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Spicy-Hot Hybrid

Posted in Automobiles with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2012 by RickNews

This article previously appeared in Colorado Springs Style Magazine in December, 2010

Colorado Springs Style November/December 2010

Porsche Protects the Planet With Their New Cayenne

Honda kicked-off the hybrid vehicle game in the late-20th century, with their Insight two seater. Toyota took the ball and ran with it, producing three generations of Prius models that came to symbolize the genre. Now, Porsche has “taken the ball,” and they didn’t just run with it—they supercharged it, in their new, leather-lined 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid!

A Second-Generation First

The Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle debuted to perplexed audiences in 2003. “A Porsche…truck?,” they asked. It was an unusual move for a company that only produced small sports cars. Yet, the Cayenne proved to be a hit, winning over the well-heeled who desired the road manners of an “autobahn stormer” but also wanted a dose of practicality—especially in mountainous and wintry locales such as Colorado Springs. Over the years, the first-generation Cayenne was improved upon with new models, such as the low-to-the-ground GTS and the super-fast Turbo S. For 2011, the Cayenne range is now in its second generation and Porsche, the company, has taken a more responsible approach to performance with their first-ever hybrid vehicle.

The battery pack hides in the rear.

Nobody Does It Better

While the Turbo model sits at the pinnacle of Porsche of Colorado Springs’ Cayenne lineup, the new Cayenne S Hybrid is the vehicle that’s setting the car (and truck) market on its ear. Simply put, nobody does “performance” like Porsche and no hybrid SUV behaves quite like the Cayenne S Hybrid. Unlike a fully-electric vehicle that must be plugged-in (a la the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf), the Cayenne S Hybrid couples a supercharged V-6 engine to an electric motor. There’s nothing to plug in–except a gasoline hose when the tank is dry. In other words this “gentle giant” delivers the performance of a V-8 with the fuel economy of a V-6.

Once upon a time, Porsches used to have air-cooled gas engines in the rear...

Highway Sailing

The combined engines’ output of 380 horsepower is channeled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, dubbed Tiptronic, because of its sporting abilities.  This, in turn, connects to a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that is the bedrock of the Cayenne’s off-road prowess. Furthermore, the vehicle’s hybrid arrangement is unlike any other because it can power the truck in either full-gasoline mode; via the electric motor only; or a combination of both. Most hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, get better fuel economy in city driving, because the electric motor propels the car more often than the gas engine; the Porsche, on the other hand, is quite different.  When the Cayenne S Hybrid pilot lifts off the accelerator at speeds up to 97 mph, the gasoline engine can be completely switched off, enabling the vehicle to “sail” along without combustion or electric power. This delivers a significant reduction of fuel consumption at highway speeds. As soon as the driver presses the accelerator to pass another vehicle, the gasoline engine quickly starts back up and begins doing its job.

Porsche boasts a fuel economy improvement of about 25 percent over the gas-only Cayenne. When one considers that this is a truck capable of transporting a family of four and their luggage over rough roads, and not a two-seat, Japanese econo-box built for asphalt-only duty, the feat is even more impressive.

Tautly Teutonic

The exterior of the Cayenne range has been re-shaped with tauter and more athletic lines; the headlamps are reminiscent of sportier Porsche models and generally the vehicle appears sleeker than its predecessor. Remarkably, the new Cayenne is larger than the first-generation. Yet the redo goes deeper than the skin: Porsche overhauled the Cayenne’s interior to mimic that of their first-ever sedan, the Panamera. The previous Cayenne’s cabin lacked a certain flair. Now, the center console has less of a plasticky “SUV vibe” and more of a sleek, “Learjet feel,” with polished black switchgear and up-to-the-minute Euro design. If it feels larger inside, it is, because there’s more space for rear passengers and the cargo area has been enlarged.

The Cayenne range's interiors have been renovated.

Porsche, a company notorious for “nickel and diming” when it comes to options, has given the Cayenne a standard audio system with iPod interface, standard Bluetooth connectivity, and there’s even a glass moonroof, gratis. Notable options include radar-activated cruise control, a blind-spot warning system for safe lane changes, and a trick headlamp arrangement that adapts illumination for highway or around town driving! Unique to the Cayenne S Hybrid is an instrument panel display that allows the driver to monitor the hybrid system and to see how “green” the truck is when motoring along.

This ain't your Aunt Hildy's Porsche gauge binnacle.

Trailblazing Ahead

Like any company entering a new market niche, Porsche wasn’t perfect with their first-generation SUV. Yet, less than a decade later, they’ve singlehandedly created a new niche, that of a performance hybrid SUV. Frankly, nothing less was expected of such a legendary automaker. Time to add some planet-friendly spice to your driving!

2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid

  • Base price: $67,700
  • Powerplants: 3-liter, supercharged V6 with 333 horsepower and an electric motor with 47 horsepower
  • Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic automatic with all-wheel-drive
  • 0 to 60 mph: Approximately 6.6 seconds