Hell is freezing over pretty frequently these days, it seems. Porsche, once the pinnacle of piston-engined power, will launch its first hybrid late next year.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid sport-utility will get gas mileage of at least 26 miles per gallon (less than 9 litres per 100 km), according to a report in the German Automobilwoche.
That's at least a 25-percent improvement, especially in city driving, over the most economical gasoline version. That model, just known as the 2009 Porsche Cayenne, uses a 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 that returns EPA ratings of 14 mpg city / 20 mpg highway.
Pricing for the Cayenne Hybrid hasn't been set yet, according to Porsche executive Wolfgang Dürheimer, but expectations are that in Europe it will be around 90,000 Euros ($125,000). As with most European cars, the US price will likely be considerably lower.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid features a direct-injected, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine rated at 333 horsepower, sourced from Audi. A 38-kilowatt (52-hp) electric motor is mounted between the engine and an 8-speed automatic.
That motor offers 221 lb-ft of torque, two-thirds as much torque as the engine itself generates. Unlike other hybrids, the system is tuned to give maximum electric assist not in city driving but at highway speeds.
Porsche claims all-electric running at speeds as high as 86 miles per hour, though the vehicle most likely can't accelerate to that speed from a stop using only electricity. They also quote acceleration from 0 to 62 mph in 6.8 seconds using both gasoline and electric power.
Porsche has engineered a unique hydraulic clutch that shuts down the engine at light load. The company's engineers have called the resulting electric drive "sailing," for the silence sensation of speed powered only by the battery pack.
While the Cayenne Hybrid is a full hybrid--meaning it can power itself on electricity only--its system is simpler than the Hybrid Synergy Drive used in that archetypal hybrid, the 2010 Toyota Prius.
One drawback: Porsche's system can run on electric power, or it can recharge the battery pack, but it can't do both at the same time.
The Cayenne Hybrid concept was first introduced at the 2007 Los Angeles auto show, when Porsche claimed a 15-percent reduction in overall fuel consumption.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid will likely be sold mostly in North America. Europeans will probably prefer the 3.0-liter V6 diesel Cayenne launched at last spring's Geneva Motor Show, which will be considerably cheaper than the hybrid.
Porsche also plans to introduce a hybrid version of the 2010 Porsche Panamera, their first-ever four-door sedan.
Porsche Cayenne Hybrid logo