Porsche InnoDrive moves cruise control forward — and through the curves

STUTTGART, Germany — A few years ago, I tried adaptive cruise control for the first time — a week in Boston's horrific commuting traffic, in a Volvo XC60. It was a revelation. Without the need to constantly brake and accelerate, stop-and-go traffic on the highway was significantly less stressful.

A number of Porsche vehicles have a similar adaptive cruise system, meant to alleviate frustration in stop-and-go traffic. But the company's engineers have developed a new system that puts a Porsche-esque twist on the whole thing.

It's called InnoDrive, and it's very clever. Originally developed as a way to improve fuel efficiency, InnoDrive is kind of a sport-focused cruise control designed for twisty B-roads rather than highway backups.

In the same way that Volvo's system relieved me of the need to operate the pedals, Porsche's InnoDrive frees me from the same thing when driving spiritedly on backroads. It uses sensor data from the car to "determine the perfect, efficient longitudinal drive strategy," Dr. Gernot Döllner, vice president in charge of Porsche's Panamera product line, said in a press briefing. That's a fancy way of saying that InnoDrive lets you focus on steering while the car optimizes your speed, taking into account speed limits and corners.

 

The Panamera is the first Porsche to offer InnoDrive, though it will also be available on the new 2019 Cayenne. The test drive was on the same lovely roads around Porsche's Stuttgart headquarters that the InnoDrive team used to develop the system.

In a sense, InnoDrive is an innovation (hence the name) of the existing adaptive cruise control system that Porsche has offered for several years — only it uses curve angles and topographical information to determine the optimal speed for hustling through corners.

"It uses that information to adjust the vehicle to the perfect speed for the road," Döllner said. It's not a system for driving through the city. Instead, it's "for country roads and relaxed traveling."

Activate the system (and have a GPS destination set), and the car analyzes the onboard mapping data to determine the radius and topography of upcoming turns. Combine that with speed-limit info from the mapping data and the onboard camera (the camera gets priority, as the mapping data provided by HERE — a mapping company jointly owned by Volkswagen AG, BMW, Daimler and others — isn't always accurate) and the car can determine how fast to take upcoming corners.

A status screen to the left of the giant tachometer on the dash shows the current speed limit and what InnoDrive is up to. The speed limit (or a manually adjustable offset) is the max that the car will go. But when the system decides a corner will be too sharp, it slows down to a dynamically determined speed (all illustrated in blue, to keep the driver appraised of what's going on and why) and then speeds up again as it exits the corner. Standard adaptive cruise control rules apply as well, with the car slowing when it comes upon another vehicle.

 

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Many of the powertrain components, like the 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger and the DC-DC inverter, are all mounted on a big bracket that is sub-assembled and then lifted into place when building the van. The new Pacifica Hybrid will be made on the same.

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