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Monday, November 29, 2010

2011 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year: Porsche Cayenne

Pepper on Salt: Flat Out in Our Spiciest and Sportiest Ever 'Ute of the Year
From the December, 2010 issue of Motor Trend
By Frank Markus
Photography by Wesley Allison
We realize this looks bad. A bunch of unabashed car-loving adrenaline junkies invite a high-clearance sports car to an SUV contest and go all wobbly-kneed with excitement, crowning it champ. We can hear the hate mail composing itself from here: "That high-falutin' Porsh is an even stupider pick than last year's Scooby-doo station wagon! Cancel my subscription! (Again!)" We beg your indulgence as we build our case around the six key criteria.
We'll start with engineering excellence. Don't forget, when Porsche's Cayenne first vied for SUOTY in December 2003, we found its many sporting charms resistible, awarding the calipers to its calmer subdermal sibling, the VW Touareg. But the technical enhancements made between then and now are compelling. The initial lineup of two engines has expanded to five powertrains. The V-6s include a free-breathing, 300-horse, 3.6-liter that can be paired with a six-speed manual and a supercharged 3.0-liter gas-electric hybrid that cranks out a combined 380 horsepower and earns big efficiency points by sipping fuel at the rate of 21 mpg city/25 highway. (Speaking of efficiency, all engines feature direct injection; all automatics get eight ratios; and an auto-stop feature on all models turns the engine off when stopped to improve real-world efficiency, if not EPA figures.) Two 4.8-liter V-8s round out the roster, making 400 and -- in twin-turbo trim -- 500 horsepower. This widens the Cayenne's base-price footprint to span from $47,675 to $105,775. (Tick every box and you can blow $168K!)
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.

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