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The automotive industry is in the midst of a green revolution when even Porsche, builders of super cars from the far off land of Stuttgart, is in on the hybrid game. But, Porsche being Porsche, decided for a slightly different tact. First, their all-new and first-of its-kind 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid had to stand out in the looks department, get great gas mileage, emit much lower emissions and, most of all, the Cayenne had to go like a Porsche.

Before you scoff at the idea of a Porsche Hybrid…

Fret not, because Porsche uses a supercharged V6 gasoline engine in combination with a 47 horsepower high-output electric motor. This gives the Cayenne S Hybrid the acceleration of a V8 with the fuel consumption of a V6 while keeping the same driving qualities – acceleration, braking and handling – you'd expect from the nameplate. 

There is also a slew of all-new technologies under the hood and all new for 2011 sheet metal. The Porsche hybrid system combines a 47 horsepower electric motor with a 333 horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 gasoline engine. Porsche uses what they call a 'parallel full hybrid' for the Cayenne S as opposed to the typical 'split hybrid' seen on other cars. The end result is that both engines work fluidly as one system. 

It's complicated, but that's a good thing

A parallel full hybrid is a much more complicated endeavor than the split hybrid system. The interaction of the main components – the combustion engine, the electric motor, the separator clutch and the battery – is coordinated by the Cayenne's Hybrid Manager, which receives all vehicle information and controls the electric motor, the combustion engine and the car's battery in one HAL-like computer brain.

Another key component of parallel full hybrid drive is the separator clutch set between the combustion engine and the electric motor in the hybrid module which engages and disengages the two, for either gas or gas and electric power for your jaunts down the highway.

"The Cayenne S Hybrid offers the acceleration and elasticity typical of a Porsche without the rubber band effect of split hybrid systems." The Cayenne can run on either the gasoline engine or the electric motor independently – or together - and gives you better fuel economy by running, at speeds of about 35 miles an hour on the electric engine alone, saving gallons and gallons expensive gas.

Porsche says the hybrid system on the new Cayenne S, "offers the acceleration and elasticity so typical of a Porsche without the "rubber band effect of split hybrid systems." Power is delivered through all four wheels via Porsche Traction Management, a permanent all-wheel drive system with center locking differential.

Sailing – a new trick in green tech

Unlike other hybrids which realize their best fuel economy during 'stop/start' driving – where the full use of the hybrids regenerative braking system comes into play - in a city environment, the system developed by Porsche has a "Sailing" feature, which allows the Cayenne to "sail" along the highway at speeds up to 97 mph without using the gasoline engine at all.

Using the separator clutch, the Porsche Cayenne's full hybrid drive is able reduce fuel consumption at autobahn speeds. Just take your foot off of the gas pedal and it completely disconnects the gasoline engine from the drivetrain, it's as simple as that.

In sailing mode, the Cayenne's electric motor operates as a generator, delivering electric power. Should you hit the gas in sailing mode, say when passing a slower car than the Porsche on the highway, the gasoline engine will reengage in just 300 or milliseconds. Boom, just like that.

An analogy to this would be this: say you have a manual transmission car that's driving at 97 mph and you push in the clutch and shut off the gasoline engine but you still have the ignition on to power the radio and such – pause - then you'd try to restart the engine and engage the gearbox coupling within in 300 milliseconds – all without interruption. It took Porsche's team of 250 engineers three years to develop this system.

The sailing mode is available at all speeds too - the sailing starts automatically once the driver takes their foot off the gas pedal, this opens the separator clutch and automatically switches off the combustion engine. "Sailing", says Porsche, is like "gliding or simply 'rolling along, all without using the power of the combustion engine or electric motor."

In sailing mode, both the combustion and electric motors are switched off. There is no other system that works like this.

The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid goes on sale in the fall of 2010 with pricing starting at $67,700. If green feels this good – and is this much fun – sign us up for the revolution.

author photo

Jon Alain Guzik is an L.A. based writer who has editorial credits at DriverSide.com, Yahoo!, and has written for Top Gear, L.A. Weekly, Variety, Los Angeles Magazine, Dazed and confused, Dwell, Popular Science and the Los Angeles Times.

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