The Porsche Cayenne line of SUVs – which at first mortified some purists when launched in 2003 – has turned out to be the automaker’s most successful, and the Cayenne S Hybrid introduced in 2007 has a rightful place among them.
Now in its second generation since a 2011 model year makeover, it carries forward into 2013 with no significant changes except for a few new colors and buttons for the door locks on the doors. The supercharged six-cylinder Cayenne S Hybrid is a full hybrid, but it’s biased toward performance, being actually quicker and faster than some of its siblings, though certainly not the top dog by any stretch.
It is also not the most fuel efficient. That distinction belongs to the $55,750 Cayenne Diesel which edges it out by a couple mpg, and at a lower price than the Hybrid’s $69,850 sticker. Actually, the base Cayenne which starts at $48,850 is EPA rated only a couple mpg less than the hybrid. So, some may ask, why bother with the hybrid for $21,000 more?
Well, in short, the Cayenne S Hybrid serves up more power than the diesel or base model while still squeaking by with respectable numbers on the EPA cycle. And the “Hybrid” moniker does let a buyer know those extra ponies are pollution-free, so it’s a small bonus for the environment and potential facilitator of warm fuzzy feelings.
Aside from that, this hybrid is one flat-out nicely designed and equipped on- and off-road capable SUV, and it is a Porsche.
As mentioned, this shapely five-seater is designed for speed and to achieve it, the Cayenne S Hybrid makes use of a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with direct fuel injection. Its 333 horsepower generated is enough to let the nearly 5,000-pound vehicle giddyup and go, but extra oomph is added by a torquey 47-horsepower electric motor. Combined system power is rated at 380 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, and 428 pounds-feet torque at just 1,000 rpm.
Output per liter for the hybrid is 126.6, compared to 83.2 for the V8 Cayenne S, and 87.5 for the V8 Cayenne GTS.
The vehicle’s hybrid battery pack consists of a 288-volt nickel-metal hydride system tucked away under the rear floor.
Premium unleaded fuel is required.
Another deviation from the somewhat gelded efforts of other hybrid makers is the Cayenne S Hybrid makes use of not a CVT transmission, but an eight-speed Tiptronic S and permanent all-wheel-drive. Power is biased 58 percent to the rear during normal operation. If a wheel loses grip, the differential directs torque to the axle with the most traction.
The transmission is highly efficient, allows rapid gear changes, and is smooth and refined. Seventh and eighth gears are both overdrives, made possible by the wide ratio spread and reducing fuel consumption during steady-state cruising. For optimal acceleration, the eight-speed Tiptronic S always launches from rest in first gear.
The system also allows what Porsche engineers refer to as “sailing,” whereby the computer will decouple the engine at highway speeds – where low power is required – and let the electric motor alone drive the vehicle.
With a battery much smaller than an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid, this can only be sustained for up to 1.2 miles. The max speed of this sailing is a not insubstantial 86 mph. The SUV’s considerable kinetic energy, decent 0.36 coefficient of drag and efficient driveline contribute to this sailing capability.
Performance figures from Porsche are 0-60 in 6.1 seconds and top speed of 150.4 mph. Despite having higher power per liter, the V8-powerd Cayenne S and GTS do out-sprint the hybrid with 0-60 times of 5.6 and 5.4 seconds respectively, and top speeds of 160.4 mph and 162 mph respectively
If you’re curious, the more fuel-efficient Cayenne Diesel does give up some ultimate performance to the hybrid in exchange for the unique pros and cons offered by the diesel proposition. It’s rated at 245 horsepower, 406 pounds-feet torque, and its 0-60 time is rated at 7.2 seconds, and top speed is 135 mph.
Suspension, Brakes, Wheels
The front suspension is a double-wishbone design and thus fully independent. In back, a fully independent multi-link design is employed.
The SUV’s turning circle is 39.1 feet and steering ratio varies form 16.7 to 13.1:1.
Braking duties – for the vehicle which naturally utilizes ABS and a stop/start system – are performed by six-piston monobloc aluminum fixed front calipers, and four=piston monobloc aluminum calipers in the rear. Rotors are 14.17 inch, internally vented. The calipers are painted silver.
Wheels are 8.0J X 18 alloys shod with 255/55 R 18 tires.
The vehicle is as much a Euro wagon as it is an SUV. Bi-xenon headlights lead the way into sculpted and shapely features. Hybrid badges do adorn the car, but it’s otherwise like its siblings in its muscular design signifying the new direction Porsche has found to be so popular.
In short, it has the Porsche badge and engineering in a family friendly package far more practical than one of the two-seaters the company made its name with.
Inside the fit and finish are impeccable. Comfortable leather seats position occupants before a functional instrument layout and infotainment. There are a lot of buttons and switches however, so there will be a learning curve.
On the Road
Don’t expect to take the Cayenne S Hybrid to a track day event and embarrass a well-driven 911, but the vehicle is no slouch.
If you already figured that much just by the emphasis on the power, you’d be correct.
It’s a heavy vehicle though, with a curb weight of 4,938 pounds according to Porsche, but the prodigious gas-electric torque lets you forget this is any kind of concession to environmentalism, with healthy acceleration on tap from nearly any legal or extra-legal speed. It can also tow 7,716 pounds by the way, so this is really a Porsche truck, if an athletic one.
Its all-wheel drive system provides variable torque distribution between the rear wheels to enhance cornering dynamics, and it’s an all-round performer capable of detouring up a fire road too – just take it easy with loose rocks under your wheels, or you’ll scratch the pretty thing.
Naturally, it does well in inclement weather also, so it’s the perfect sports car/kid hauler/grocery getter/and prestige enhancer all in one.
Its big multi-piston brakes too are up to the task of reversing the rate of acceleration at a strong clip making for a well-balanced package worthy of the Porsche name – with all apologies due to any disagreeing Porschephiles.
This is a luxury purchase proposition, so an extra $11,000 here or there is not a lot in the world of Porsche.
Among other vehicles the regular Cayenne line competes against are the BMW X5 and X6, Range Rover, and Mercedes-Benz ML models.
Considering EPA numbers that variants of these gas or diesel SUVs offer – and your own subjective list of wants, likes and dislikes that only you can answer – some of them may be contenders. So the Porsche has competition even before considering actual hybrid alternatives including the $20,000 less Lexus RX 450h – which beats the Porsche in the EPA mpg ratings, but is not the speedmeister the Porsche is.
Yes, the Cayenne S Hybrid is certainly not the most environmentally friendly option made, but does present a unique value proposition, and Porsche would contend this is more than greenwashing.
Indeed the company has raided its archives to compile new marketing materials reminding the world of its electrified offerings going back to the early years of the 20th century. Its top-of-the-range 918 Spyder is also a plug-in hybrid, and Porsche is signaling it is serious about electrification, including hybrids like the Cayenne priced within range of mere upper middle class wallets.