2011 Porsche Cayenne S Tiptronic Review – The Ultimate Familying Machine?

Expert Reviews Porsche

2011 Porsche Cayenne S
By Danny Chang and Derek Mau


  • Awesome handling
  • Great power when you floor it
  • Futuristic interior
  • Sleek and sporty exterior


  • Exterior styling is a bit bland and lacks distinction
  • Smallish trunk
  • Hard to drive with your wife and baby in the back and your wife complaining you’re going too fast

I’ve test driven quite a few SUVs for CarReview.com over the past few years, including two high performance premium luxury models – the BMW X6 M and the Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport Supercharged. So, needless to say, when offered the chance to take the new 2011 Porsche Cayenne S out for a spin, I was super excited. I mean, who wouldn’t be when you get to drive the ultimate sport utility vehicle? The question on my mind was not whether this Cayenne S was going to be a true “sport” utility vehicle, but whether it would make a good family vehicle. Or, in Porsche marketing parlance, the Ultimate Familying Machine.

2011 Porsche Cayenne S

Driving Impressions

The first thing I did after jumping in the Cayenne S is engage the Sport mode, which raises the shift points and drops the suspension into sport setting at the push of a button on the center console. The 4.8 liter normally-aspirated V8 is powerful, with 400 hp and peak torque of 369 lb.-ft., which is available from 3500 rpm to 5000 rpm. All that math tells me the Cayenne S is damn fast off the line. My finger also flirted with the traction control button, but I decided to leave it engaged for now since the usual winter downpour was just getting started in Northern California, which proved to be a good idea.

The Cayenne S grips the road incredibly well for a vehicle this size and high off the ground. It even holds the road really well compared to cars. Sports cars. I’ve driven a friend’s 997 and I was able to strafe the spiral on ramp to a local freeway at about the same speed in the Cayenne S (50!), and felt just as confident.

2011 Porsche Cayenne S driver's cockpit

The steering is super tight on the Cayenne S, with the nicely weighted steering signature of Porsche sports cars. Road manners were equally impressive at highway speeds and even in the sport setting the suspension was extremely smooth. I even took it on some gravel roads next to the bay in Palo Alto and the Cayenne felt right at home. The ride was comfortable enough for a sleeping baby. The large internally vented disc brakes (14.17/1.42 inches) performed very well when slowing down frequently on local expressways, as the cops were out in full force near the end of the month.

There was one frustrating thing about driving the Cayenne S with my wife and baby on board, and it was that I couldn’t push it nearly hard enough to explore its limits. Every time I accelerated a little too quickly, the wife complained. “Yes, hon, I know the baby’s onboard. And no, hon, I don’t want him to throw up back there on the fine and supportive leather seats.”

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