While mentioning "Porsche" and "hybrid" in the same sentence may cause mountains to crumble, glasses to shatter, and babies to wail in the world of the Porsche Purist, said purist may not be aware of one little fact: Porsche invented the first hybrid powertrain more than a century ago.
Using a 15-horsepower four-cylinder engine to power an 80V dynamo, Ferdinand Porsche's Lohner-Porsche Mixte sent current either to two electric motors in the front wheel hubs or to a buffer battery in what was the world's first standard-production hybrid vehicle. That was circa 1900. The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid is now.
And how times have changed. In an era of CAFE regulations, eco-chic culture, and soaring fuel prices, Porsche will again launch a production hybrid vehicle, this one based on its highly profitable Cayenne SUV. Just as the Cayenne's platform is shared with the Touareg and Q7, its new hybrid powertrain was developed with Porsche's extended family members, Volkswagen and Audi. The hybrid system was originally slated to serve duty in Audi's Q7, until a change in plan favored hybridizing a different Audi -- the newer, smaller Q5. With Porsche needing to meet the same upcoming fuel-economy standards as its bigger cousins, the hybrid system was treated to a thorough updating from its original two-year-old beginnings, and given new life in the Cayenne. The new Panamera sedan will be the next Porsche to undergo the hybrid transformation next year using essentially the same system.
Two years is a long time and the hybrid powertrain in the Cayenne features plenty of changes since it first appeared in the engine bay of an Audi. To start, the combustion engine is now the 333-horse, 3.0-liter twin-supercharged V-6 from the upcoming Audi S4 and is paired with a 38-kilowatt/52-horse electric motor. A new eight-speed automatic transmission adds two overdrive gears compared with the old six-speed Tiptronic, and Porsche has dropped the weight of the hybrid module's electronics by 30 percent. Power steering is now electrohydraulic (a first for the Cayenne's class, says Porsche), and the air-conditioning system is looped into the 240-cell, 288-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery located under the rear cargo area, rather than being belt-driven off the engine. Even the vacuum pump for the brakes and oil pump for the transmission have been given a second look, relocating the vacuum source in the first instance and switching to electric power for the latter.