Could the Porsche Cayenne E‑Hybrid be the best model in the range? If you are looking for a prestige performance SUV, but aren’t so sure about hybrid power, read on.
Porsche purists were never happy when the manufacturer introduced diesel engines into its Cayenne and Macan SUVs, but they quickly became the most popular models in the UK by offering strong performance, massive torque and improved economy. Of course VW’s Dieselgate has turned the tide firmly against these engines and Porsche was quick to drop them entirely from its range. So now instead Porsche has improved the power and electric range of its plug-in Cayenne E‑Hybrid to make it a serious contender for a sports SUV with a green tinge to its credentials. All E‑Hybrids get acid green brake callipers, model badges, instrument needles and interior accents.
The 2019 Cayenne E‑Hybrid has the same three-litre V6 engine as the standard Cayenne with no less than 340 PS of power. The electric motor can provide 136PS, while both together can push out up to 462 PS. That’s enough to accelerate to the benchmark 62 mph from standstill in just 5.0 seconds. Battery capacity has been increased from 10.8 to 14.1 kWh and as a result you can drive up to 22 miles purely on electric power. If you really want to leave the petrol pump behind, this isn’t the car for you, but this latest generation plug-in hybrid (PHEV) gives you the flexibility to combine sporty SUV driving with reasonable economy. Officially rated CO2 emissions are 79 g/km offering you attractive tax and congestion charge savings. With some electric help I was easily able to average between 40 and 50 mpg on a motorway run, although that could drop below 30 in urban driving with an empty battery.
What’s it like to drive? For a 2.3 tonne SUV, the Cayenne is a genuinely sporty drive. The acceleration is truly impressive and on twisty country roads the cornering is smooth and highly predictable. I wasn’t expecting it, but the steering feel is sublime – you definitely feel more at one with the car than you’d expect in a high sided SUV. The adaptive air suspension also keeps the car incredibly comfortable for driver and passengers alike. You can also vary the suspension settings. That could be useful if you want to raise the ride height for a rough farm track, but most of the time it works best left in automatic.
The E‑Hybrid comes with a choice of four driving modes: E‑Power, Hybrid Auto, E‑Hold and E‑Charge. The car defaults to E‑Power on start-up. Most of the time you will want to switch to Hybrid Auto in which the car decides the most efficient mix of electric and petrol power. If you are using the satellite navigation on a regular route, it can even use its knowledge of the road to optimise the entire journey. As the name suggests “E‑Hold” conserves any battery capacity in case you need it later in your journey, such as a zero emissions zone. E‑Charge: uses the petrol engine to recharge the battery for later use. There might be times when you want to use this, but it’s an expensive and inefficient way to recharge the battery and your mpg will plummet when using it.
A rotary dial on the steering wheel enables you to easily switch between E‑Power, Hybrid Auto, Sport and Sport Plus modes. In Sport mode battery charge is maintained at a minimum level to ensure that sufficient boost reserve capacity is available when needed. Sport Plus combines maximum petrol and electric power. In the middle of this dial is a discreet button, which I christened “warp drive”. Whatever mode you are currently in this gives you a 30 second boost of maximum beans for a safe and swift overtaking.
Porsche has redesigned the Cayenne E‑Hybrid’s drive train and unless you are watching the rev counter that sits in the middle of the driver’s view you can’t tell when the petrol engine has cut in or out. The automatic transmission is super smooth for a relaxed driving and yet eye-blinkingly responsive when you choose a sportier drive.
From the outside the new Cayenne does not look hugely different from the previous generation, but to my mind the design is just slightly more resolved. A distinctive red light strip runs all the way across the rear, joining the two rear light clusters. In the interior Porsche has at last done away with its one button: one function policy. Virtually all the vehicle functions are now be displayed and operated using the high-resolution touchscreen display.
Like all Cayennes the E‑Hybrid seats four in comfort and a fifth passenger if required. It has lost a small amount of boot space as the battery is hidden beneath the boot floor. Boot capacity is still an impressive 1,610 litres with the 40÷20÷40 back seats folded down. I got a muddy bicycle in without needing to remove a wheel and if you packed carefully you could have got one or two more bikes in easily.
Although the Cayenne E‑Hybrid comes very well equipped as standard, Porsche is a master at offering up attractive extras that you will decide are essential. Expect to pay north of £80,000 after you have. Without question I would go for the adaptive air suspension with PASM, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera and the brilliant LED matrix headlights. To make sense of hybrid ownership you will also want to install a 32 amp charger at home to cut battery charging time from 7.8 hours with a standard 3‑pin plug to only 2.3 hours. We expect this model to sell much better than the previous hybrid Cayenne and in years to come plug-in hybrids will be added to nearly every manufacturer’s range..
Written by Doug Bentall