First, instead of using a detuned version of the Porsche four-door family of twin-turbocharged 90-degree V-6 and V-8 engines, it nabs a 3-liter, 333-hp supercharged V-6 from the Audi bin, making it perhaps the first supercharged factory Porsche.
It then couples this with a 95-hp electric motor, mounted between the engine and transmission, providing it with a quoted, and marginally math mysterious total of 416 hp. (The motors actually produce their peak power at different points in their range, so this is Porsche’s estimate of their greatest combined output overlap.)
The real weirdness, as in the Panamera Hybrid, comes in how often the electric motor, throughout three of the four selectable drive modes, seems to be powering the vehicle on its own. Though a full charge — accomplished by plugging into the slick elliptical Porsche Design charging station you have installed in your garage, of course —is expected to yield only 21 miles of pure electric driving in E-Power mode, the on-board regenerative systems available in Hybrid mode seem to increase this significantly.
Braking delivers energy back to the battery, but so does coasting, wherein the engine decouples itself under low load and acts as a generator. We did a lot of city driving, but even when entering the highways or on two-lane roads during our 100+ mile route, our tach was pegged at zero with extraordinary frequency.
You can also place the vehicle in E-Charge mode, where “excess” power from the engine is used to recharge the battery. Punch the Cayenne into this mode for a half-hour or so, and there’s no need to worry about finding a charger.
It may merit a 20% fuel economy penalty, as spin from the gas motor generates electricity, but this is a great option in anticipation of making a silent, carbon-free arrival someplace worthwhile -- like a city with heavy emissions entry tax or your kids’ competitive private school, or making a silent carbon-free exit from someplace like your husband’s house or the apartment of the guy with whom you’re having an affair.
If you want to thrash Ford Mustang EcoBoosts at stoplights, try Sport/Sport Plus modes, which sharpen responses from the steering, throttle, and transmission, and deliver full power from both sources. As noted above, these rips just about match those of the regular “S” model, which seems even more improbable when you look at the spec sheet and realize that the Hybrid makes slightly less power, produces only slightly more torque, and carries nearly 600 lbs more weight.
Given these mysterious Darwinian leaps, if you’re in the market for a stylish, sporty, luxurious, leather-lined, mid-sized Porsche SUV we see no disadvantages to ponying up the extra $2,300 that will get you into the hybrid. It’s cooler and rarer and far smarter, and it has colorful pincers. Get one now before it realizes that it’s more intelligent than you, escapes into the wild, and forms a feral flock.