2011 Porsche Cayenne S

Sunday, February 6, 2011; 12:28 PM

Bottom line: The Porsche Cayenne's pricing structure makes no sense to me. The options list is way too long and includes many things, such as a rearview camera, that should be standard equipment on a premium vehicle. Porsche might be Porsche. But it had better start paying attention to Hyundai, a company that routinely offers more car than buyers expect to get for money paid. The rich did not become rich by wasting money.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The Cayenne gets excellent marks in all three. But for $93,000, it should get superior ratings. It doesn't.

Head-turning quotient: Exterior styling is the ugliest of any SUV offered at any price. Interior styling, with black leather and piano black accents in this case, is attractive. But someone at Porsche has gone button crazy. There are too many, 50 by my count, on the floor-mounted console and instrument panel of the Cayenne S.

Body style/layout: The 2011 Porsche Cayenne S is a mid-size, all-wheel-drive, front-engine luxury sport-utility vehicle with four side doors and a rear lift-gate. It is sold in five iterations - base, Tiptronic, S, Turbo V-8 and S Hybrid. Six-cylinder engines are standard in the base, Tiptronic and S Hybrid models.

Engine/transmission: The 4.8-liter V-8 with variable valve lift and timing (400 horsepower, 369 foot-pounds of torque) is standard in the 2011 Cayenne S. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Capacities: Seats for five people. Cargo capacity is 62.9 cubic feet with rear seats lowered and 23.7 cubic feet with rear seats up. Maximum payload rating, the weight of what can be carried onboard, is 1,709 pounds. The Cayenne S can be equipped to tow a trailer weighing 7,716 pounds. The fuel tank holds 22.4 gallons of gasoline. Premium grade is required.

Mileage: It gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway, according to federal fuel economy ratings. I got substantially less, about 10 mpg in the city, for example, in slow-moving snowbound traffic.

Safety: Front and rear ventilated disc brakes, anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability and traction control, and side-mounted air bags.

P rice: This is an option-heavy buy. Base price on the 2011 Cayenne S is $64,400. Dealer's invoice price on the base model is $57,960. Price as tested is $92,935, including $27,560 in options and a $975 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $83,000. You should comparison-shop with SUVs by Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Dodge, Ford, Land Rover, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

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