The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid (Base MSRP: $67,700) is a luxury hybrid SUV that pairs cutting-edge powertrain technology with Porsche's reputation for sportiness. The Cayenne range is all new for the 2011 model year and is improved in every way, according to reviewers, as is its corporate sibling, the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid (Base MSRP: $60,565), which employs the same basic hybrid powertrain.
The Porsche Cayenne Hybrid is lauded for its involving driving dynamics, sumptuous interior and smooth, strong power delivery. In sum, the Cayenne Hybrid is a reviewer favorite when it comes to hybrid SUVs, with its only downside being a lofty price tag and small cargo volume. If you're after luxury, the 2011 Lexus RX 450h is the still the best reviewed hybrid SUV, as it's not only luxurious, but it is also more fuel efficient and far cheaper than the Cayenne Hybrid. Just don't expect the drive to be anywhere near as engaging as the Porsche.
Expert reviews spend a lot of ink talking about the Cayenne Hybrid's powertrain technology, as it is unique in many ways. First, the electric motor is paired with a supercharged, direct injection V6 and uses a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission, unlike the usual CVT transmission found in hybrids. This parallel hybrid setup, with the gasoline and electric power on one driveshaft, can accelerate via electric power alone up to speeds of around 30 miles per hour under the right circumstance. Interestingly, the Cayenne Hybrid can also coast at speeds up to 97 miles per hour, meaning that both the gasoline engine and electric motor are completely decoupled from the wheels and shut off in order to maximize fuel efficiency. This improves fuel economy, and reviewers say the entire system works flawlessly. Furthermore, start/stop technology allows the engine to shut off during complete stops, as in other hybrid vehicles. Motor Trend notes that "there is no real perception of the various drive modesÉonly the colorful hybrid display and its informative flow chart give any indication of what's going on underneath the floor."
The supercharged 3-liter V6 and electric motor produce a combined 380 horsepower and 427 pound feet of torque, making it one of the fastest SUVs around. The engine puts down the power through a traditional eight-speed automatic that can be shifted manually. The EPA rates the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid at 20 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined. These figures are good for a sporty, performance-focused SUV, but merely okay when compared against other cheaper luxury hybrids like the 2011 Lexus RX 450h and even many typical gasoline engine crossovers and SUVs.
On the road, the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid drives like a sporty V8 SUV, according to AOL Autos. The ride is called composed, sporty, solid and comfortable by reviewers, whether the suspension is in the driver-selectable Comfort, Normal or Sport modes. Despite its hefty weight, the Cayenne hybrid is still "remarkably fluent in Porsche's language, which instantly translates as 'faster, please'," according to The New York Times. That same review also notes that the Cayenne Hybrid is less nimble than the regular V8 version, something that other reviewers also point out, because of the additional weight of the hybrid system. A few reviewers also note that the steering effort is too light for their tastes, but ultimately, almost all agree that this is the sportiest SUV available today even in hybrid guise. Motor Trend review says that "it still largely felt like a Porsche."
The interior of the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid is one of the most luxurious available in any SUV (or car, for that matter). Quality is excellent, whether you're considering the leather, aluminum or wood accents. The Wall Street Journal's Dan Neil says the mood inside is "smart, distinctive and Scandinavian-supper-club cool," and he gives it high praise by saying that "the interior appointments are worthy of a Bentley." Edmunds.com corroborates that claim, noting the "excellent craftsmanship" on the inside. Every reviewer calls the front seats supremely comfortable (The New York Times says they're faultless), perfect for long-distance traveling and enthusiastic driving.
Rear seating is very comfortable as well, and total luggage capacity with the seats up is about 20 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is 59.7 cubic feet. Those storage numbers are eclipsed by a variety of other cars and SUVs.
A handful of reviewers note that the myriad buttons on the center console can be confusing at first, though none seem to consider it too serious of an issue.
As expected for a luxury vehicle with a luxury price tag, the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid comes chock full of standard equipment and impressive technology. Among these standard features are self-leveling automatic headlights, LED running lights, leather upholstery, a 10-speaker surround sound audio system, touch-screen navigation, eight-way front power memory seats and Bluetooth compatibility. Optional features include items like a 14-speaker Bose stereo, heated seats, a rear-seat entertainment system and 18-way adaptive sport seating for the front occupants, among others.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, driver knee airbags and rear side airbags. An optional parking assist system can alert the driver to impending obstacles, and a blind-spot warning system is also available. Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have crash tested the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. IIHS has tested the structurally similar 2011 Volkswagen Touareg and named it a Top Safety Pick, though this doesn't necessarily indicate the Porsche would perform as well.
Overall the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid leaves reviewers extremely impressed, and only has a few downsides, the most important of which is the high base price. Its power, sportiness and luxury make it one of the most interesting choices in the luxury hybrid SUV market, though some other highly rated luxury SUVs cost far less and get better fuel economy. Furthermore, the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid (Base MSRP: $60,565) shares the Cayenne Hybrid's powertrain technology and is almost as luxurious on the inside, while costing thousands less and adding some practicality with its 7,700-pound tow rating. Practicality, efficiency and price likely won't bother shoppers in this price range who are looking for a hybrid SUV, and the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid certainly doesn't disappoint critics when it comes to luxury, power or style.
ConsumerReports.org has not specifically tested the new 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, but editors have tested the gasoline versions. Observations concerning the ride, interior and general safety features should also apply to the hybrid version.
Review: SUVs, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
Editors of Edmunds.com are impressed with the redesigned Cayenne Hybrid for its sophistication, laudable driving dynamics and well-appointed interior. They are disappointed by the relatively small cargo capacity given its SUV dimensions, and they note that the hybrid powertrain dampens driving enjoyment somewhat due to the weight it adds. Overall though, the editors consider it "a nice blend of performance and fuel economy."
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, Editors of Edmunds.com
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid gets good fuel economy, considering its snappy performance. The EPA estimates that it will deliver 20 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined.
Review: 2011 Hybrid Vehicles, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy
4. Motor Trend
This first-drive test of the Cayenne lineup includes a dedicated section on the Cayenne Hybrid. This section is focused on describing the innovations under the hood and how they operate out on the road.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Porsche Cayenne, May 28, 2010
5. The New York Times
The New York Times takes a comprehensive look at the 2011 Cayenne Hybrid, including details on features, technology and the driving experience. Despite the addition of an electric motor and weight-adding batteries, the reviewer finds that the Cayenne Hybrid is "remarkably fluent in Porsche's language, which instantly translates as 'faster, please'."
Review: Cayenne Hybrid: Prius of Porsches, Lawrence Ulrich, Oct. 22, 2010
Popular Mechanics writer John Pearley Huffman discusses the prototype 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and the diesel 2010 Porsche Cayenne (not offered in North America). He describes the technology on offer in the hybrid as well as the driving experience that he says still has that Porsche edge, albeit diminished with the hybrid powertrain. He notes the high base price is unsurprising for a Porsche.
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid and 2010 Diesel Test Drive: Can Porsche SUVs Deliver Performance and Fuel Economy?, John Pearley Huffman, Oct. 1, 2009
7. Cars.com's Kicking Tires blog
This piece discusses where the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid fits into the market and brings up the technological highlights along with some driving impressions. Like others, the reviewer describes the hybrid system's power delivery as seamless under all conditions. In the end, he's "not sure the world really needs a hybrid Porsche SUV, especially given the availability of rides like the diesel-powered BMW X5."
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid: First Drive, Thom Blackett, Sept. 10, 2009
8. Motor Trend
This review takes a look at an early example of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, paying particular attention to the technological developments to the hybrid engine. Power was plentiful and the ride was sporty, according to this reviewer, but the steering was a bit overboosted. Ultimately, the "Cayenne S Hybrid still largely felt like a Porsche," which may be the most important point for luxury hybrid SUV shoppers.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, Rory Jurnecka, Sept. 2009
9. AOL Autos
This review of the Porsche Cayenne lineup covers all versions and has a section dedicated to the Cayenne Hybrid. Limited driving impressions are given here, as well as a brief description of the sailing technology.
Review: Driven: 2011 Porsche Cayenne, Rex Roy, July 17, 2010
10. Car and Driver
This review is an early drive of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and provides some quick descriptions of the driving experience in addition to describing its unique technology. The re-engagement of the gasoline engine after coasting is considered to be "amazingly smooth," though the power steering is "a touch light."
Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid -- Second Drive, Mark Gillies, May 2009
11. Wall Street Journal
Like others, Dan Neil of The Wall Street Journal finds the Cayenne Hybrid's "workings are virtually transparent." He is more tepid when it comes to the handling which he feels is athletic and lively "but not exactly eager and certainly not nimble." His favorite upgrade to the Cayenne's redesign is the even nicer interior accommodations, calling them "worthy of a Bentley."
Review: Porsche Takes a Big Step Into Green, Dan Neil, Aug. 13, 2010