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  • 2013 Porsche Cayenne GTS

    High-performance SUV for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Porsche Cayenne GTS

    I have a hard time thinking of the Porsche Cayenne GTS as a sport-utility vehicle: a term that typically favors function over performance. The Cayenne GTS is a sports car, with a 420 horsepower V-8 engine that accelerates from zero-to-sixty is 5.4 seconds. Unlike other sports cars, the Cayenne has a pretty big cargo bay and room for five passengers, attributes that make it as functional as it is beautiful.

    Because of its versatility, the Cayenne GTS could be the dream car for buyers with active lifestyles. Standard all-wheel drive gives it all-terrain capability, while the two-box architecture offers the cargo capability cyclists need.

    The car’s only downside is its $82,050 MSRP, which prevents drivers who might give an eyetooth to own one from getting behind the wheel.

    The test car is equipped with numerous options, including special exterior paint and interior trim, a sport chronometer on the dash, XM radio, trailer hitch, heated front and rear seats, a rearview camera, lane change assist, adaptive cruise control, premium audio system, LED interior lighting, 21-inch wheels, door sill guards and an aluminum gearshift lever. Adding in the $975 destination charge, final MSRP is $123,265. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Porsche Cayenne S

    Five-passenger SUV with sports car performance

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Porsche Cayenne S

    Active families with the means to afford one can’t do better than the Porsche Cayenne: a five-passenger sport-utility vehicle whose performance rivals the automaker’s legendary sports cars. Twenty-twelve models are basically a carry-over from 2011 with three available grades: the base gasoline-powered V-6, upscale Cayenne S with a 400-horsepower V-8, and a gasoline-electric Cayenne S Hybrid. The test car is the Cayenne S with all-wheel drive, which enhances traction and wet weather performance.

    Base price is $65,000, excluding the $975 delivery charge. The test car has a bevy of options, including 21-inch wheels and special paint, 14-way power seats, upgraded audio system, trailer hitch, heated steering wheel and seats, rearview camera, navigation, bi-xenon headlamps, rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and LED interior lights. Price as tested is $98,165.

    Direct injection and 12.5:1 compression give the aluminum V-8 engine exceptional throttle response. Zero-to-sixty acceleration, according to the manufacturer, is 5.6 seconds. To minimize the risk of detonation, Porsche requires the use of 91-octane unleaded gasoline.

    An eight-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection extends gas mileage by keeping engine speeds extremely low. During my 150-mile test drive, engine speeds rarely exceeded 2000 rpm. Average cruising speeds on the highway were about 1500 rpm.

    On the flip side, the Cayenne is a heavy car, weighing 4553 pounds. While the EPA estimated 18 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy might not seem impressive, it’s a pretty hot number for an all-wheel drive sports car which can tow up to 7716 pounds, and get the trailer to the track faster than anything else on the road. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Porsche Cayman R

    Race-ready sports car proves that less is more

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Porsche Cayman R

    Although I’ve never met a Porsche I didn’t like, the ones I like best are the automaker’s two-seat sports cars. I can’t say whether this bias stems from a purity of style, the exuberance of riding so close to the engine, the gnashing of the gears or the roar of true dual exhausts. But Porsche’s talent for combining balance, precision and power in a stripped down package is almost transcendent.

    The Cayman originated as a hardtop sibling to the open-air Boxster, sharing the same “boxer” engine, and midship engine placement. This year, Porsche added an “R” model to the Cayman, which strips weight off the chassis by using more lightweight construction materials, eliminating the air conditioning and audio system.

    By shaving 121 pounds off the chassis, engineers boosted engine horsepower to 330: ten more than the Cayman S or Boxster Spyder equipped with the same engine. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 4.7 seconds using the six-speed manual transmission.

    The Cayman R comes with special lightweight wheels and a sport-tuned suspension which lowers the chassis 20 millimeters compared to other variants. Special aero effects include a unique front and rear spoiler to make the car slipperier in the wind tunnel.

    Base price is $66,300 not including a $950 destination charge. Options on the test car include automatic dimming mirrors ($690), Porsche’s connectivity and navigation system ($3455), bi-xenon adaptive headlamps ($1550), three audio packages ($795), custom wheels ($1815), floor mats and automatic climate control ($1760), bringing the MSRP to $79,285. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Porsche Panamera 4

    Porsche adds a V-6 engine to its four-door GT line-up

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Porsche Panamera 4

    Porsche rolled out the four-door Panamera for the 2009 model year: the name comes from the Carrera Panamerica races in Mexico during the 1950s. As its moniker suggests, the Panamera is the ultimate road trip car for automotive cognoscenti.

    Proportionately, the Panamera more closely resembles a coupe than a sedan, with a bullet profile reminiscent of Porsche’s two-door sports cars. But the Panamera is no more a stretch version of the 911 than it is Porsche’s answer to the 7-Series. It is, in short, its own animal.

    This year, Porsche adds a V-6 engine to the Panamera line-up, including an all-wheel drive variant. 2011 models also get standard Bluetooth interface and MP3 compatibility. Porsche’s communications management system and bi-xenon headlamps are standard on the all-wheel drive Panamera 4.

    MSRP for the Panamera 4 is $78,900, not including the $975 delivery charge. Options on the test car include black metallic paint, heated front seats and steering wheel, a ski bag, special 19-inch rims, an audio upgrade with XM radio and headrests with the Porsche crest, bringing the price as tested to $86,690. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid Tiptronic

    Full parallel hybrid system delivers powerful performance

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

    Last year Porsche introduced a gasoline-electric hybrid version of its Cayenne sport-utility vehicle. The parallel hybrid system can run in fully electric or gasoline modes independently, as well as a combination of the two. The electric motor boosts power from the V-6 supercharged gasoline engine to mimic the performance of a V-8 with better gas mileage: about 24 miles-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA.

    For the German automaker to have developed a hybrid simply to reduce the car’s carbon footprint would have been out of character for the brand. Porsches are always first and foremost about performance. Engineers who developed the Cayenne’s hybrid system made sure that the new SUV was no exception, delivering a driving system which is both unique and distinctively Porsche.

    Peak torque of 428 foot-pounds is available at 1000 rpm. As a result, the new Cayenne accelerates off the line with the alacrity of a quiet rocket ship. Once up to speed, on-board computer controls utilize large overdrive gears on the eight-speed automatic transmission to maximize gas mileage. It’s hard to make the car rev over 2000 rpm, except when accelerating.

    Engineers also added a rather magical feature which they call “sailing.” When the Cayenne is travelling at steady speeds up to 97 miles-per-hour, the gasoline engine can cut out completely. An electronic clutch couples and decouples the electric motor and gasoline engine. The entire process is so seamless as to be imperceptible to the driver.

    Base price on the Cayenne S Hybrid with Tiptronic is $67,700, not including a $975 delivery charge. Options on the test car include leather trim and a silver metallic exterior, 14-way power seats with memory, air suspension with an adjustable height feature, extended range fuel tank, heated front seats, navigation, park assist, a trailer hitch and bi-xenon adaptive headlamps, bringing the price as tested to $84,590. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Porsche Boxster

    PDK transmission gives Porsche’s roadster extra boost

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Porsche Boxster

    2009 Porsche Boxster

    The Porsche Boxster parked in our driveway conjures up images of James Dean as photographed by Sanford Roth, at the wheel of his Porsche 550 Spyder: the one he called the “Little Bastard.” The famous actor undoubtedly knew of the car’s reputation in Europe, where it had just come off winning performances at LeMans.

    The name, Boxster, refers to Porsche’s horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine: its configuration resembles a boxer. The original Boxster, released in the late 1990s,was the first Porsche since the Spyder designed specifically as a roadster. It was also Porsche’s most affordable sports car: the Boxster drew legions of fans who couldn’t afford the pricier 911, into the showroom.

    Porsche introduced the second-generation Boxster in 2008 for the ’09 model year. The new car remains true to its original mission: powered by a 255-horsepower flat six-cylinder engine. The engine’s midship placement gives the pint-sized roadster a surprising amount of cargo space: with storage areas to the front and rear of the passenger compartment. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Porsche Cayenne GTS Tiptronic

    Sport-utility vehicle with sports car performance

    By Nina Russin


    Ever since Porsche announced that it was introducing a sport-utility vehicle, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Cayenne. My feelings have nothing to do with the Cayenne’s performance: Porsche doesn’t build anything that I don’t enjoy driving.

    But I can’t reconcile the Cayenne’s two box architecture with Porsche’s sports car heritage. To me, it muddies the waters.

    Having said that, the Cayenne is as much an expression of Porsche’s “it” factor as a SUV can be. It’s light on its feet, sinuous and fast. The Tiptronic transmission offers performance close to a manual gearbox, without the inconvenience of a clutch pedal.

    Exterior styling incorporates cues from Porsche’s sports cars such as the teardrop headlamps and broad wheel arches.  Dual exhausts with oval chrome tips remind those in back that the Cayenne is all business. The Cayenne’s coefficient of drag is 0.36: pretty slippery for a high-profile vehicle.

    Inside, the driver is treated to Alcantara leather seats with adjustable lumbar, padded steering wheel, and floor-mounted leather shift lever. The ignition switch is to the left of the steering wheel, as it is in Porsche sports cars. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2006 Porsche Cayman S

    A Boxster S, and then some

    By Nina Russin

    2006 Porsche Cayman S

    2006 Porsche Cayman S

    Can the Porsche Cayman work as an active lifestyle vehicle? The sports coupe, based on the Boxster S chassis, has just enough room inside to hold two passengers and a few bags of groceries on a luggage shelf behind the seats.

    There are two “trunks” (one in the front of the car and one behind the rear-mounted engine): I wouldn’t recommend trying to shoe a bike into either one. The cupholders are classic Porsche: clever, but not very functional for people who like their beverage containers on the large side.

    On the other hand, those who think of driving as a sport rather than a necessary evil cannot help falling in love with the Cayman. Positioned between the Boxster and flagship 911 Carrera, the Cayman features a larger, more powerful six cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission, fully independent suspension, gloriously large 19-inch rims with two-caliper brakes to match, and an all-steel body whose torsional rigidity nearly matches the 911.

    Enough stats, let’s drive

    One of the things that I love about driving Porsches is the tip off. Unlike cars that jump off the line and then slump through second gear, the Cayman has a perfect acceleration curve. There is no doubt, stepping on the gas, that this car could launch its passengers halfway to Pluto, but the feeling is even and controlled.

    So is the steering, thanks to a highly technical suspension that features separately mounted longitudinal and track control arms in front, and firmer rear springs than the Boxster. Variable ratio steering automatically adjusts the steering ratio based on the steering wheel angle, so the driver can literally feel the wheels and control them with incredible precision.

    The test car came with Porsche active suspension management: offering drivers separate suspension setups for normal and high-speed driving. At speed, the system lowers the ride height an extra 10 millimeters. That adjustment, combined with the down force generated by the speed-sensitive rear wing, makes the Cayman stick to the road like glue. It almost makes one revel in the glory of decreasing radius turns.

    Then there’s the brakes. One of the hallmarks of the Porsche 911 is that it stops every bit as fast as it accelerates. The same is true for the Cayman. Engineers put test cars through 25 consecutive cycles of braking from top speed (170) to 62, to make sure that the brakes didn’t fade.

    The six-speed manual transmission has been modified from the Boxster to accommodate the Cayman’s higher horsepower and torque. Triple synchros on the first and second gears and double synchros on the other four make it virtually bulletproof. In other words, a person who is not a particularly good driver can have a lot of fun behind the wheel without busting the gears. Just as important, the transmission shifts smoothly and precisely in all situations, with its signature short throw.

    A classic cockpit

    The standard leather seats (tested) come with six-way power adjustments for both driver and passenger. An optional 12-way adjustable seat has integrated four-way lumbar adjustment. But the standard seats do a great job of supporting the lower back. My only complaint was a noticeable offset of the steering wheel.

    Aside from the cupholders, the interior is both elegant and functional. The glove box is oversized, and there is a fairly large storage box in the center console, with a 12-volt power point inside. Both doors have integrated map pockets.

    While the sound of its engine is entertainment enough, the Cayman’s optional Bose surround-sound system on the test car is an impressive performer. With ten strategically positioned speakers and a seven-channel digital amplifier, it should give most audiofiles all that they’re looking for.

    Standard safety features include six airbags, antilock braking, stability and traction control. The test vehicle came with optional bi-xenon headlamps to make night driving easier, self dimming mirrors and a rain sensor.

    While the Cayman’s trunks are not well suited for large cargo, there is ample space to stash suitcases for the average road trip. Premium fuel is required, but the engine is efficient at burning it. The Cayman averages 20 m.p.g. around town and 28 on the highway: not bad for a car designed to cruise at twice the legal speed limit.

    Can it live in the real world?

    Living in the Cayman for a week was a treat, but as an everyday car, it probably wouldn’t suit my needs, or the needs of most athletes. For one thing, while it’s a drop-dead gorgeous car to look at, it’s also an attention getter. When a car like the Cayman gets parked at a trailhead, chances are good that it will attract a large circle of people. Depending on the location, that is not necessarily a good thing.

    I have driven a Boxster on unimproved roads and it handled them better than I anticipated, partly because the exhaust is plumbed out the center of the car, away from the wheels. I didn’t try it with the Cayman, but my guess is that the slightly longer, slightly lower chassis wouldn’t fare as well. And let’s face it: who wants to risk punching the hole in the aerodynamic underbelly of a $73,000 sports car?

    The Porsche Cayman is an unabashed road car in the best European tradition, designed to carry two people and not a lot of stuff. The rest has to go in something else: probably a little more durable and a little less flashy.

    Then again, if a person can afford to drop $70,000 and change on 2,900 pounds of automotive heaven, buying something else to haul the bike to the trailhead is not a big deal.

    Bottom line: the Porsche Cayman is an awesome car to drive. I loved every inch of its classic silver body, and I especially loved goosing the gas pedal. Rock on, Porsche.

    Likes: Powerful acceleration, precise steering, and exceptional torsional stiffness that keeps the coupe flat and in control at speed. The exterior design is classic Porsche, especially beautiful in silver.

    Dislikes: Slight offset of steering wheel.

    Quick facts:

    Base price: $58,900
    Price as tested: $73,050
    Horsepower: 295 @ 6,250 r.p.m.
    Torque: 251 lbs.-ft. @ 4,400- 6,000 r.p.m.
    0 to 60: 5.1 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: No 
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Fuel economy: 20/28 m.p.g. city/highway