I was never impressed with the last-generation Porsche Cayenne so I hoped for better with the new 2012 model. Unfortunately, this S Hybrid suffers from the same leaden feeling that plagued the previous car. I know that hybrids generally weigh more than their non-hybrid counterparts due to heavy batteries, etc., but there is more than just this vehicle's actual physical weight -- which is an obscene 4938 pounds -- at work here. Each of the driving controls -- steering, brake, and throttle -- are oppressively heavy. At low to moderate speeds, the steering wheel requires too much effort to turn and the pedals are absurdly stiff. To make matters worse, both pedals also have very little feel and seem to have a delay of a second or two before they respond to inputs. All of these factors add up to a driving experience that is very un-Porsche-like.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The first thing you notice when you pull out of the parking space in the Cayenne Hybrid is that the brakes feel different from those of a regular car, because there's that lack of progressiveness in the brake pedal travel that is common to hybrids with regenerative braking. You might have thought Porsche could have found a way around that. Urban driving, other than the touchy brakes, is just fine, though, and off-the-line acceleration from an intersection is very impressive. Less impressive is the wooden, nonlinear steering feel and feedback, which make it difficult to place the Cayenne in a corner.
If you can accept the idea of a Porsche SUV, you can probably accept the idea of a Porsche SUV hybrid. If you are among the people who think that Porsche should never have built an SUV, then the idea of a hybrid version is even more ridiculous to you. For my part, I think it's quite interesting to have a company like Porsche engineer a hybrid; it's nice to see Porsche delve into this and apply their considerable expertise to this engineering challenge. Even if the Cayenne hybrid isn't your thing, Porsche is applying what they learned in developing it to future sports cars that will likely be very appealing to enthusiast drivers.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
It seems like everyone is getting into the hybrid business these days, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Porsche is joining the crowd. Your first clue that this Cayenne is a hybrid is the hesitation on starting. Once underway, you'll also notice the heavier-feeling regenerative brakes and, when you come to a stop, the rev gauge drops to zero as the auto start/top function shuts down the gasoline engine. The hybrid powertrain puts out 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, besting the figures of the base Cayenne V-6, so this Porsche is not lacking in power. Having said that, it's also big and heavy, and driving it isn't really an exercise in driving excitement.
The cabin is another story, however. Running your hands over the exquisitely supple, French-stitched leather on the dash, seats, and door panels is a truly sensory experience. The only thing that mars the interior is the fact that there are simply too many buttons and switches. I counted: there are 24 buttons and 5 toggle switches on the center console, 15 buttons on the stereo, and 11 on the overhead console.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Let me start by saying I have a philosophical bias against vehicles that try to do everything. Such vehicles almost never achieve their mission and invariably seem a bit disingenuous in the attempt. The Porsche Cayenne Hybrid would have you believe that sports car provenance, off-road capability, full-size sedan comfort, and now environmental friendliness can be had for the price low, low price of $86,510. It can -- if you use that money to buy a Mazda Miata, a Hyundai Genesis, and a Subaru Outback.
Having aired all that Archie Bunkeresque prejudice against eco-/sporty/luxury SUVs, I'll admit I don't actually dislike the Cayenne. As Amy notes, its cabin is a wonderful place to spend time. Porsche's sweeping, button-covered center console turned me off when it debuted in the Panamera but has grown on me over time and serves the important role of distinguishing it from Volkswagen Group's other full-size crossovers. Same for the new exterior design, which hides the Cayenne's size and better differentiates it from the more hulking Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7.
The batteries and electric motor add back most of the weight Porsche trimmed in the Cayenne's redesign, but for what it is, the Hybrid is surprisingly nimble and responsive. The steering strikes the same light yet precise balance as that in the Panamera, and the brakes aren't quite as mushy as in other hybrid applications (though as Joe notes, they are touchy).
No doubt, Porsche has executed this confused concept well. We'll see very soon if Lamborghini and Bentley can do the same, as those brands are reportedly set to get their own hybrid crossovers off of this same architecture.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor