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Hypermiling in a 2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo

At least until the end of the year, I'll refrain from making any more bets. Apparently, I'm really bad at this and it's all been confirmed when I spent a day in a Porsche Cayenne earlier this week.
2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo offroading 22 photos
Photo: Andrei Tutu
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Before I even start, I have to thank Porsche for making me a rich(er) man - none of the company employees I interacted with throughout the day came up with any bet, but if they had, I would've accepted and lost whatever cash was involved.

It all started with a fleet of 2015 Cayennes, mostly S and S Diesel models, but also a Turbo. I was announced there would be a competition, but the details were scarce. Seeing the horsepower-ladden line-up, I was ready to... bet that we, the participating journalists, were going to be in for one racy day.

About an hour later, I found myself in a situation I'd never thought possible - stressed out behind the wheel of a  Porsche Cayenne Turbo. When you have 520 horses, all-wheel drive and an optional 100-liter (26.4-gallon) tank that's full, what on Earth could bother you?

How about an efficiency marathon? Yep, this answer worked pretty well for me. You see, the race Porsche had prepared for us was actually a scaled-down version of the Porsche Performance Drive fuel and time challenge.

Driving as a balancing act... or something like that

This meant we had to reach a series of checkpoints at precise times, not one minute earlier, not one minute later. One of those checkpoints was a nasty cottage hidden so well within the mountains that we had to find it using GPS coordinates, not the usual POI (point of interest) stuff. By the way, 90 percent of the driving was done on the road.

Our tanks had been brimmed and then sealed, so the only chance to be competitive was to either drill a hole and insert more gas or watch our efficiency. This brought a problem: we were split into teams of two or three and neither I, not the other guy in the car knew how to cheat the tank without blowing the car up. This meant our only chance was... hypermiling. For crying out loud, hypermiling in the only Cayenne Turbo in the race!

The organizers did say each car's efficiency score would take into account the model, so, in theory, we had no disadvantage compared to those running in a Cayenne S Diesel, for instance. In the real world, I was there with the Turbo badge screaming in my face, trying to use as little as I could of the power.

With the 2015 revamp, the Cayenne makes such an effort rather difficult. No, it's not the extra 20 horses gained with the mid-cycle refresh. Instead, the facelift has brought a meatier exhaust sound and believe me, it's really hard to switch gears under 2,000 rpm when the V8 that's at your mercy growls for more. This is the kind of engine that can easily outbalance months of Yoga training.

When Porsche introduced the 2015 Cayenne, the German website kept displaying the word "Disziplin" next to the car and I turned to this memory in order to do the right thing. The idea is that, like I said, both I and my teammate has to turn to the dreaded hypermiling.

What the dreaded hypermiling story is all about

In case you've never heard of hypermiling, you should know this is an interesting mix between science and occultism. It's science that dictates the optimal cruising speed for a certain car, with factors like aerodynamics, gearing, ECU tuning and others influencing this. As for the occultism, well this probably refers to all the weird things that go on in your mind as you try to climb a hill while using as little throttle as possible.

Oh and we can't talk about planning ahead. No, that is something you do when you want to choose a career or when you have a child. When you're out there hypermiling in a Cayenne Turbo, you go much deeper, turning to prescience in order to navigate. Something like the Guild Navigators in Dune did to steer their ships though space and time, only without the spice.

Want to overtake a truck that ruins you chances to reach the next checkpoint on time? No problem, you'll just have to be able to deal with a Catch 22 situation - stay too close and you'll be forced to brake whenever the truck does, thus wasting fuel. Stay too far behind and you'll be required to give the throttle a serious push when a window of opportunity is found.

The truck drivers probably felt our negative feelings towards them, which is why one of them tried to kill the Cayenne somewhere in the second half of the day.

Having an 18-wheeler slap your front end is never good, so we decided to skip that one, not before going thought what I could describe as the brown-trousers-moment of the year.

Imagining something about the rallying world helped with reaching our destinations bang on time - the vanity mirror lighting in the Cayenne apparently helps when you're trying to picture a helmet and some WRC gear around you.

As for the mpg quest, this may be a torture, but it helps you connect with the car in the same way two shipwreck survivors must unite in order to face the forces of nature. It's profound and it teaches you things about yourself.

For example I found out that, when I'm focused on boosting efficiency, I tend to ignore police signals. Luckily, my teammate said the officer was saluting us. We were probably the slowest Porsche he'd ever seen, so his reaction is understandable. Or perhaps he just said that to make me feel better.

If the tasks above were mostly for the driver, don't imagine that the time spent on the passenger's seat was in any way more relaxing. Aside from playing the navigator (read: shouting "don't pass!"), the passenger had to take care of the other tasks prepared by the organizers.

First of all, we had to find a name for the team. Placing two guys under such conditions of stress caused a flow of creativity, so, before you know it, we had to choose one of the hundreds of names each had come up with.

Sticking to Porsche's alphabet soup rule, we chose P.O.R.S.C.H.E or Porsche Original Racing Sportplus Classy Hybrid Efficiency and I'm sorry you had to read all that.

Aside from that, we had to keep our Facebook accounts boiling. Among others, we decided to steal a huge champagne bottle and post about it. The idea was simple - I bet on people being in a rush and only noticing the champagne in the photo, not also the "stolen" message. Another lost bet.

Oh and we also had to answer some questions about the 2015 Cayenne. This was supposed to be easy, except we forgot about the last batch of questions. This was a good occasion to discover the Porsche's dashboard can serve as an excellent work desk if you're desperate.

Did it all pay out?

At the end of the day, we reached the gas station and the Porsche man that filled our tank couldn't believe his eyes. 11.9 liters per 100 km (19.8 mpg). That's very close to Porsche's value of between 11.2 and 11.5 l/100 km and apparently a really good value in the given conditions.

By the way, don't tell anybody about this, but in the few hundred meters separating the gas station from the Porsche dealership where we returned the car, the throttle was welded to the floor. The feeling of being able to do that after one painstaking day of teasing was incredible. I'd almost like to go though the whole experience again. Almost.

Once inside the meeting room, I was about to lose the biggest (imaginary) bet of the day. The experience had been interesting and all, but I'd be lying if I said I was not focused on seeing who won this abstinence marathon. In fact, I was so focused than when the results were displayed, I forgot we were listed as Team No. 5 instead of our silly name, so I though we finished in 5th place. A few seconds later though, I realized we had actually won. In a Turbo.

As it turns out, treating the throttle as if a little kitten was sleeping underneath it paid out. The brake pedal? We behaved like that was a lion, as in never touched it at all. We also did some stuff such as going downhill in neutral, but we're not allowed to talk about that.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen drivers, a piece of advice from the winning team: the Turbo is the best Cayenne to have. Oh and if you never use the brakes at all, you won't have to go through the ordeal of hypermiling. The choice is yours.
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About the author: Andrei Tutu
Andrei Tutu profile photo

In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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