By Christopher Jensen, Special to Tribune newspapers
6:57 PM EST, February 25, 2011
It is reassuring to know that at 130 miles per hour the new 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo will automatically lower itself a little more than an inch to better hug the road. You simply cannot be too careful.
The Cayenne is Porsche's sport utility vehicle.
Introduced in 2003, it has now been redesigned. here are four versions. The most expensive is the Cayenne Turbo Tiptronic with 500 horsepower from a twin turbocharged V-8 and a price of $104,800.
The turbo was the model Porsche lent me. Settling into it is somewhat intimidating because there are enough switches and dials to disorient a fighter pilot. However, if one remains calm and optimistic and checks the owner's manual (that would be the usually forgotten tome in the glove box) it is not as bad as it looks.
The new model is about 1.9 inches longer , with the second row seat now sliding fore and aft about 6 inches, providing some additional flexibility. There is about 24 cubic feet of cargo space. That's almost twice the size of the trunk in a mid-size car but it does diminish the "utility" part of sport utility.
On the other hand there is plenty of emphasis on "sport" which is impressive given its 8.7 inches of ground clearance (more than a Jeep Grand Cherokee) and a curb weight of about 4,700 pounds.
The steering is perfectly weighted and predictable. In addition, a network of sensors and electronics — including a "torque vectoring" system — help it head into turns more easily. Despite its height, there is no sense of being tippy, yet the ride comfort remains good.
Traveling very quickly on either a mountain road or an interstate seems reasonable, safe and sane. Oddly, this view may not be shared by other motorists or the police. The credit (or blame) goes to the excellent handling and the eight-speed automatic paired up with a twin turbocharged V-8 rated at 500 horsepower along with 516 pound-feet of torque between 2,250 and 4,500 revolutions per minute. No surprise that pushing on the gas pedal results in instant acceleration. Porsche says it takes 4.4 seconds to reach 60 mph and the top speed is 172 mph.
If the Cayenne Turbo travels above 130 mph for more than 40 seconds the suspension lowers the vehicle a little more than an inch, according to the owner's manual. I apologize for not investigating this claim.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimate is 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.
A hybrid version has a fuel economy of 21 mpg city and 25 highway.
All Cayennes have full-time all-wheel drive and Porsche says the Cayenne can go off-road. Some of that field of switches mentioned earlier handle jobs such as raising the vehicle a little more than two inches, giving the turbo an impressive ground clearance of almost 11 inches. Other switches adjust the powertrain to handle challenges such as mud, snow or sand.
In the end, the Cayenne Turbo generated mixed emotions. It is quite wonderful to drive but the vehicular excess of a 500-horsepower sport utility vehicle should cause all but the most sybaritic to feel guilty. And — thinking of other motorists — one has to wonder about the rationale behind a 4,700-pound vehicle capable of 172 mph.
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