Vehicle Comparison: The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo vs. the 2011 BMW X5 M
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It might come as a surprise to some enthusiasts that the number one selling Porsche in America isn’t even a sportscar, it’s the Cayenne SUV. Since its introduction in 2002, the Cayenne’s sales numbers are not only a testament to the popularity of SUVs, they are, more important, a testament to Porsche’s successful execution in engineering.
For competition sake, the Porsche Cayenne would call the BMW X5 M its key rival. Both represent the pinnacle in on-road and off-road performance while still being able to carry a family in comfort and luxury. However, there can only be one at the very top of this performance SUV game. So, which one is it?
Before we pit these beasts head to head, let’s first find out what they share in common. Both the Cayenne line (MSRP starting at $47,700) and X5 line (MSRP starting at $46,300) offer four-year/50,000-mile basic and drivetrain warranties. The Cayenne Turbo and the X5 M both have serious muscle under the hood in the form of twin-turbo V8s. The Cayenne Turbo sports a 4.8-liter that pumps out 500 hp and 516 lb/ft of torque. It’s enough juice to get the Cayenne from zero-to-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
The X5 M features a 4.4-liter V8 with direct injection and M TwinPower Turbo, which is BMW’s Twin Scroll Turbo Technology. This technology enables the BMW to put down 555 hp and 500 lb/ft of torque. But since the BMW’s curb weight comes in at 5,368 pounds, nearly 200 pounds heavier than the Cayenne, it’s slower to 60 at 4.7 seconds. The BMW is also less fuel efficient with 12 mpg city/17mpg highway versus the Porsche’s 15 city/22 highway results.
This weight advantage is just one of the many changes Porsche has made to the completely redesigned 2011 Cayenne. The changes may appear subtle when you first look at the Cayenne’s redesigned exterior, but beneath the lightened and sleekened sheet metal, the story is anything but subtle. Not only is the 2011 Cayenne Turbo lighter than the X5 M, its curb weight is also lighter than the previous generation Cayenne Turbo.
The 2011 Cayenne Turbo sports a new, eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission, two gears more than the BMW’s six-speed M Sports automatic, which also contributes to the Porsche’s acceleration and fuel economy advantage.
Cayenne’s exterior styling changes include rounded fenders, redesigned taillights and a larger front grille, and the 2011 Cayenne is also lower to the ground to improve its already deft handling characteristics. In fact, when parked next to the X5 M, the 2011 Cayenne Turbo is nearly three inches lower.
Speaking of interiors, this is where the redesigned 2011 Cayenne really pulls ahead. Sharing the same instrument cluster and center console as the exquisitely designed Panamera, the 2011 Cayenne has among the most luxurious cabins of any vehicle, SUV or otherwise, and the Cayenne offers half an inch more headroom than the X5. With design features like a center-mounted tachometer, once inside the Cayenne, you might even forget you’re behind the wheel of an SUV.
Out back, the Cayenne Turbo comes standard with a power liftgate, something the X5 M doesn’t even offer as an option. If the need ever arises to tow loads behind either of these monsters, the Porsche’s 7,716-pound capacity clearly outhauls the BMW’s 6,000 pound limit.
Let’s get down to what these machines are more renowned for – uncanny handling performance for an SUV. The spec sheet on the 2011 Cayenne Turbo scrolls endlessly with acronyms including PAS, PCCB, PTM, PDCC and PTV. But to keep things simple, all of these acronyms add up to one characteristic – the 2011 Cayenne Turbo handles unlike any other SUV on the road.
From its adjustable air suspension and adjustable traction vectoring control to its hydraulically actuated anti-rollbars and all-wheel drive with locking center and rear differentials, the 2011 Cayenne seems to defy the laws of physics.
This is not to discount how the X5 M handles, for its M Dynamic Performance Control AWD system with electronic damper controls helps reduce body roll and optimize steering inputs. But when you’re neck deep in an increasing apex corner with a cliff wall to one side and a bottomless chasm to the other, your level of confidence inside the X5 M is not as resolute as in the Cayenne Turbo. Suddenly, those 200 pounds of extra heft in the BMW appear.
Off the pavement, both machines feature capable all-wheel drive systems, but again, the nod goes to the Cayenne, which features three different air suspension settings to adjust height, as well as locking center and rear differentials with 100 percent front-to-rear power transfer for superior traction in dirt, mud and snow.
In the end, it’s really amazing to see vehicles like the Cayenne Turbo offer so much and done so well. Being able to own a vehicle that can tow heavy loads, carry a family of four in comfort, tackle the worst of Mother Nature, out handle and accelerate many sportscars and still be able to dress up for a night on the town is remarkable. But as Porsche engineers have proven yet again, for the 2011 Cayenne Turbo, “There is no substitute.”
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