2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
Continuing the relationship between Porsche and Volkswagen since the first Beetle, the 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid shares a lot of DNA with, maybe too much. The cars are built on the same platform, and have the same hybrid electric system. The Cayenne S Hybrid looks like a Porsche, but is it different enough from a Volkswagen?
Two areas where the cars differ are in cabin electronics and suspension technology, but Porsche doesn’t win out in either category. You’d expect a Porsche, even the Cayenne Hybrid, to have outstanding handling, and a sense of lightness on the wheels when gliding through corners like a dancer.
But in spite of the luxury cabin conveniences like the leather dashboard, the Cayenne Hybrid’s electronics are somewhat mixed, lacking the unified Porsche identity and seemingly attached to the dashboard. Porsche’s reliance on Volkswagen for navigation software only blurs the differences between the two cars.
Maintaining a quiet elegance, the Cayenne Hybrid is not difficult to advertise green. The only indication of its electrochemical capabilities is a small hybrid badge, in cursive Porsche, adorning the fenders. The rear end of the car offers something more different, the large, sporty dual exhaust.
Those styling cues indicate that the hybrid system in this car is indeed more inclined to gain power, with just a little more fuel economy. The EPA rates the Cayenne Hybrid at 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, not significantly high numbers, albeit a decent step up from its brethren, showing city numbers. in average. During city, highway and mountaineering, the CNET’s rated car hit a solid 21 mpg.
A badge on the engine declares hybrid and supercharged engines.
That kind of mileage isn’t bad, considering the power of the Cayenne Hybrid. Porsche put the letter S in its model name, which is absolutely worth it. The 3-liter, turbocharged V-6 direct injection engine, paired with the electric motor, pushes horsepower up to 380, while torque hits a whopping 427 pound-feet. That helps the Cayenne Hybrid hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, according to Porsche, only half a second slower than the Cayenne S.
Behind the wheel, the Cayenne Hybrid walks vividly, a finely ground accelerator for powerful and smooth acceleration. Between the multitude of buttons on the center console, a button labeled Sport makes the throttle more responsive, generating more force to the touch.
But next to the Sport button is a button labeled E-Power, which makes the Cayenne Hybrid stay in EV mode as long as it runs out of power in its 288 volt nickel metal hydride battery pack. The Cayenne Hybrid takes advantage of this power reserve to turn off the engine when the lights are stopped, accelerate at low speeds with an electric motor, and do what Porsche calls “rowing” on the highway.
In that last mode, the engine shuts down at speeds of up to 99 mph when you leave the accelerator pedal. A bit of the accelerator pedal is in this mode, and the engine stops, the electric motor powers it. But the next is the inability to maintain freeway speeds on a flat road in EV mode, and the uphill will definitely require the gas engine to start. The driver will have to get used to seeing the needle bounce up and down when the engine is on and off.
This screen shows how long the car has ‘gone’.
When the Sport mode is turned off, the gearbox reaches the most reasonable level, keeping the engine running noise below 2,000 rpm to save gas. With eight gears to choose from, this gearbox makes it easier to find the efficient ratio.
In Sport mode and aggressive driving, the fourth is usually the powertrain for corners. The uniquely molded paddles on the steering wheel spokes control the choice of the gearbox manually, but manual shifting takes place with a typical shifter reluctance. If Porsche really wanted to differentiate this car’s performance from the Touareg Hybrid, it might have opted for a sportier transmission.
But Porsche put more effort into handling the Cayenne Hybrid. The car appears to be flipping through turns, but a glance down at the accelerator reveals it doubled its recommended speed without tension. In-wheel braking, an electronic cornering technology that gently brakes the inner wheel in turn, helps the Cayenne Hybrid adjust curves.
All-wheel drive also has one-handed assistance, as it transmits torque through the rear axle to make the outer wheel torque a bit more difficult. With these technologies, the Cayenne Hybrid’s navigation is almost too easy; it’s not like a low and dirty canyon carver. Contributing to this feeling is the steering wheel turns too easily, lacks integration with the road surface. Porsche seems to have tweaked the power steering to give it a feeling of luxury.
The control sets the air suspension between Comfortable and Sport modes.
The air suspension gives the Cayenne Hybrid a small chunk of curves. It offers Sport, Normal, and Comfort settings, lowering the car for the first time and tightening the suspension. But it doesn’t actively resist the sway. For an SUV, such active suspension is found onmakes a big difference in the turn.
With Comfort suspension, the Cayenne Hybrid feels like you’re riding on a marshmallow. The suspension eliminates most road defects, but vibrations from the exceptionally rugged pavement are still transmitted to the passenger compartment.
Map of VW
Cabin technology introduced into the Cayenne Hybrid is largely as an optional Porsche Communications Manager, a head unit incorporating navigation. The slightly shrinking plastic buttons for the Cayenne Hybrid adorn the front, and it also uses the touchscreen for input. Competitors in this class, such as Audi, use more integrated interfaces that are better designed for use on the go.
But the Cayenne Hybrid benefits from its Volkswagen association by providing the same high-quality maps found in Audi models. Maps that show the detailed topography of hills and valleys and buildings in major metropolitan areas are displayed in 3D. The system will also display traffic, although the lack of an active satellite radio subscription in CNET’s car disables that functionality.
The navigation system is part of the optional Porsche Communication Management, a removable terminal.
The LCD screen displays other useful information, such as specific combination data. One screen shows the time the engine has run in EV mode and another shows how current flows through the vehicle.
The LCD display shows the contacts for the car’s Bluetooth phone system, which is populated by copying the contact list from a paired phone. This screen is especially important because the Cayenne Hybrid lacks a voice command system. Other cars in this segment allow voice commands to make calls, enter destinations and select music, but Porsche has been slow to adopt this feature.
A big help, however, is the LCD display in the instrument cluster, just to the right of the tachometer. With buttons on the steering wheel, the driver can choose to see most of the technology functions in the cabin, including the current phone status, map or track. The position of this gauge brings cabin technology information close to the driver’s line of sight.
Porsche offers a small set of audio sources in the Cayenne Hybrid: iPod connection, USB port and auxiliary input. Does not have the ability to rip CDs to a car, nor does it support audio streaming via Bluetooth.
The standard Bose sound system, with 14 speakers and 585 watt amplifier, produces excellent sound quality. The units sound clear and the bass is reasonably strong. But Porsche takes it to another level with the optional Burmester sound system, which uses 16 speakers and 1,000 watt amplifiers, that will delight audiophiles.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid is in an odd position in the Cayenne lineup. It offers nearly as much performance as the Cayenne S, but the Cayenne Turbo still does better. Its fuel economy is just a few mpg better than the base Cayenne S or Cayenne. Therefore, the Cayenne S Hybrid does not make a compelling argument for itself, except for buyers who must have a hybrid, but still want Porsche performance.
Cabin technology is the biggest problem for the Cayenne S Hybrid, as it doesn’t feel like Porsche’s luxury brand or car price. While brands like Audi and BMW try to fully integrate the interface into the car, the electronics in the Cayenne S Hybrid are like an afterthought.
|Paradigm||2011 Porsche Cayenne|
|Metro||Direct injection 3 liter V-6 turbocharger, 8-speed automatic transmission, 1.7kWh nickel metal full hybrid system|
|EPA fuel savings||20 mpg city / 24 mpg highway|
|Observable fuel savings||21 mpg|
|guide||Based on the hard drive that has the traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional|
|Disc player||Single MP3 compatible CD|
|Support MP3 player||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, auxiliary input|
|Sound system||A 14-speaker Bose, 585-watt, 16-speaker, 1,000-watt system is available from the Burmester|
|Driving assistance||Blind spot detection, rearview camera|
|Basic price||$ 67,700|
|Price as checked||$ 86,110|