Play word association with “Porsche” and several things come to mind: “speed,” “performance,” “rides that’ll get you laid.” What you probably won’t think is “sport utility” and “hybrid.” But all of us can broaden our horizons, and with the Cayenne S Hybrid—an eco-friendly update to the SUV that’s been around nearly a decade now—the German automaker aims to do just that. Can this model make the jump?
If your eyes glaze over when you read a car’s specs, feel free to skip the next paragraph and rejoin us below.
The Cayenne S Hybrid ($67,700 base) boasts all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. A supercharged 3.0-liter V6, electric motor and nickel-metal hydride batteries combine to generate 380 horsepower. The hybrid powertrain pumps out 427 pound-feet of torque at a scary low 1,000 rpm. This SUV goes from 0 to 60 in 6.1 seconds, tops out at 150 miles per hour and can tow 7,716 pounds. The EPA rates its fuel efficiency at 20 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The bottom line of all those stats? While none of those individual numbers blows away alternatives like the Cadillac Escalade and Volkswagen Touareg hybrids, they add up to something special—a combo of speed, power and fuel economy that trumps all comers.
As my friend Jon, who edits the car section of a popular men’s magazine, says: “Porsche interiors will ruin you for just about any other car.” He’s right. There’s just a feel that everything is in the right place. For example, amongst the classic analog gauges there’s a digital one, and a dial on the steering wheel lets you toggle through screens displaying navigation, music, phone calls and more. Yes, you can access all this through the larger nav screen on the central console, but the smaller one is less distracting, cool-looking and, well, Porsche-ier.
Even better, while driving three lovely ladies back to New York City from the Hamptons—note, I am not a Hamptons kind of guy, it was my first time there—I heard nothing but rave reviews about the comfort of the seats, quality of the audio, and exhilaration of dropping the windows, rolling back the sunroof and feeling the rush of wind as the Cayenne topped 90 like it was nothing.
Two small beefs. One: though I eventually got the hang of it, the nav system was a bit clunky at first. Two: while maneuvering through city traffic, don’t open the sunroof and spray windshield wiper fluid at the same time—you’ll get a light shower.
It actually says a lot for the hybrid system that I’ve gotten this deep into the review without mentioning it. It’s just so smooth and quiet, it’s easy to forget it’s there, but here are a few fun facts.
If you’re light on the pedal or push the “E power” button, you can reach almost 40 miles per hour on the batter alone. The engine shuts down and decouples from the transmission when you’re coasting, saving you fuel. The engine also automatically sleeps when you’re stopped, then smoothly kicks back in when you hit the gas. Perhaps most impressive, the engine is so quiet, it truly does purr.
Another cool feature is the Cayenne’s multiple settings: normal, comfort and sport, which adjust the suspension, handling and height of the chassis depending whether you’re taking the scenic route or driving for your life whilst being chased by some maniacal Bond villains.
As much as we all want a tricked-out sports car, if you’re starting a family, stressing about the environment, or transporting more than two people, it simply doesn’t make sense. On the other end the spectrum is that surrender to suburban mediocrity, the minivan. While pricy and not yet perfect, the Cayenne S Hybrid splits the difference quite nicely. No, it won’t win over supermodels like, say, the manufacturer’s uber-sexy Cayman might. But with its maiden hybrid, Porsche got a helluva lot right. The fact this vehicle actually has room for said supermodels’ endless legs—or, let’s face it, a horde of screaming kids—is just a bonus.