2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid TiptronicPosted on June 1st, 2011
Full parallel hybrid system delivers powerful performance
By Nina Russin
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.
Southern Arizona drive test
It was kismet that I had the Cayenne S Hybrid over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The long weekend gave my husband and me the chance to get out on the open highway for a short road trip between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. Prior to that, I had spent several days driving the Cayenne around metropolitan Phoenix’s highways and surface streets.
I must admit that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Porsche’s sport-utility vehicle, simply because its presence in the showroom dilutes that of the automaker’s legendary sports cars. This has nothing to do with the car’s performance, which is excellent in every variant I’ve driven. Consider it the bias of a Porsche purist.
Having said that, I believe the new Cayenne hybrid makes more sense as part of the Porsche lexicon than its gasoline-powered cousins. The new hybrid performs in a radically different manner than anything the company has produced prior to it, without in any way detracting from classics such as the 911. Porsche engineering has entered a new dimension, and as such as enhanced its leadership position among the world’s great automakers.
Back to the road trip: The first thing which became apparent driving the Cayenne Hybrid was its deceptive speed. Because the car is so solid and so quiet, the car tends not to feel as if it’s moving as fast as it actually is. How many sport-utility vehicles weighing 5000 pounds can accelerate from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 6.1 seconds? It almost defies physics.
Fortunately, the Cayenne hybrid also has Porsche’s legendary stopping power, with six-piston 14-inch discs up front and four-piston 13-inch discs in the rear. As with most hybrids, the brakes regenerate energy for the charging system.
Direct injection gives the supercharged gasoline V-6 engine excellent throttle response. The engine has a relatively high compression ratio, requiring the use of premium fuel.
Fortunately, real-world fuel economy is excellent. Average fuel economy for my 300-mile test drive was 24 miles-per-gallon in combined city and highway driving. An average speed of 35 miles-per-hour indicates that the drive was equally divided between the two. My fuel economy bettered the EPA estimate by three miles-per-gallon.
The nickel-metal hydride battery pack which powers the electric motor is located under the cargo floor, so there is no spare. Instead, the manufacturer includes an inflator kit. If buyers prefer, they can use the roadside assistance which comes with the factory warranty.
The optional air suspension allows the driver to lower the vehicle into a sport setting, which enhances aerodynamic performance at speed. Having driven between Phoenix and Tucson in 30 mile-per-hour crosswinds, I can say that the Cayenne is as stable as any traditional passenger car I’ve been in.
Visibility around the perimeter is pretty good. There are some blind spots in the rear corners due to its thick D pillars. Since the test car doesn’t have the optional blind spot monitoring feature, I found myself checking the adjacent lane over the shoulder as well as the rear and side-view mirrors before making any changes.
The optional park assist system displays a graphic image on the center stack screen which shows the distance of obstacles around the vehicle’s perimeter. It uses the colors- green, yellow and red- to indicate proximity. What I like about the system is that it prompts the driver to monitor the entire perimeter rather than the rear only when driving in reverse.
The rack-and-pinion steering system provides excellent response at all speeds, with ample assist on the low end, and excellent on-center response on the highway. A 39-foot turning radius makes U-turns viable on wider suburban streets.
A double wishbone suspension up front and multi-link setup in the rear is compact, while providing a responsive ride.
Designers did an excellent job of making the interior thoroughly modern and high-tech without overwhelming the driver. There are a couple of classic Porsche quirks, such as locating the ignition switch to the left of the steering wheel rather than the right. Other than that, controls are intuitively arranged, minimizing driver distraction.
There is a hierarchy of information displays, beginning with the gauge cluster, which is the easiest area for the driver to refer to while the car is moving. A rotary wheel on the steering wheel allows the driver to scroll through information on the car’s range, a simplified hybrid display, ambient temperature, average speed, navigation system and map settings.
The driver can also use steering wheel controls to access the audio system and Bluetooth interface. Formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel enable the driver to select gears manually.
The center stack screen displays the park assist and navigation graphics. Functions on the screen access more information about the hybrid system than the gauge cluster, including a more intricate energy monitor. The screen also displays tire inflation, fuel economy, and enables passengers to set preferences for convenience options.
An overhead console controls the sunroof and park assist, while buttons on the center console control the air suspension and hybrid operation mode. Both the driver and passenger have seat memory controls. The Cayenne seats are firm but extremely comfortable with ample leg and lower lumbar support.
I was happy to see that designers had included bottle holders in all four doors: a nod to Americans’ love of beverages inside the car. In the middle of the Phoenix summer, carrying water at all times is a necessity. On the flip side, the metal shift lever and shift paddles on the steering wheel got almost too hot to touch when I started the car up during the day. A composite would be a better choice, at least in this part of the country.
There is ample head and legroom in the two outboard second-row seats. The central position has enough room for an average size adult on short trips around town. Vents behind the center console circulate air throughout the back of the cabin. There are ample twelve-volt power points throughout the passenger cabin and cargo area, as well as a USB port in the center console bin.
The power liftgate makes it easy to large cargo in back. Rear seats fold flat using levers next to the seat bottom cushions, so the Cayenne hybrid meets our bicycle-friendly standards. A cargo cover keeps items stored in back concealed.
The Cayenne S Hybrid comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, Porsche traction management with standard all-wheel drive, daytime running lamps, stability control and antilock brakes. Porsche builds the Cayenne S Hybrid at its Leipzig, Germany assembly plant.
Likes: A powerful sport-utility vehicle with excellent fuel economy and a gasoline-electric hybrid system that redefines the genre.
Dislike: Metal touch points on the interior are difficult to operate in extreme heat.
Model: Cayenne S Hybrid Tiptronic
Base price: $67,700
As tested: $84,950
Horsepower: 380 Hp @ 5500 rpm (combined engine and motor)
Torque: 428 lbs.-ft. @ 1000 rpm (combined)
Zero-to-sixty: 6.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 20/24 mpg city/highway
Comment: * Maximum towing capacity is 7716 pounds.
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