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Porsche Cayenne SUV joins the hybrid trend

March 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Porsche is getting into hybrids. The high performance German brand introduced a new Cayenne hybrid.

After becoming the best-selling model in the Porsche line-up, the Cayenne SUV received an update this year.

The changes are subtle on the surface, but more comprehensive underneath, including things that improve fuel economy, which is up significantly from the previous model.

And there's even bigger gas mileage news with one Cayenne version- Porsche's first hybrid.

"To stay relevant and to meet the increasingly stringent requirements, we have to embrace alternative driving technologies," said David Pryor from Porsche Cars North America. "And we have done that."

The numbers are pretty good. The hybrid SUV got a 21 MPG city rating and 25 MPG on the highway. Performance wasn't sacrificed, which is why it still carries the designation of "Cayenne S." the V6 engine and electric motor combine to produce 380 horsepower.

On the efficiency side, the engine de-couples from the transmission when it's not needed in order to reduce drag, and the car can move at significant speeds on electric power alone.

And Porsche is also working on hybrid electric race cars. The flywheel in the GT3R stores energy otherwise lost to braking, and sends it back to the wheels for extra acceleration.

"You know our drivers say that when you hit that button it's like a turbo charger kicking in," said Pryor. "It is a big boost in power."

These new technologies definitely pay off for Porsche, both in street cars and in the race cars. But the company is known for high performance and nothing else. So why should they care about fuel economy or being a little more green? Well quite frankly because, they have to.

Like every car company, Porsche is under regulatory pressure to build cars that use less fuel and produce fewer carbon emissions. All their research and development will pay off next year when the 918 Spyder will go on sale, an ultra-high-performance plug-in hybrid.

It won't be a money-saver at an eye-popping $800,000 plus. But millionaire car aficionados will be able to tear up the race track knowing they're being a little greener.

As can folks spending more reasonable amounts for Porsche's sporty SUV.