A new car should make your life easier by helping you get through your daily driving chores with grace, style and functionality.
Rather than helping my family out, driving the all-new 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid was like adding a fussy, unpredictable toddler to the mix.
Before I can discuss how the Cayenne S Hybrid drives, I have to mention that I had trouble getting into this hybrid two-row SUV. When trying to unlock the car, the key fob never worked the same way twice. I even referenced the owner's manual to check if I was operating the key fob correctly (according to the manual, I was). It was a total mystery. I wish this were an isolated incident, but a colleague in a different city confirmed a similar experience with the hybrid's key fob and locks.
Driving the Cayenne S Hybrid wasn't much better. Sure, it offers plenty of adjustability when it comes to the suspension, giving the driver the option to easily switch between Comfort, normal and Sport modes, but it still has that topsy-turvy SUV-like feel when cornering. I was in the Cayenne S Hybrid for two weeks and still had trouble getting a feel for both accelerating and braking.
Also, this hybrid's "special battery management and cooling system [that] maintains a constant temperature and protects the battery from overheating" whined, purred and whistled from below the cargo floor almost constantly in the 90-plus-degree summer heat of my test drive, filling the cabin with an inordinate amount of noise. This helps the hybrid engine out, but with an EPA-estimated 20/24 mpg city/highway and a starting MSRP of $67,700 — my test car cost $84,950 — it makes you wonder what, exactly, you're paying for?
I'd rather get crafty and buy a 40 mpg Hyundai Elantra and stencil a Porsche badge on the hood.
The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid is all-new for 2011, but its sibling, the gas-powered Cayenne, was redesigned for the 2011 model year. The hybrid's nose is long and sleek, with almond-shaped headlights, giving it a feminine appearance overall. My husband, who took our three daughters for pedicures and came back with a pink sparkly heart painted on his big toe, claimed the new design was way too girly even for him. I happened to kind of like the styling, but then again, I have all 10 of my toenails painted.
My kids were able to climb in and out of the Cayenne S Hybrid easily; however, younger children dead-set on independence might have trouble with the heavy doors and climbing up into the hybrid without getting themselves dirty, dragging their legs up and over the door ledge lip.
The Cayenne S Hybrid's sleek, narrow look makes it seem like it could slice through the air like a missile. With its 333-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that's teamed to a 47-hp electric motor, it practically can. It uses premium gas and can accelerate to 37 mph in electric mode.
The cargo area was massive enough to handle just about anything a family could throw at — or into — it. The cargo door was power operated via a button on the key fob, in the front console or on the cargo door itself.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
While the Cayenne S Hybrid's outside is sleek, the interior is its antithesis with a cabin full of buttons, switches, jumbled aesthetics, poor ergonomics, overcomplicated operations and general sensory overload. I had to again reference the owner's manual just to figure out how to turn off the radio (press and hold the volume dial). This car's interior feels mismatched to its sleek, clean exterior.
For more than $84,000, my test car was missing some important features that should be standard even at $40K or $50K. My test car didn't have a backup camera, which is optional, but it did have front and rear parking sensors along with a diagram of where an obstruction might be. It didn't have a blind spot warning system, which is also optional; it didn't have ventilated seats, and can you believe that it didn't have keyless entry or push-button start? I had to insert the key fob into the slot to the left of the steering wheel; this awkward location made me use my less-coordinated left hand to turn the key to start the vehicle.
Each portion of the 60/40-split backseat slides back and forth, which is helpful in any family situation. It allows you to adjust legroom for the rear passengers as their needs change. There was also enough seat width to comfortably sandwich my oldest daughter in the middle seat between our two high-back booster seats. Adjustable air vents located behind the center console were a blessing for my daughters riding in back given the extreme temperatures during our two-week test drive.
If the center seat is unoccupied, an armrest folds down and reveal two cupholders for the backseat passengers. There are also storage pockets on the front row's seatbacks as well as in-door storage and a bottleholder. Up front, two cupholders, a medium-sized center console and in-door storage bins with a space to hold a water bottle helped keep stuff contained.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
The 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid's sliding rear seats create enough room in the second row for the bulkiest child-safety seats. With two sets of lower Latch anchors visible in the outboard seats, it was easy to access them.
My high-back booster seats fit well in the hybrid. The seat belt buckles were on stable bases, making them easier to use than those with flimsy nylon bases. However, the buckles were nearly flush with the bottom seat cushion, which could make them difficult for younger kids with limited fine motor skills to buckle independently. The center seat's buckle, which sits flat in the bottom cushion, was difficult for all my kids to grasp and twist into the proper position. Find out how the 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid performed in our Car Seat Check here.
The 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid has standard all-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system with traction control and seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and side curtains for both rows.
Side-impact airbags for the second row are optional as are the hybrid's blind spot warning system and a backup camera.
Get more safety information about the 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid here.