Germany is home to hand crafted nutcrackers, beautifully carved wooden cuckoo clocks, and remarkable luxury sport vehicles from Porsche. Besides being known for performance based “track ready” cars, Porsche introduced their 4-door “Gran Turismo” sedan, the Panamera, a year ago and devised the capable on and off-road Cayenne SUV in 2001. Each step of the way Automotive Rhythms has been there keeping you up to speed on the latest, and this time is no different. By way of LA to London, I traveled to Deutschland to see first hand the economical 2011 V6 Panamera and 2011 V6 Cayenne which Porsche is specifically targeting at younger American and Chinese markets.
Preparing for landing into Cologne, Germany, I was anxious to see how the engineers incorporated an economical engine into their performance brand. After all, economy isn’t a term usually partnered with words like sporty, performance handling and luxury. Nonetheless, Porsche already has 16,000 orders for the new Panamera. The 3.6-liter V6 engine in the 2011 Porsche Panamera, starting at $74,400; and the 2011 Panamera 4, starting at $78,900, hosts 300 horsepower. Each has a 7-speed transmission with the PDK double clutch gearbox allowing the rear-wheel-drive Panamera to reach 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds (top speed =162 mph). The new Panamera 4, using Porsche Traction Management (PTM) with active all wheel drive, reaches 0-60 in 5.8 seconds with a 159 mph top speed.
Opening the hood, two things jumped out at me right away. First, the 404 pound V6 engine wasn’t covered up and I could actually see asphalt when I looked into the engine compartment. Sharing 40% of its parts with the V8 engine, the V6 weighs 66 pounds less thanks to lightweight materials like aluminum and several types of magnesium, and of course it is minus two cylinders. The engineers strategically placed this lighter powerplant as far back in the engine compartment as possible, giving the car a 52% front / 48% rear weight distribution. And the engine’s cylinders are engineered at a 90 degree angle rather than the typical 60 degrees found in V6 configurations. The wider cylinder angle helps the Panamera front end maintain the signature Porsche profile, and lowers the center of gravity of the car. This combination of front and rear balance with a lower center of gravity gave me great handling as I ripped through gears with the paddle shifters and hugged the winding roads of Germany’s countryside.
The cars interior is posh with very clean lines. With a variety of wooden interior trims, I found my favorites were the non-glossy choices because it exuded a craftworker’s touch. Tightly wrapped, comfortable leather seats can be positioned for all shapes and sizes, and for relaxing or sporty rides. The driver’s position gives off a cockpit like feel since every button imaginable to configure the car is literally at their finger tips between driver and passenger. Outfitted with the same wonderfully weighted, thicker than normal wheel found in the Porsche 911 Turbo, the driver immediately feels in control when they wrap their fingers around it. A simple to read five gauge display stares back at the driver, with one gauge showing a zoomed in GPS picture. Using the GPS in the gauge display in conjunction with the GPS in the dash, drivers have no excuse to get lost anymore. The back seat is very spacious with lots of headroom and there is even a decent sized trunk. If you want to fill it with suitcases or sky diving gear, it has room. But if you want to take golf clubs you will have to drop either side of the rear seat for them to fit. Admittedly, I was initially put off by the rounded off rear design of the car. It seems to be a talking point for most car enthusiasts. Now it has grown on me and I like it because of the interior space it affords in the rear seats and trunk. Besides, it makes the car stand out as it zips past you on the road and you crank your neck to see what just went by,
The Cayenne, Porsche’s top selling vehicle, already came with a V6, but for 2011 it is getting an upgrade. Available with a 6-speed manual or new 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission, the 3.6-liter V6 with 300 naturally aspirated horsepower is a more fuel efficient engine than the previous model. Starting at $46,700, the Cayenne with the manual transmission runs 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds, while the Tiptronic S does it in 7.4. They both share all-wheel drive platforms and a top speed of 142 mph.
Porsche engineers found 10 more horsepower and 11 more pound-feet of torque for the new engine thanks to the optimized hot-film air mass meter ensuring the combustion chamber contains exactly the right amount of mixture at all times; a shorter engine warm up period reducing friction loss; and the new set-up of the electronic engine management. In addition to these systems working to optimize efficiency, the greatest contribution towards the Cayenne being economical is the Porsche design team dropping roughly 400 pounds from the SUV’s overall vehicle weight. By using more aluminum and special plastic, and thanks to a new lightweight body shell construction, it offers greater stiffness than before, with more nimble handling.
While driving the Cayenne, which has a driver area mirroring the Panamera’s, I listened to the highly touted Burmester surround sound system with 10 speakers and 1000 watts. Playing a specific list of songs on my iPod, I was impressed with the system’s clarity and sound.
Porsche’s tireless efforts have paid off with their new and re-engineered V6 engines. The Panamera gets 18 city and 27 highway miles per gallon, while the Panamera 4 follows closely with 18 and 26. The new Cayenne mpg figures aren’t known yet but will be published later this fall, closer to the SUV’s release date. These starting figures prove Porsche is providing more power on less fuel, greater efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. This is also known as the principle of Porsche Intelligent Performance. For every consumer in every market on the globe, Porsche now has an engine and a vehicle that is capable to fulfill your desires.