21-inch wheels and red brake calipers when I washed it using a hand wand on Saturday. There was no way I was gonna be driving this big white beauty dirty.
The interior, too, is beyond reproach, richly turned out and elegantly styled. Sure, the profusion of buttons and controls in the center stack is a bit daunting, but it all sure looks good. I love the grab handles flanking the center console. Fantastic stereo. Bluetooth interface works brilliantly; Porsche’s telematics systems have come a long, long way. Lots of rear-seat room, too.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
This thing is a beast. Having spent some time with the last generation Cayenne Turbo, I can say that the newest version of Porsche’s sport-ute retains the explosive power but (thankfully) loses the slightly trucky demeanor. I couldn’t help but to feel that with the old Cayenne I was driving a truck, with the new one the feeling was more akin to a taller Panamera. I echo Joe’s sentiment regarding the elegant and sumptuous interior, but the array of buttons seemed to border on overkill, even for a tech enthusiast as myself. While it is greatly improved from past iterations, I still find the infotainment system to be far from intuitive or easy to operate while on the move.
Where the last Cayenne was, err, unique, I find the 2011 to be a well-executed jellybean, not unlike a number of other luxury SUVs out there. Speaking of other luxury SUVs, why does a $117,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo still have an optional premium package with things such as a backup camera, full keyless entry and start, and seat ventilation? The $22,000 Hyundai Elantra has two of those things, and most of the Cayenne’s competitors come standard with them. Ah, but then again, this is a Porsche — you buy one for the engine, the driving dynamics, and the wonderful over-engineering of it all.
Donny Nordlicht, Assistant Web Producer
Superfast SUVs still aren’t my cup of tea, but the new Cayenne Turbo mostly overcomes that prejudice. The most noticeable improvement compared to the last generation is the mass reduction. Granted, no one will confuse the 4784-pound Cayenne with a Cayman or even a Panamera, but in a day when every redesign seems to bring a 200-pound weight gain and a longer wheelbase, it’s nice to see someone take a step back. Whereas driving the old Cayenne Turbo felt like sitting atop a giant, fast-moving brick, the new model is small enough that you’re not completely surprised and terrified when your right foot unleashes all 500 hp. The steering is almost identically to the one in the Panamera, which is to say very light but also very accurate.
I’ll agree with Joe that this is now a very handsome vehicle. It’s certainly much more subtle and cohesive looking than a BMW X5 or X6 M. The interior looks plenty nice as well, and I admire Porsche for taking a different route than its competitors with a button-intensive center stack. The cluster of buttons is imposing to a first-time user, but after a few weeks of building up muscle memory, they’d become second nature.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
This Cayenne Turbo is the Porsche I would buy if I was Porsche shopping (assuming this alternate life still included a wife, two kids and a dog).
It looks great-the new exterior is far more refined. Previous weaknesses-all of the lights in particular-are now standout details. The machined faces and dark charcoal innards of the wheels, with the bright red brake calipers peeking through, are gorgeous.
The engine and exhaust sound awesome, and it is an absolute blast to drive. But beyond that, it is a Porsche that is a thoroughly functional vehicle. The interior is beautiful, with a cockpit and front seats that just seemed to fit perfectly, and a back seat with a surprising amount of space and legroom. Add to that a respectable cargo area, all-wheel-drive, and a host of safety features, it’s the complete package.
For me, this is a Porsche without compromises.
The Cayenne Turbo doesn’t feel like an overpowered SUV, or a too-tall sports car, it feels like a completely naturally-evolved creature. Perfectly balanced, light on its feet, but firmly planted-if that makes any sense. I would never tire of driving it.
Yeah, the dizzying array of buttons on the console is ridiculous, but David is right that the ones you use would eventually fall (somewhat) readily to hand. (Why Porsche decided to bury the “lock/unlock” button in the farthest, deepest corner of the console is beyond me-especially since the doors all lock every time you drive. It took forever to find it the lock release first time, and was no less annoying each time I had to grab camera gear out of the back seat. Put it on the damn door where it belongs!)
Matt Tierney, Art Director
2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Base price (with destination): $105,775
Price as tested: $117,610
4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine
8-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission
Porsche traction management with active all-wheel drive
Fully independent air suspension
Porsche stability management
19-inch alloy wheels
Tire pressure monitoring system
Multi-function heated steering wheel
Adaptive sport seats
PCM with navigation and Bose surround sound
Universal audio interface with iPod connection
XM satellite radio
Heated/auto-dimming/retracting exterior mirrors
Options on this vehicle:
Burmester high-end surround sound system — $3990
21-inch 911 Turbo II wheels — $3965
Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV) — $1490
Seat ventilation front — $800
Trailer coupling — $650
Ski bag — $405
Light comfort package — $250
Key options not on vehicle:
Porsche ceramic composite brakes — $8840
Premium package plus — $5320
Porsche dynamic chassis control (PDCC) — $3510
Sport package — $3500
Rear seat entertainment — $2990
Adaptive cruise control — $2490
Panorama roof system — $660
15 / 22 / 17 mpg
Size: 4.8L twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 500 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 2250-4500 rpm
Curb weight: 4784 lb
Wheels: 21-inch 911 Turbo II