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The 2022 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Decades ago in fuel-economy rallies, the winners were often special-stage rally drivers – people whose day job was to drive really fast cars really fast on winding roads.

It turned out pro rally drivers were also good at conserving fuel because the secret is to keep your speed as constant as possible. Rally drivers have the skills to corner faster, so they waste less gas regaining speed after each corner.

All this came to mind during the time we spent driving this Porsche Cayenne that seemed purpose-built for going fast around corners while saving gas along the straightaways (and, in the case of this coupe version, looking more fetching than the regular Cayenne).

The E Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that occupies one of the lower rungs on a long ladder of Cayenne models that span from $89,200 to $209,400. It combines a three-litre turbocharged gasoline V6 with a 100-kilowatt electric motor for a combined 455 horsepower. Up to 27 kilometres of electric range (an increase for 2022) is promised on a full charge of its 17.9-kilowatt-hour battery.

It may not be the fastest Cayenne in a straight line – that would be the 670-horsepower Turbo S E-Hybrid – but this test sample was kitted out for maximum cornering speed. It even had a carbon-fibre roof, because what corner-carver wants the weight of a sunroof at the highest point of the car? Down below, other options include rear-axle steering, adaptive air suspension, dynamic chassis control and 22-inch wheels.

Of course, this being a Porsche, it was also loaded to the gunwales with other outrageously expensive, not to say frivolous, cosmetic and convenience options. How about $1,100 for the “Owner’s Manual Wallet in Matte Carbon Fibre”? Altogether, these inflated the as-tested suggested price to $151,635 from the base $105,300.

The claimed electric range of 27 kilometres appears to be conservative. We began driving the E-Hybrid with a 95-per-cent charge and that lasted 31.5 kilometres, much of it at highway speed with the air conditioning on.

Unfortunately, thereafter we drove less in EV mode than hoped, as I couldn’t recharge at home; the test car didn’t come with a 120-volt charge cable, and its 240-volt plug didn’t match my 240-volt outlet. Of course, if you’re buying a plug-in vehicle, you’ll have your own Level 2 home charger. The standard on-board AC charger is only 3.6 kilowatts but 7.2 is optional.

Whether it’s assisted drive or infotainment, if the tech isn’t already standard, you can certainly get it as an option – at for a price.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

I did try the charge-while-driving feature, which restored about 25-per-cent battery charge over 15 kilometres, but the engine sounded loud and laboured and averaged 20 litres per 100 kilometres in the process. Over the six-day test, I also managed a couple of Level-2 charges at shopping plazas, but only to 25 or 30 per cent.

Even without much charging, we averaged 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the full test, which is pretty decent for a big, fast SUV. After the initial charge expires, remember, the Cayenne is still a hybrid that generates power from braking and sometimes runs in EV mode for brief periods.

Intermediate trips included using zero gas over 31.5 kilometres on a 95-per-cent charge; 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres over 53 kilometres from a fully charged start; 5.3 over 24 kilometres with a 25-per-cent initial charge; 9.3 over 24 kilometres with a 30-per-cent initial charge; and 10.3 over 28 kilometres with no initial charge.

Nobody needs a Porsche SUV, and nobody’s going to save the climate by choosing a Porsche SUV that’s a plug-in hybrid. But if you want a Porsche SUV and you care about the climate, the E-Hybrid’s blend of Prius-like fuel-consumption potential and Porsche cornering dynamics is a compelling proposition. After all, any fool can drive fast in a straight line.

There’s not much wrong with acceleration to 100 kilometres an hour in 5.1 seconds in a vehicle that can also potentially average 5.1 litres per 100 kilometresJeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Tech specs

2022 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

  • Base price/as tested: $105,300/$151,635
  • Engine: Three-litre turbo V6/100-kilowatt electric motor
  • Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
  • Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 11.8 city/10.6 highway in hybrid mode; 5.1 litres equivalent per 100 kilometres combined in EV mode
  • Alternatives: BMW X5 xDrive 45e, Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, Lincoln Aviator PHEV, Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge

Looks

You can argue that the whole concept of SUV coupes is silly, but aesthetically we think Porsche carries it off better than most.

Interior

Like most Porsches, the Cayenne really knows how to make a driver feel at home. It’s got ample at-the-wheel adjustability, great visibility and a well-stocked gauge cluster that places the tachometer front and centre. The centre-dash 12.3-inch main screen has rich graphics, but mastering its functions and display options is a steep learning curve. At least the climate and audio controls are screen-free, though some involve touch-sensitive switches. Out back, the coupe roofline cuts into headroom, though overall passenger room is competitive with its rivals.

Performance

There’s not much wrong with acceleration to 100 kilometres an hour in 5.1 seconds in a vehicle that can also potentially average 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres (albeit not at the same time). However, the gas engine isn’t especially smooth or tuneful when it’s in play; this is not one of those hybrids that has you guessing whether it’s in EV mode or not. Then again, when the road turns curvaceous, the optioned-up chassis does an astonishing job of disguising the fact that you’re driving a big and tall, heavy SUV – it really is that agile. (Yet surprisingly comfortable, too, if you leave it in Comfort mode.)

Technology

Whether it’s assisted drive or infotainment, if the tech isn’t already standard, you can certainly get it as an option – at for a price.

Cargo

The cargo volumes of 640 litres (seats up) and 1,540 litres (seats down) are comparable with a BMW X6. The X6 doesn’t come as a PHEV, however, and other SUVs (including the regular Cayenne E-Hybrid) that are PHEVs are not coupes, so can carry more.

The verdict

It’ll never “pay for itself” – especially if you get sucked in by all the options – but the plug-in hybrid Cayenne lets you enjoy a premium Porsche with a (relatively) clean eco conscience.

Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

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