Though purists scoffed when Porsche first released its Cayenne mid-size SUV, the luxury 'ute soon became one the of the German automaker's best-selling (and most profitable) models. Now in its second-generation, the Cayenne offers the handling, comfort, and family-friendly size that made the original a hit in a lighter package with greater power and fuel efficiency - the latter of which is especially true for the Cayenne S Hybrid, Porsche's first ever hybrid model.
Along with the gas-electric Cayenne S Hybrid discussed herein, the SUV is also available as the V6-powered base Cayenne, the eight-cylinder Cayenne S, and the range-topping Cayenne Turbo. New additions to the model lineup include the efficient-yet-torquey Cayenne Diesel and the sporty Cayenne GTS.
The exterior of the latest Cayenne follows in Porsche's philosophy of evolutionary design, though it does feature a much sleeker appearance than the outgoing model thanks to more organic body lines.
With a redesigned interior packed with cues from the Panamera sedan, the Cayenne sports a long, sloping center console and a plethora of buttons and switches thanks to the lack of an iDrive-style control system. Thanks to the extra 1.6 inches in the wheelbase, cabin dimensions have grown from the old model. Rear-seats now enjoy 6.3 inches of fore-and-aft sliding, as well as an adjustable backrest.
Other interior features include Bluetooth, Bose surround sound and a Burmester high-end surround sound system.
Power for the Cayenne S Hybrid comes from Audi's supercharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 333-horsepower, connected to a three-phase synchronous electric motor which receives power from a 38 kW NiMH battery that resides in the spare tire well. The electric motor adds another 47 horsepower.
The Cayenne S Hybrid is capable of traveling up to 40 mph on all electric power, with the system allowing for the complete disengagement of the gas engine from the driveline at speeds up to 97 mph. The disengagement allows for a "coasting" featuring, which reduces drag and improves overall efficiency.
Although fuel economy has never been a strong suit for the Cayenne, Porsche has vastly improved fuel consumption across the range for the new generation. The Cayenne S Hybrid achieves 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and still maintains a 6.1 second zero-to-60 time.
From a handling standpoint, the latest Cayenne (except Turbo) comes standard with a steel suspension, but have for the first time available Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM. PASM is an advanced suspension system that provides for infinite damper control for both the front and rear axles, and a choice of three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
All Cayenne S Hybrid models come standard with dual front, side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assist.
The gas-electric rivals to the Cayenne S hybrid are the Lexus RX 450h, the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid and the Porsche's own mechanical twin, the Volkswagen Touarag Hybrid. For those who don't necessarily need a hybrid but want good fuel economy, the diesel-powered versions of the BMW X5, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and the Audi Q7 are good options