Success in motorsport says your cars are fast and, in long-distance racing, reliable. With a commanding lead at the 22-hour mark, Porsche’s GT3 R Hybrid could have won this year’s 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. But it didn’t. The irony is that a normally reliable component in its gasoline engine was the weakest link.
While the GT3 R Hybrid’s generator-based KERS technology has nothing to do with the battery-based hybrid setup in the Cayenne S Hybrid, it’s a good bet the electric racer exists largely to promote the idea of alternative Porsche power. That Stuttgart is committed to the concept is obvious, as its latest take on an eco-friendly drivetrain looks and feels like a mature technology.
Open the compartment under the luggage area and the 176-pound, maintenance-free, Nickel Metal-Hydride (NiMH) battery pack looks fully integrated into the vehicle package. The only downside is a loss of the supplementary underfloor
storage space found in other Cayennes. Under the hood, the finish of all the additional components is equally superb. The only giveaways are the S Hybrid badge on the engine cover and thick red power cables that hint at very high-voltage activity.
The Cayenne S Hybrid is a “parallel full hybrid,” or a hybrid with two powertrains that can operate independently or together. Its internal-combustion engine is a 333-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 developing 324 lb-ft of torque from 3000 to 5250 rpm. The synchronous electric motor produces 47 hp and a whopping 221 lb-ft of torque up to 1150 rpm, making for a total system output of 380 hp. The combined torque peak of 428 lb-ft comes only at 1000 rpm — because the torque of the electric motor diminishes as that of the V6 increases.
There are three power modes: combustion engine only, electric only (if the battery has enough charge), and a combination. A Hybrid Manager, whose electronic brain controls the separator clutch that activates or deactivates relevant drive units, chooses the appropriate mode.
If you’ve never driven a hybrid, first contact with the Cayenne S Hybrid will be a wholly new experience. Turn the ignition key and you get silence — not the familiar sound of an internal-combustion engine. The S Hybrid moves off silently if the battery has enough juice, and can run this way for short distances at up to 37 mph. In time, or as more thrust is required, you hear the supercharged V6 join the party.
The hybrid gear makes the S Hybrid 540 pounds heavier than a base 2011 Cayenne. The 4,938-pound, dual-fuel Cayenne is 154 pounds heavier than a range-topping Cayenne Turbo, so it’s the heaviest Porsche to date. Its combined thrust delivers a more Porsche-like experience than you’d expect, however: 0–62 mph in 6.5 seconds, 0–100 in 16.5, and a top speed of 150 mph.