Two, Four Door Sixes Are All Porsche
By Jim Bray
It's easy to forget that Porsche's Cayenne and Panamera don't only offer delicious, powerful V8's, that they can also be equipped with a V6 engine that eases both the entry price and the price at the pump.
And you might be surprised to find how little you need to compromise when you slice off two cylinders. These are real, live Porsches – especially the lighter and more exotic Panamera.
I was a little worried that the Cayenne and the Panamera 4 V6 wouldn't put the smile on my face that every other Porsche I've driven has. After all, while a lower sticker price is nice, and gas savings can be a legitimate reason to downsize, it seems somehow sacrilegious to think about buying a Porsche for such considerations as gas mileage.
Practical Porsches? Poppycock. Except that it isn't. While I have to admit I missed the extra cylinders under the Cayenne's hood, such wasn't the case with the Panamera 4. I could live with it easily.
It probably has something to do with the fact that the Panamera weighs less than the Cayenne, and it may also have had something to do with the fact that my sample Cayenne didn't have such wonderful enhancements as Porsche's active air suspension, which makes any Porsche feel as if it's been to the gym, even if it didn't need it.
I love it! You can get that suspension on the Cayenne and I recommend it.
It isn't as if the "non-trick-suspension-equipped" Cayenne V6 is a slouch; it just isn't as eager to run as it could be. But it's still a terrific vehicle, fun to drive and with the best hauling space of any Porsche including the Panamera. I've taken a couple of the older generation on road trips and there was plenty of room for four of us and all our stuff, whereas even with the Panamera's generous truck we would've had to scale back our luggage quotient to take a serious road trip.
The Cayenne has always been a great vehicle, and for 2011 it's been redesigned inside and out. I think the new exterior is a winner, even though its bum looks a little Hyundai Santa Fe-ish – and isn't that a horrid thing to say about a Porsche? But it's also sleeker than the outgoing model, and with a more modern mien. Porsche says it's not only more sporting and dynamic, it's more fuel efficient and spacious as well.
Lighter, too. Porsche says the new Cayenne has shed about 400 pounds in the regeneration, and this helps make the best use of the V6 possible.
The new SUV looks a bit smaller than the original, though Porsche says it's actually bigger; it's also decidedly up-market inside, with a look inspired by the grand touring Panamera. I'm not sure if I like this interior better, but it certainly comes across as more modern, while Porsche's mounting a bunch of buttons onto the center console puts them in easy reach.
Porsche says the Cayenne's eight speed Triptronic S transmission helps increase its gas mileage by up to 20 per cent. I had it during particularly cold weather that sapped gas mileage so can't comment on that.
Both of my samples, the Cayenne and the Panamera 4, featured an auto stop feature that can shut down the engine at red lights, which is kind of disconcerting the first few times you experience it. I never experienced it in the Cayenne, probably because of the cold weather, but when it first happened to the Panamera 4 I thought the car had stalled until I realized what was going on.
The engine starts up quickly, too, which is as it should be: take your foot off the brake and by the time you've moved it to the gas pedal the engine's as rarin' to go as you are. Possibly more, though I doubt it.
My test Cayenne had such amenities as power-adjustable front seats, a multi-function steering wheel (it not only steers, it lets you play with the audio equipment and other stuff), park assist, moonroof, Bi-Xenon headlights and a good Bose stereo system.
The 3.6 liter V6 shared by both this Cayenne and the Panamera/Panamera 4 puts out 300 horses, which isn't earth shattering these days but which is definitely competitive. Torque is an also-competitive 295 lb.-ft. Want more? Try one of the V8's.
The engine also boasts of direct fuel injection (DFI), infinitely variable intake camshaft adjustment with variable valve lift (VarioCam Plus), an on demand oil pump, water cooling with thermal management, and a variable intake manifold.
I've always liked the Cayenne and this new model is even better than the old one. I look forward to mashing the gas pedal of the new V8 versions in upcoming columns and am already practicing smiling broadly while holding on for dear life.
A Not Sedate Sedan
The Panamera 4 V6, which is new for 2011, feels more nimble and exciting than the Cayenne and is more fun to drive as well.
It's a luxury Gran Turismo that's definitely all Porsche, but it isn't just a stretched and/or tarted up 911 with a real back seat. Porsche says it built the Panamera from the ground up "To provide Porsche driving dynamics and performance while simultaneously surrounding its occupants in luxury and comfort."
They've pulled it off beautifully. I love this car. While a 911, Cayman or Boxster can be even more fun, the Panamera strikes a beautiful balance between true luxury and sportiness. It feels big compared to its sports car siblings – and it is – but it never feels heavy or bloated.
The Panamera envelops you in a classy, comfortable and efficient cabin, with two deep bucket seats for the rear passengers that are nearly as comfortable as those up front.
We took a highway jaunt with two six-footers in the rear and they marveled at how much headroom they had (though that also leads to the Panamera's most controversial item – its roofline) and how comfortable they were back there. One mentioned that the deepness of the seat made it a bit hard to get out of the Panamera, but tempered that with the comment that he'd rather have stayed back there for the rest of his life than have to get out in the first place. I think it's safe to say he liked it back there.
For 2011, Panameras come equipped with Bluetooth hands-free phone interface and a universal audio interface with which you can connect an MP3 player (or smart phone) you can control through Porsche's standard Communication Management system. The base Panamera and Panamera 4 also come standard with Bi-Xenon headlights. It's about time.
The driving position is perfect, of course, and everything you need is close to hand. I quibble with the controls on the ceiling (for interior lighting, the moonroof, deactivating the ParkAssist sensors, and Homelink buttons) because I had trouble reading their labels without my glasses, but it wouldn't take long to get used to if I were actually lucky enough to own the car.
In all, the Panamera is a delicious combination of classic Porsche combined with an elite attitude. Heck, even the rear seats of my test car (which fold down for extra storage) were heated – though the bun warmers aren't standard equipment.
The Panamera's transmission is the seven speed PDK dual clutch automatic manual (with paddle shifters) that has won me over since I first drove it a couple of years ago. This transmission, and Volkswagen's version (the only two dual clutch automanuals I've driven so far) have convinced me to dump the clutch pedal and revel in the technology. Shifts are lightning fast, and you can drive the car like a conventional manual if you want it to, except that your left leg doesn't get tired at long traffic lights.
My sample Panamera 4, in a lovely Ruby Red Metallic color, also had Porsche's active air suspension, and the Sport and Sport Plus modes add a lot of enjoyment to spirited driving. It's quite something to experience: drive along normally and you're in a classy and comfortable cruiser, but slip it into Sport Plus and it's like you've unleashed the beast inside – even with the V6. This is an option for which I'd opt any day, on any Porsche.
We had a major snowstorm the day before the Porsche people pried the Panamera from my warm, live hands – something like a foot of the white stuff over the space of a few hours. The Panamera 4's all wheel drive and good winter tires stood it in good stead, however. The car, like every Porsche, was excellent in the snow, and the all wheel drive system made it even more confidence-inspiring. I cruised along in comfort while others were spinning out – my smug emissions almost as insufferable as those that come from hybrid drivers!
I did have one annoying incident with the Panamera 4, though it has nothing to do with the car itself. It was due to its moisture sensing windshield wipers, which park themselves when things are dry, causing me to forget they're still turned on.
So when I went out the morning after the snowstorm to brush off the car, I unlocked it and started it up so it would warm up while I brushed. That's when the wipers leapt into action, sensing the snow on the windshield and pushing it off obediently, right into my lap! And didn't that make me feel stupid, especially since the car had drawn its usual crowd of neighbors?
This has happened with other vehicles, too (you'd think I'd learn!) and I mention it only as a cautionary tale for those whose cars have moisture-sensing wipers.
When all was said and done, I was surprised at just how capable the Porsche V6 Cayenne and Panamera 4 are – especially the splendid Panamera 4. While downsizing to the V6 might sound like a pander to the enviro-wackos, and in some ways it probably is, it shouldn't frighten off prospective customers. You might just be surprised. In fact, it might even broaden the potential buyer base for these vehicles, leading to more sales for Porsche.
You think that was part of the plan all along?
And as mentioned, if 300 horses aren't enough for you, the Porsche folk will be more than happy to stick a V8 under the hood for you – even a turbocharged one.
If the lotto Gods were to smile on me and I were to contemplate purchasing a four door Porsche, I'd probably opt for the elegant Panamera, because I like cars better than SUV's and I can count on one hand the number of times in a year I'd need the Cayenne's extra room – and I'd never need its 7700-ish pound towing capability. I might even be convinced to stick with the V6.
That doesn't mean the Cayenne's a stinker. In fact, it's a heckuvan SUV, even with the smaller power plant. If they didn't make the Panamera, I'd probably be very happy with one.
The Panamera 4 starts at $78,900 U.S./$91,800 Canadian. The Cayenne V6 starts at $47,700 U.S./$55,300 Canadian. You can option them up from there.
Copyright 2011 Jim Bray
We welcome your comments!