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Jun 102011

By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

The 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid is the first gasoline-electric hybrid to make me say, “Wow,” and “Boy, howdy.”

The 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid "sails" to save fuel.

The hybrid driving experience is typically cerebral, as in “What efficient technology. The long-term fuel savings will be beneficial to both the environment and my wallet.” The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid driving experience is visceral, as in “Woohooooooooo.”

This all-wheel-drive mid-size SUV is fast, jumping from 0 to 60 mph in just over 6 seconds and leaping from 60 mph to 80 mph quicker than you can say, “Rut row.” All that power is provided by a 3-liter, supercharged V-6 engine and an electric motor that provide a total output of 380 horsepower and maximum torque of 428 lb.-ft. The eight-speed automatic transmission is as smooth as butter.

The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid also “sails” at highway cruising speeds to save fuel. The gasoline engine automatically disengages from the drive train and shuts off when drive power isn’t needed. The Cayenne S Hybrid continues to coast along. Engine drag and the associated deceleration effect are eliminated, and efficiency is increased.

Don’t expect to be sailing past fuel pumps as you might if driving a Toyota Prius, however. The Cayenne S Hybrid gets an EPA estimated 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with premium gas.

The all-wheel-drive and high ground clearance – plus an optional off-road underbody protection package with rock rails with integrated skid plates, a reinforced engine-bay guard, additional protection for fuel tank and rear axle – means the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid has some modest off-road capabilities. But do you really want to ding this car?

Handling and ride are very nice. The leather seats are comfortable as a custom-tailored suit. The rear seats slide back and forth to adjust the legroom (which is generous when the seats are pushed all the way back). The rear seats also recline.

German carmakers seem incapable of designing intuitive climate controls and sound system controls and the buttons and knobs in this car will take you a few days to figure out. But everything else about the interior whispers “luxury.”

As it should in a SUV with a base sticker price of $67,700. The test vehicle included optional leather interior, air suspension and other features that pushed the sticker price to $84,950.

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