Lighter yet roomier, quicker but more fuel-efficient, now genuinely luxurious inside and more obviously a Porsche outside. There's a lot to like about the second-generation Cayenne. But not the gasoline-burning engine under the hood of the $46,700 base model, which goes on sale this fall.
This 3.6-liter V-6 is an updated version of the engine introduced at the 2007 midlife makeover of the first-generation Cayenne. It's a member of the Volkswagen Group's long-lived, narrow-angle, vee-engine family. Designed in the late 1980s, it first appeared in Europe (in the VW Passat) in 1991, and has been persistently developed over two decades, including, in the middle of this decade, the adoption of a 10.6-degree angle instead of the earlier 15 degrees between cylinder banks.
On paper, the engine in the least expensive version of the new Cayenne looks fine. Check the maximum outputs and you'll see the number 295 both times. But while the power and torque figures are highly competitive, driving it reveals that the engine's refinement isn't.
Idle isn't as smooth as it should be. Then, around 3000 rpm, there's a period of tingling vibration. And the last 1000 rpm before redline isn't a pleasant thing to hear. To be blunt, the engine falls short of Porsche's elevated standards.
Exactly how high those standards are has been made plain by the 3.6-liter designed by Porsche for the new V-6 version of the Panamera. The European launch of the Cayenne and Panamera V-6s was staged over consecutive days on roads around Cologne, Germany. Driving one, then, next day, the other, was educational to say the least.
Porsche's own engine is smoother and offers greater sonic satisfaction. The Panamera V-6 also feels more snappily responsive, although some credit for that is surely due to its sporty seven-speed double-clutch - PDK in Porsche's lexicon - transmission. The Cayenne's VW-sourced V-6 is teamed with a not-quite-so-sporty conventional automatic with torque convertor. Made by Japanese company Aisin, it's nevertheless a fine transmission. It deserves to be bolted to a better engine.
The Aisin's two extra ratios explain much of the second-generation Cayenne's improved fuel efficiency. In the standard European consumption test, the V-6 version uses around 20-percent less gas than before. A similar improvement is expected by Porsche engineers when EPA certification is completed. Other fuel-saving strategies include an Auto Start Stop system, and a package of friction reduction and thermal management mods for the direct fuel-injection engine. In short, most of the tech expected in a recently developed engine. Like, for example, the Panamera's V-6.
So why wasn't the superior V-6 used in the second-generation Cayenne? After all, Porsche's engineers admit that it would easily fit. The answer lies in the long-ago negotiations with Volkswagen before the development of the first-generation Cayenne. The program was to deliver Porsche's first SUV, plus the Touareg for VW, and the Q7 for Audi. Porsche wanted a V-6, and the VW Group was prepared to supply one. But to get the deal done, Porsche had to commit to using the bought-in engine for two complete model cycles.
Meanwhile, along came the Panamera. Realizing the tall VW narrow-angle engine wouldn't package beneath the low hood of the big, four-seat GT, Porsche engineered the solution: an engine that could be manufactured on the same lines of machine tools at its Zuffenhausen engine plant, and a cleverly compact all-wheel-drive system.
With this powertrain the second-generation Cayenne V-6, with all its other improvements, could have been a wonderfully polished SUV. As the situation stands, customers who want a Cayenne but can't afford the V-8 (or Hybrid) price tag have two choices. Wait six or seven years for the next all-new model. Or pressure Porsche Cars North America to import the turbo-diesel V-6 version on sale in Europe. With this modern VW Group engine the new Cayenne can match the gasoline V-6's performance while burning much less fuel ... and does it all with properly Porsche-like polish.
| 2011 Porsche Cayenne|
|Base Price|| $46,700|
|Vehicle layout|| Front engine, AWD, 5-seat, 5-door SUV|
|Engine|| 3.6L/295-hp 295-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve narrow-angle V-6|
|Transmission|| 8-speed auto|
|Curb weight (dist f/r)|| 4398 lb (mfr) |
|Wheelbase|| 114.0 in|
|Length x width x height|| 190.8 x 76.3 x 67.4 in|
|0-60 mph|| 7.4 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA city/hwy econ ||Not yet rated|
|On sale in U.S. ||Fall 2010|