2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo

2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Short Take Road Test

The torch-bearing mobs of outraged 911 purists have long since retreated from the gates of Porsche’s various corporate outposts, so we can only speculate that had this new Cayenne been the original offering back in 2003—rather than the ungainly original—initial response might have been more uniformly positive.

Then again, maybe not.

Be that as it may, here’s the Turbo version of the second generation, distinctly more attractive and better in about every way imaginable. Better in terms of usefulness, as in roomier. Better in terms of operating costs, as in improved fuel economy. Better in terms of dynamics, as in a more sophisticated balance between ride and response.

Defying Physics

Although the Cayenne’s improved appearance and superb interior are the elements that will attract eyeballs, a glance at the specs is also informative.

The second-gen edition is bigger in almost every dimension. It has a longer wheelbase (growing from 112.4 inches to 114.0), is longer overall (from 188.9 to 190.8), and is a smidge taller (from 66.8 to 67.0). The only diminished dimensions are width (from 77.0 to 76.3) and track, which shrinks at both ends—from 65.4 to 64.7 in the front and from 66.0 to 65.2 at the rear.

Yet the most remarkable entry in the new Cayenne’s specifications chart has to do with mass. Yes, like the other members of Clan Cayenne, the new Turbo is bigger. And like the others, it’s also substantially lighter. The last-gen Cayenne Turbo S, which finished second in our most recent comparison of high-end super-utes—falling to the BMW X5 M and besting the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and the supercharged Range Rover Sport—weighed in at 5305 pounds.

This latest test unit is 178 pounds lighter. And it’s 498 pounds lighter than the Cayenne Turbo we tested in September 2007. For sure, it’s certainly no wraith, but in an automotive world that registers weight gains with almost every vehicle redesign, score this one as laudable for Porsche.

The Cost of Pruning

As you’d expect, the Turbo’s rigorous diet entailed painstaking reengineering of various components—a new aluminum valve-timing adjuster, for example, is 3.8 pounds lighter than the previous piece—and more comprehensive use of lightweight materials, which add up to a minus at the scales. As you’d also expect, the use of lighter-weight materials, such as aluminum, magnesium, and composites, adds up at the cash register.

The base price for the previous Cayenne Turbo was $100,875, and $127,275 was required for the Turbo S. The new Turbo starts at $106,975, and there is no Turbo S version, at least not yet. However, aside from customers with an insatiable desire for excess in every category, almost everyone else should find that this vehicle satisfies his or her need for speed.

The Numbers

The new Turbo delivers its go power with distinctly improved fuel economy. Although the output of the 4.8-liter twin-turbo aluminum V-8 is unchanged from that of the first-gen model, at 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, the combination of less weight, numerous mechanical and electronic tweaks, and a new eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission gives the new Turbo fuel-economy ratings of 15 mpg city and 22 highway, up from 12/19.

Proving once again that reduced mass is at least as important as horsepower in all-around performance, the new Turbo’s performance rivals the old Turbo S’s (which had 550 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque) at the test track: 0 to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, the quarter-mile in 12.4 at 113 mph. The Turbo S hit those marks in 4.1 and 12.6 at 112, respectively; the previous Cayenne Turbo needed 4.8 seconds to reach 60 mph and 13.3 seconds for the quarter, at 107 mph.

Seduced, as usual, by the hydraulic torque surge of the Cayenne’s twin-turbo V-8, we achieved 15 mpg during our driving. But it’s clear that a more temperate use of the throttle would produce better results. Beyond three different driver-selected modes (normal, sport, and off-road), the eight-speed Tiptronic is programmed to adapt to the driver’s throttle behavior and adjust its shifts accordingly. Regardless of the chosen mode, the transmission’s shift response rivals that of many dual-clutch automatics.

Mass Management and the Inside Story

In the aforementioned comparison test, all hands were impressed by how well the Cayenne handled its substantial curb weight, and the biggest Porsche impresses even more in that regard in its lighter second generation. Cornering attitudes are level, grip is tenacious at 0.90 g, transient response is eager, and ride quality is firmly compliant, even in the adjustable suspension’s sport setting.

Beyond that, the steering is tactile and quick at 2.7 turns lock-to-lock, a marked improvement over the slightly numb setup in last year’s Turbo S. Braking, always a Porsche strong suit, is outstanding at 158 feet from 70 mph. If there’s any fault to be found with the Cayenne’s dynamics, it’s in the ambient noise levels, as in, “Omigod, I’m doing 90 in a 50 zone!” It’s quiet in there—too quiet.

We previously described the interior of the Cayenne Turbo S as “princely,” and that applies here as well: outstanding materials, intelligent control location and design, and form-fitting seats with a vast range of adjustability. The forward sightlines, enhanced by slender A-pillars, may be best in class, and vision in all quarters is excellent. Almost as important, there’s more room inside—including for second-row occupants, augmented by adjustable seats—and more room for cargo, a weak point in the previous Cayenne.

The Value Question

Given the state of the world economy, fuel prices, and mutinous rumblings from the green sector, it’s hard to defend vehicles like this. Even though the Cayenne's towing capability remains strong at 7716 pounds, its fuel economy has improved, and its general usefulness index is higher, the idea that something weighing more than 2.5 tons needs to cover a quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds is a tough sell to the guy driving a Prius. For that matter, it’s a bit of a tough sell among the super-utes, where the BMW X5 M checks in with a base price of only—only—$86,575.

Does that $20,400 disparity bother you? If so, we suggest you avoid test-driving the Cayenne Turbo. We suspect that after a half-hour behind the wheel, your sense of value will be altered.