The first-gen Cayenne, of which Porsche has sold around 90,000 in the U.S. since it debuted in 2003, was--and still is--a capable SUV, whether on road or off. From the base V-6 all the way up to the twin-turbo V-8, the 2003-10 Cayenne stood near or at the top of its class in capability and, more notable, dynamics. Still, some people carped that Stuttgart's SUV lacked, well, Porscheness.

After driving three of the four U.S.-bound 2011 Cayenne models, we're pleased to report that Porsche's second-generation sport/utility indeed possesses genuine Porscheness. Depending on the model, height is down from 0.3 to 0.5 inch, weight is down around 400 pounds, and the sensations from behind the wheel, for the most part, now belie its SUV classification. The Cayennes are quicker, more agile, and more thrilling to drive. Further, they're more exciting to look at, thanks to remolded sheetmetal draped over a 1.6-inch-longer wheelbase. Don't let the smooth, sporty lines fool you, though--the Cayenne remains a workhorse. Towing capacity maxes out at 5952 pounds for the V-6 and 7716 pounds for all other models.

The aforementioned weight drop comes from extensive use of aluminum in the doors, hood, and chassis as well as a new electronically controlled multiplate-clutch all-wheel-drive system that, in conjunction with Porsche Traction Management and a new Aisin eight-speed automatic, does without a reduction gearbox, saving 73 pounds. Porsche claims the 2011 Cayenne, sans the low-range gearing, is just as capable off road as the 2010. Moreover, the engines are lighter, as are the radiator, exhaust, electrical system, and wheels and tires. Even better, the Cayenne's structure is 15 percent stiffer than before. This newfound weight loss contributes in part to a maximum 23-percent increase in European fuel-economy tests, according to Porsche. There's also automatic start stop with the eight-speed.