When PorschePurist first tested the Cayenne Hybrid, we did so at Barber Motorsport park and we were much more interested in speed, handling, off-road capabilities and playing with the new hybrid display then worrying about gas mileage. With the price of gas climbing closer to $4.00 a gallon (and over that already in some parts of the country), and most pundits talking about $5.00 a gallon by summer, I know a lot of you are ready for more MPGs from your family SUV. So, when Porsche asked if we wanted to drive a Cayenne Hybrid for a week, we answered of course. Not only would we get to spend more time with the Hybrid system, we can really see what we can do in way of MPGs.
FlatSixes.com contributor Roger Garbow drove the 2012 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid on a recent family trip from his home in Connecticut to the Killington ski area in Vermont. This journey of more than 200 miles in each direction was the perfect opportunity to see how the Cayenne Hybrid would perform. It didn’t disappoint.
The Cayenne Has Been Good For Porsche
When the Cayenne was introduced in North America in 2003, Porsche purists let out a collective groan. It was considered by many to be a watering down of the brand and the beginning of the end of their beloved sports car. But a curious thing happened – not only was the Cayenne incredibly good by SUV standards but it became the company’s top seller in its first year and has been their sales leader every year except 2006, when it was edged out by a new 911, the 997.
In addition to bringing new customers into the Porsche fold, the Cayenne has had a much bigger benefit to the company – it filled the coffers. The Cayenne has been incredibly profitable and has enabled Porsche to put more money into development, which has resulted in improvements to the rest of the line. Ironically, the new 911 owes some of its greatness to the Cayenne.
The 2012 Cayenne Hybrid
Porsche’s only road going hybrid is based upon the second-generation Cayenne, which is leaner and meaner than its predecessor. In addition to the redesigned exterior, the interior is significantly improved as well, taking cues from the Panamera. The controls are well laid out and the ergonomics are excellent, especially compared to other vehicles in its class. The large navigation screen pulls up a variety of ways to monitor the technology and consumption. It’s informative, entertaining and easy to scroll through. The seats are comfortable and supportive and there is ample room for four normal size adults.
Porsche’s Hybrid Technology
Which brings us to the hybrid functionality. For Porsche, the new technology is not just a gimmick or a way to meet increasingly stringent CAFE standards. The company has been working on hybrid technology for a number of years and developed a revolutionary hybrid variant of its successful GT3 race car. Taking the technology to a new level, the folks at Stuttgart have a new exotic hybrid super car beginning production in 2013. The $845,000 918 promises 0-60 in 3.1 seconds, a 200 mph top speed and a phenomenal 78 mpg. I’ll take mine in silver, please.
So how does the Cayenne S Hybrid drive?
Very well thank you. With 380 HP and 430 lb-ft of torque, the Hybrid delivers strong acceleration in spite of carrying nearly 400 lbs more than the V-8 model. 0-60 comes up in a factory rated 6.1 seconds vs. 7.4 for the V-6. It’s actually much closer to the V-8 equipped Cayenne S in performance. Where it varies greatly is fuel consumption.
Efficiency-wise, the vehicle can be driven in electric only mode “E-mode” up to 37 mph running solely off the electric motor, although keeping it there was nearly impossible in my hilly suburban environment. It might work better if you live in the lowlands. The transition from electric to gas engine is seamless – you have to look at the readout to see which mode you are in.
For me, the best feature of the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid is the “sailing-mode.” At speeds up to 97 mph, when you lift your foot off the throttle, the clutch disengages the transmission from the engine, similar to popping a manual transmission into neutral. Maximizing the sailing mode, I was able to get nearly 28mpg on a recent ski trip to Killington and back – far exceeding the factory mpg figures. On the snow covered Vermont roads and equipped with winter tires, the Hybrid performed extremely well, as expected. While it is a heavy vehicle, handling could almost be considered nimble – at least for an SUV.
Fitting the Family
Luggage space is adequate and we managed to get our bags for four, two sets of snowshoes and two sets of skis inside. So what’s the downside? Not much. The price might seem a bit high at $69k, but the Hybrid comes well equipped and is only $4k more than the Cayenne S. The standard equipment is similar to the S but you get a lot more torque, better fuel economy and the cutting edge drivetrain. You give up the torque vectoring rear differential of the S, but most drivers will never notice. Besides, the digital display showing the power flow is very entertaining and encourages efficiency.
Ultimately, you could drive this vehicle every day with no complaints, especially as you pass the gas station. But for my next trip, I’m going for 30 mpg.
About the Author
Today’s post is by Roger Garbow. Roger is the founder of Ridgefield, CT-based Full Throttle Marketing, and Vice President of Car Guy Nation. A member of the International Motor Press Association, Roger is a contributing writer for the Fairfield County Business Journal, Ridgefield Magazine and China’s most exclusive lifestyle publication, Fortune Character.
In 2008, as the Marketing Director for Farnbacher Loles Motorsports, Roger drove a 3.8 liter Porsche Cayman S in an exhibition drag race on NY’s 11th Avenue to open the NY Auto Show — after getting pulled over for driving an “unlicensed” 997 GT3 Cup on city streets. When not turning laps at Monticello Motor Club, he can be found wherever car guys are gathering.