Two years ago at the Frankfurt auto show, Porsche announced it had begun work on a hybrid Cayenne program, but the company has remained quiet since then, except to tell us it has remained partnered with VW on the SUV’s development. However, Porsche recently broke its silence and gave us a few more details about what we can expect from its new hybrid SUV, which is on track for a 2009 launch.
What we know is that a compact, 34-kW electric motor in the Cayenne hybrid will slot between its 3.6-liter V-6 and the six-speed automatic transmission, a series configuration that Porsche claims is more compatible with the Cayenne’s platform. The company also says the setup is more fuel efficient and flexible in terms of the hybrid system management, which Porsche claims will allow the vehicle’s performance to remain, well, Porsche-like. By adding electric power to the 290-hp, direct-injection V-6, maximum torque rises from 273 lb-ft to over 400 at 1800 rpm for the hybrid. That part sounds good, but all the hybrid components will add significant weight to the already bloated Cayenne, so we’ll have to wait to see what affect this has on not only acceleration but Porsche hallmarks such as handling and braking as well.
Porsche’s fuel-economy target for the Cayenne hybrid is 24 to 26 mpg—some 25 percent better than the current V-6 Cayenne’s mpg. Porsche did not make any mention of reduced emissions, but we expect at least commensurate improvements along those lines.
Other unique features of the Cayenne hybrid that have been designed to decrease fuel consumption include the vacuum pump for the brakes and the air conditioning, which will operate on electric power. Components such as the oil pump in the Cayenne’s automatic transmission, have also been replaced by electrically powered units. Further efficiencies were gained by the fitting of an electrohydraulic steering system—a move that may not be welcomed by purists.
Porsche also plans to introduce a hybrid version of its Panamera four-door sometime after its 2009 debut.
This is all great news, we suppose, but we’re still scratching our heads trying to figure out exactly what the point is of a hybrid Cayenne or Panamera. After all, few people buy luxury SUVs or four-door GTs because they’re “green.” Nor, for that matter, do they stay away from them because they’re not.
To the contrary, however, Porsche has claimed in the past that more and more rich people are interested in environmentally sound vehicles. But is the demand really that high? The only thing we can surmise is that Porsche is bending under major regulatory pressures, because considering what low volumes the Cayenne hybrid is expected to pull in, there can’t be much money in it, even at the prices we expect Porsche to charge for its mighty new green machines.
After all who is buying a Porsche because it makes a practical daily driver and rivals the Honda Accord? I am sure that those that want to do their part to remain green will consider this little steed.