When Porsche launched the Cayenne in 2002, it did so to a lot of armchair quarterbacking about whether the company – known for lightweight, incredibly fast sports cars – could sell an SUV. Nine years later, the Cayenne is the most popular vehicle in the Porsche line. Now for 2012, Porsche one-ups the Cayenne by creating one with a hybrid propulsion system. The Cayenne S Hybrid succeeds by staying true to Porsche’s core values of performance, efficiency and unmatched handling.
The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid is Porsche’s first production hybrid vehicle. It’s powered by an electric motor and a supercharged 3.0-liter V6, which is nominally rated at 333 hp and 325 lb/ft of torque. In full parallel hybrid mode, the engine and electric motor combine to deliver 380 hp and 428 lb/ft of torque. If that torque number isn’t impressive enough, consider that maximum torque is available at just 1,000 rpm. Think about that the next time you quickly launch from a stoplight.
The engine and electric motor are connected together by a decoupling clutch, ensuring that the Cayenne S Hybrid can drive with either electric power alone, or the combustion engine alone, or by both of the power packs together. A complex Hybrid Manager constantly monitors the engine and the electric motor and their interaction, intelligently managing the decoupling clutch, seamlessly transitioning from one mode to the other depending on the driving conditions.
For short distances, the Cayenne S Hybrid can utilize electric power by itself with zero emissions from the tailpipe. Electric-only power is available up to 40 mph, so in short urban or heavily congested commutes, the gasoline engine may never engage.
The system utilizes a 288-volt nickel metal-hydride (NiMh) battery stowed beneath the luggage compartment, as well as regenerative braking, which stores the electricity generated by the application of the brakes. This stored energy is available for boosted acceleration and electric drive, providing a fuel savings under many driving conditions.
The decoupling clutch also allows for increased fuel economy at high speeds when most hybrids are running on full combustion engine power. Engineers called this mode “sailing” or coasting mode. When the driver lifts off the throttle at speeds up to 97 miles per hour, the gasoline engine is completely switched off and disengaged from the drivetrain, eliminating the parasitic drag of turning engine components. As soon as the driver applies the accelerator again, the gasoline engine starts in fractions of a second, and engine rpm increases to match vehicle speed. The Hybrid Manager also works to couple the engine and the electric motor to provide the dynamic acceleration a Cayenne driver is looking for.
All told, the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid delivers an EPA estimated 24 mpg highway. But more impressively, it provides an estimated 20 mpg in the city, a 33 percent improvement over the Cayenne with just the traditional gasoline engine.
An all-new Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system together with a new eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission eliminates the requirement for a reduction gearbox, saving 73 pounds of overall weight. In the Cayenne S Hybrid, PTM comes with permanent all-wheel drive and a self-locking center differential.
Regardless of its fuel-saving intentions, the Cayenne S Hybrid wouldn’t be a Porsche if it didn’t mirror the Cayenne’s outstanding driving performance. For 2012, the Cayenne S Hybrid chassis is 145 pounds lighter, since many of the components are constructed of aluminum. For the first time, Cayenne models other than the Cayenne Turbo are available with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as an option. PASM provides infinite damper control on both the front and rear axle, offering drivers three modes of driving - “Comfort,” “Normal” and “Sport.”
All Cayenne models have undergone a transformation for 2012, giving the Cayenne S Hybrid an exterior character that is a nod to the great Porsches of the past. The Porsche shape and design highlights are more distinct than ever. All Cayenne models are 1.9 inches longer than in previous years with 1.6 inches added to the wheelbase for extra interior space and versatility.
Inside, you’ll find a luxurious cabin with a high center console reminiscent of the original Carrera GT and a touchscreen infotainment system angled and inclined to provide a cockpit-like front passenger compartment. At the rear, look for a bench seat that slides forward and back by 6.3 inches, and backrests that can be adjusted to three different angles, at up to six degrees.
The instrument panel in front of the driver is all business with five round gauges and a high-resolution 4.8-inch screen to the right of the tachometer. The screen can be used to change radio stations and vehicle settings to access the navigation system or view maps, all within the driver’s line of sight. The Cayenne S Hybrid features a specific instrument cluster that monitors the vehicle’s hybrid system and maximizes efficiencies. A Bose® Surround Sound System and a Burmester® High-End Surround Sound System are optional, as they are on all Cayenne models.
Never forget that after all the technology behind the hybrid system, the 2012 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid is a Porsche. It has to be driven to be experienced. Click the link below and sign up for a test drive in this remarkable vehicle. It will change your perception of what a hybrid – and a Porsche – can be.