2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid: Combining Natural Resource Consciousness and Luxury
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
First launched in 2002 as Porsche’s entry into the then-burgeoning luxury mid-size SUV niche, the Cayenne (pronounced KI-ehn, like the hot pepper), finished its initial generation as an upscale sports-ute with similar characteristics to those of its competition, but adding the Porsche badge and some power options.
With its second generation, come a facelift and some changes that should put it near the top of its class.
Generation two, begins with an aggressive all-new face, upslanting headlights, two-horizontal-bar grille split into three segments, sporty sloping hood and athletic front and rear shoulders. The look is one of a sports vehicle that distances itself from the conservative minivan or SUV crowd. And inside, are luxury appointments that make it a genuine consideration for those with lavish needs and automotive desires.
Offering a wealth of power options, Porsche has a variety of set-ups: The entry-level Cayenne is propelled by a 300-hp 3.6-liter V-8, while the step-up Cayenne S trim can be purchased with a Porsche-proud 400-hp 4.8-liter V-8 and the muscular Cayenne Turbo thunders out 500 horses from its twin turbo-charged 4.8.
All that power and luxury are what one would expect in a Porsche. But now comes the surprise. The 2011 line includes a variation on the theme with the Cayenne S Hybrid. Porsche’s first production hybrid is the class leader in fuel efficiency, EPA rated at 20mpg in city driving and 24mpg on the highway, versus 13/19 in non-Hybrid Cayenne models.
Joining Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h, BMW X6 Audi Q7 as non-diesels in the luxury hybrid mix, with prices ranging from $42,000 to $90,000, Cayenne S Hybrid at about $70,000, fits into that market created for drivers who demand luxury and performance, are prepared to pay premium prices, and who also want to talk the talk and at least in a lavish way, walk the walk of being “green-conscious” and trendy in concert with status purchases.
Filling the bill as a mid-size SUV, the 4-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 5-door Cayenne measures in with exterior dimensions of 189 inches long, 76 inches wide, 66 inches high on a 112.4-inch wheelbase. Weighing in at a sturdy 5600 lbs., the new-generation Cayenne is down by some 400 lbs. from its Gen-One version, thanks to changes to light-weight materials. Stylewise, Cayenne’s clean lines are all its own, though it shares a platform with the Volkswagen Touareg.
The big difference in the Hybrid edition is under hood. The Cayenne S Hybrid gets its power from a supercharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter V-6, putting out 333-hp and 324 lbs.-ft. of torque. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with manumatic shifting, the unit is coupled with an AC synchronous electric motor that provides 52 hp, and 221 lbs-ft of torque, combing for a real total of 380hp.
Dynamics, weight and machinery make for respectable handling, with solid cornering. Body roll appears only during quick moves and pedal-stomping acceleration. Porsche handling comes through, even in this SUV; while Cayenne does not drive like a sports car, it is stable, consistent, and accelerates with aplomb.
One new piece of high-tech is that the Cayenne S Hybrid can “sail” or coast at speeds up to 97mph without using gasoline, and maintain speed, as the electric motor can take over fully, to reduce fuel consumption at track speeds and certainly at lower, legal highway speeds. The gasoline engine also hibernates when the driver takes his foot off the pedal or at stops, saving on fuel.
A week of legal-speed testing yielded an average of 25.2mpg, and demonstrating surprising acceleration for a hybrid, turned in times of 6.6 seconds for a zero-to-60mph run and 15.1 seconds for the quarter-mile.
Inside, Cayenne S is spacious and pampering. Interior front headroom is 39.5 inches, legroom is 41 inches, shoulder room is 59 inches and rear seating allows roominess of 39, 27 and 57. The upmarket cabin seats 5 and fit and finish are superb, with typical German-engineered technical indulgence throughout – though devices often seem more engineer-friendly than use-friendly. Seemingly inspired by Porsche’s new Panamera, the interior is highlighted by leather seating and appointments, a high center console, touch-screen infotainment center, high-res 4.8-inch screen, round instruments, Bose® Surround Sound System and Burmester® High-End Surround Sound System, Bluetooth telephone connectivity, universal audio interface, iPod and USB stick compatibility, Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering and a moonroof.
From a safety perspective, Cayenne S is imbued with speed-sensitive headlight control with separate modes for roads and interstates, Lane Change Assistant – a system that monitors adjacent lanes and blind spots, adaptive cruise control with brake-pressure building system (Porsche Stability Management), electronic stability control, antilock brakes, side air bags and curtain air bags.
Tested before total cost was stickered on the test vehicle, prices for the base 300-hp 2011 Porsche Cayenne start at $46,700. The 400-hp 2011 Cayenne S will have a starting price of $63,700, while the Cayenne S Hybrid will base at $67,700. The range-topping 500-hp 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo will start at $104,800.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne is a posh sports-ute for those who want to walk the upscale walk and talk the environmentally conscious talk.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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