First Drive: 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid

It may be another gut punch for purists, but Porsche's foray into volume products and new segments continues with a hybrid model for the new, second-generation Porsche Cayenne. However, the Cayenne S Hybrid isn't just an overweight Toyota Prius. Both the hardware and the software feature unique - or at least unusual - approaches to hybrid execution. The result is that the Porsche Cayenne doesn't drive like any other hybrid.

New hybrid hardware
Ironically, primary propulsion for the most efficient Cayenne comes from what's rightly considered a high-performance engine when installed in a lighter and lower automobile. Borrowed from the Audi S4 sport sedan, the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 produces 333 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque. Power is transmitted to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission supplied by Aisin.

But it's what's between the engine and transmission that turns the Cayenne into a hybrid. An electric motor, measuring 5.5 inches long, sits just ahead of the torque converter. It's good for 47 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and raises combined output of the Cayenne S Hybrid to 380 hp and 427 lb-ft. Electricity for the motor and accessories like air conditioning and a hydraulic steering pump are supplied by a 1.85-kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery stashed below the cargo floor.

The final piece of hybrid-specific hardware is a dry, multiplate clutch placed between the engine and the electric motor, and it's the Cayenne hybrid's most distinctive feature. The clutch can decouple the V-6 from the rest of the drivetrain, allowing the Cayenne to coast or move under electric power without the drag of a spinning (but not firing) engine.

It may sound complex, but the Cayenne's powertrain looks quite simple and conventional when you view the technical diagram in our photo gallery. The path of the power flows naturally from the front of the car, starting with the supercharged V-6 and continuing through the clutch, electric motor (highlighted in red), torque converter, eight-speed automatic, and transfer case to the four wheels where it finally meets the road.

The hybrid system operates in five different modes. The first is pure electric operation, available at light throttle and speeds up to about 30 mph. A button labeled E-POWER on the center console alters the throttle map so there's more pedal travel before the gas engine starts up. But even with E-Power active, you'll need an absolutely flat road or a slight downhill if you want to maintain or increase your speed. At best, it's useful for quietly, cleanly, and patiently motoring through your subdivision before you hit a main thoroughfare.

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Wow VW/Audi still hasnt figured it out. Hybrid SUV is a big white contradiction.Best powertrain option for a SUV is a DIESEL ENGINE.It's too bad that American consumers are obsessed with 0 to 60 times, which are worthless for day to day driving. German auto companies bring big DIESEL engines to the NA market when 4 and 5 cylinder ones would be great but would deliver 0 to 60 times in the 10s.

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