Another impressive engineering advancement: Porsche lightened the load those powertrains lug by 400 pounds. The Deep Woods Off! set may be chagrined to learn that a chunk of that savings came from axing the two-speed transfer case in favor of an active AWD system with an electronic multiplate clutch that engages the front axle on demand. An off-road mode optimizes the electronic control logic of the traction, transmission, and chassis systems for trail running. A hill-descent control function is standard and optional air springs lend extra ground clearance for rock climbing.

Design advancement? Most staffers agreed that the exterior styling of the Cayenne has taken a big leap forward, appearing sleeker, tauter, prettier, and tidier than its gape-mouthed predecessor, despite having grown almost 2 inches longer and 0.4 inch wider. Inside, Panamera parts sharing improves the style and function of the roomier cockpit. The array of console and dash buttons appears intimidating at first, but the degree to which a driver can tailor the information presented on the center-stack screen and the reconfigurable gauge-cluster display is remarkable, and it's all fairly easy to master after a bit of button twiddling.

We officially evaluated the median-grade Cayenne S -- $64,675 to start, $79,160 as pimped out for our test with active suspension management, dynamic bi-Xenon headlights, navigation, and a lovely Bose sound system. Even toting all that gear, it weighed in 424 pounds less than our initial 4.5-liter S, and 480 under our more recent 4.8-liter GTS. Not surprisingly, it whooped its progenitors at the track, besting the original by a second to 60 (5.9 versus 6.9 seconds), and the GTS by a thinner 0.2-second margin. Quarter-mile sprints happen in 14.4 seconds at 98.7 mph -- 0.6 second and 3.8 mph ahead of the original one. That should line up with the heavier BMW X5 xDrive50i and rank just ahead of the six-cylinder sporty 'utes, but well behind the racy Infiniti FX50 (13.7 at 102.1). Later, we got our hands on a Cayenne Turbo ($105,775 base/$121,120 as tested). Boasting 50 more horses and 450 fewer pounds than our last one, it also shaved nearly a second off the 0-60 and quarter-mile times, running these benchmarks in 4.3 seconds and 12.8 at 108.9 versus 5.1, and 13.6 at 101.8.