8.12.2011

2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Review

Front 3/4 view from above of white 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid parked next to water
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. Green with grins.

The very idea of a Porsche hybrid takes some big-time explaining for a lot of people. A $67,700 Porsche hybrid SUV even more so.

The Porsche Cayenne is the SUV in question, and to a lot of Porsche purists, it was the Porsche that wasn't supposed to be built anyway. It was counter to the marque's mission of building laser-focused sports cars with 2 doors and low centers of gravity.

But the Cayenne has been a success. Porsche builds a lot of them and has built market share squarely on its broad shoulders. And since powerful SUVs have taken the biggest hit when gas prices get squirrely, wouldn't they be the perfect place to employ a little hybrid technology?

Side view of white 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. A few extra MPG for a couple extra Gs.

Hybrid luxo-SUVs aren't new anyway...three years ago, when TireKicker was a toddler, we spent in a week in and then wrote about the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid...which, in 2008 was 5 grand more than this year's Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid.  The Porsche has the edge on performance (0-60 in 6.1 seconds), handling (elementary physics) and, as it turns out, gas mileage, though neither of them pump up the EPA estimates to Prius levels.

In fact, the Hybrid Cayenne S only gets about 2 miles more per gallon in the city and on the highway  (20/24) than the non-hybrid version. But Porsche only charges a couple of grand more to make the gas/electric leap.

Interior view of 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Interior. You could get used to this.

$67,700 might strike you as something of a bargain for the Cayenne S Hybrid...and you're right. For what you get, that's a fairly compelling base price. But with Porsche, the difference between base price and as-tested price often jumps by the price of a loaded Honda Fit once you get into the optional equipment. And that's what happened to our test vehicle. About $16,000 worth of options got poured onto and into the machine ($4520 of it for the Convenience Package alone), for an endgame (including destination charges of $84,950.

Yes, that's very different from $67,700, but it's not out of the territory for Porsche buyers...who, with the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, get arguably the best of all worlds: An SUV that saves a bit of gas and a bit of the planet because it's a hybrid, and is a Porsche.

Try as you might (and a lot of journalists have tried very hard the past few years to poke holes in the Cayenne), it's tough to find fault with the finished product. It works like an SUV, goes and handles like a Porsche (okay, the center of gravity does affect things...but there's no other SUV that can play in the twisties like this one) and the hybrid system is unobtrusive.  A dealer-accompanied half-hour test drive will have you wanting one. A week unsupervised (as we got) just makes it worse. If Porsche sent it back to us tomorrow, we'd be happy campers.

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