Let’s be honest about what this is. Let’s not pretend anybody is doing any favours for the environment by buying the plug-in hybrid version of Porsche’s 2.3-tonne Cayenne SUV.
This is a way to have monster V-8 power in your SUV, without any of the associated guilt that may come with a V-8 SUV.
This is the fourth generation of hybrid Cayenne from Porsche. The first was a prototype, in 2007, and since then the technology has progressed rapidly, by automotive standards.
It’s all part of Porsche’s long-term survival strategy.
“All our cars will be prepared for 100-per-cent electric drivetrains. But the timeline is actually not clear, if it’s five, 10 or 15 years,” said Philip Ulrich, one of the engineers developing high-voltage batteries at Porsche. “First, we have to build the Mission E and learn from it.”
The Mission E, an all-electric sedan, will arrive in 2019. It’s only possible, Ulrich said, because of technology and engineering knowhow learned from the Cayenne and Panamera hybrids, as well as the 918 hybrid supercar.
“We need the electric [drivetrain] for the future, for the future market and for the future of the environment. We want more power but with no more fuel consumption,” he said. It’s a noble cause that any gearhead should be able to get behind.
With the fourth-generation hybrid Cayenne, Porsche has achieved its immediate goal. Compared to the old model, there’s 46 more horsepower and 81 more lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, fuel and electric-power consumption have been slightly reduced. The result is, indeed, a monster.
From the moment you put your foot on the accelerator, with the engine spinning not much faster than a washing machine, the full force of 516 lb-ft of torque is sent down through all four wheels. It’s an odd sensation. Everything happens at once: The car pitches back on its hind wheels, you can almost feel the rubber grinding into the tarmac and you’re shot toward the horizon. Because you sit so high, the feeling of speed is diminished while the feeling of mass – of a huge moving object – is heightened.
After that initial hit, the acceleration begins to drop off where a lighter, more aerodynamically slippery car would continue the manic rush forward. It takes five seconds to get this 2,300-kilogram behemoth from 0-100 km/h, or 11.5 seconds from 0-160 km/h.
The point is, you really, really don’t need a V-8 engine in an SUV now that plug-in hybrid technology works this well.
The Cayenne can waft silently, serenely, on electric power alone for up to 44 kilometres (New European Driving Cycle-NEDC), which is eight km more than the old model. In practice, we only managed about 30 km, but that’s still an extremely useful range if you live in or around a city.
The downside to the plug-in, however, is that you must remember to plug it in. The 14.1-kWh battery can be recharged by the motor as you drive, but fuel consumption goes up dramatically if you do so. Charging in your garage, assuming you have one, is a better bet. From a wall socket, a full recharge takes anywhere from 2.3 to 7.8 hours, depending on the type of outlet. If you don’t plug it in, that V-6 motor is lugging around 200 kg of useless electronic junk in the trunk all by itself. It’s like having an especially large sumo wrestler in the back seat at all times.
Carbon-dioxide emissions from the tailpipe are less than half of what other Cayennes produce, according to European testing. Although that still won’t win you any prizes from Greenpeace, it’s an impressive achievement, especially given this SUV’s immense power.
Whatever the reason – reduced fuel consumption, that monstrous electric torque, or just so you can look your Prius-driving neighbours in the eye – if you’re going to get a new Cayenne, it should probably be this one.
The 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid will arrive in Canada next spring.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
- Base price: $92,000 (est.)
- Engine: 3.0-litre turbo V-6 + 100-kW electric motor
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): TBD
- Alternatives: Range Rover Sport PHEV, Volvo XC90 T8, Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model X, Mercedes GLE 550e
Neon-green badging distinguishes this as a hybrid. Keen observers will also note the two fuel-fillers, one on each side of the car. The driver’s side one is the electric socket. As with the rest of the lineup, the new Cayenne looks lower and longer than before, but it’s not the prettiest or toughest-looking ’ute out there.
The cabin is a great place to be, with the whole dashboard essentially copied from the Panamera. Build quality feels excellent, and there’s ample space for kids and cargo. New options include a heads-up display, massaging seats and a heated windscreen.
Combined gas and electric power output is 462 hp. Top speed in electric-only mode is 135 km/h. Despite Porsche’s considerable effort with air suspension, rear-wheel steering and low-profile tires, the Cayenne is not an especially sporty drive. Look to the smaller Macan or Panamera for that. The plug-in weighs 2,295 kg. It can carve a twisty road, but you’re always aware of the weight.
The large infotainment screen and black-glass dashboard is great. Not so good, however was the lane-keeping assist, which yanked at the steering wheel abruptly and at times without apparent reason. It also made the steering feel oddly artificial. Turning the lane-keeping assist off improved the driving experience a lot. Active lane-keeping though, a different system that keeps you centered in a lane on highways, worked fairly well.
Despite cramming in a huge battery, 48-volt circuit, and electric motor into the car, cargo space is nearly unchanged from the regular Cayenne. You only sacrifice a few litres in the trunk, and the space under the trunk floor. Towing capacity is rated at 3,500 kg.
The verdict: 7.0
If you’re going to get a Cayenne, it should probably be this one.
You’ll like this car if…
You want to feel guilt-free about your fast SUV purchase