Priced from £67,128 Release date June 2018
It’s an increasingly common problem for the upper classes: they live in big cities such as London, they want to drive large, luxurious SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne, yet they don’t fancy shelling out for the daily congestion charge. And it’s only going to become a more prevalent issue as other cities around the UK introduce clean air zones and charging tariffs.
But, back in 2014, Porsche came to the rescue with the Cayenne S E-Hybrid – an SUV that offered sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and a decent lick of speed to boot. It was a recipe that worked, prompting the introduction of rivals such as the Audi Q7 E-tron and the recently launched Range Rover P400e.
However, times change and so does the Cayenne. The latest E-Hybrid model is powered by the combination of a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine and an electric motor borrowed from the Panamera E-Hybrid luxury car. Together, they offer 456bhp and 516lb ft of torque. That’s more power than what's offered in either of its closest rivals (and its predecessor), but here’s the real kicker: it will travel for up to 27 miles on electric power alone, according to official tests. Now, that’s slightly less than either the Audi or Land Rover models, but still enough to get Tarquin Jr to school in the city and you out again without having to pay the congestion charge – at least, that is, if you choose a model with small wheels, which just gets you in under the 75g/km cut-off.
2018 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid on the road
First, some statistics: you can accelerate up to 84mph on electric power and charging takes just shy of eight hours if you’re using a three-pin plug. Upgrade to a fast charger and that time drops to just under 2.5hr. There’s an app you can download to keep track of how much juice you’ve got left, too.
But the number you’ll really be interested in is 88mpg. That’s what official fuel economy tests say you should expect to see, although there are two caveats to consider: first, those numbers were generated on the older, less accurate emissions procedure rather than the most recent WLTP process; and secondly, our test car returned a decidedly more average 34mpg on a long and varied journey with a charged battery. Still, along with CO2 emissions of just 78g/km, this should still be the cheapest Cayenne in the range to tax and fuel – at least until a diesel variant arrives next year, likely using the 3.0-litre diesel motor from the Q7.
The E-Hybrid defaults to its electric-only driving mode on start-up, so there’s no sound as you pull away. It’s quick to get up to speed, with instant torque coming from the electric motor. Unfortunately, the lack of any engine noise at start-up only highlights the issue of road noise, of which there is plenty at any speed (thanks in part to the dominating 22in alloy wheels of our test car). There’s pleasantly little wind noise, though.
While you can accelerate briskly enough under electric power, anything other than a soft progression of the accelerator pedal will bring in the petrol engine to help. There’s a noticeable delay while this happens, but the extra pulling power it brings is welcome when it comes to overtaking – especially on the motorway. You switch driving modes using a rotary selector on the steering wheel and, apart from fully electric, there are hybrid, Sport and Sport+ modes.
The latter two see the petrol engine taking on most of the work, with the electric motor providing extra boost when needed. In fact, by pressing the small button in the middle of the rotary dial, you activate a boost function that, to borrow a Star Trek phrase, gives you everythin’ she’s got for about 20 seconds. This, says Porsche, is a philosophy borrowed from the 918 Spyder supercar.
The accelerator response also becomes sharper and the steering is given extra weight in those two Sport modes.
What’s impressive is that, despite its extra bulk (the battery pack alone adds 150kg), the Cayenne still manages to feel agile through bends, helped by quick and accurate steering that gives drivers confidence to string together a series of fast corners. In this regard, the Cayenne soundly trumps its Range Rover brethren, which can feel decidedly hefty.
As with other Cayennes we’ve tried, our E-Hybrid test car came with adjustable air suspension, which you can stiffen at the touch of a button. Even in its most comfortable setting, the ride errs on the side of firm, but the big Cayenne deals with all but the worst ruts and bumps well. The intermediate setting firms things up without making them uncomfortable, but we’d recommend leaving the stiffest setting for the track or for an exceptionally smooth piece of road.
2018 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid interior
This generation of the Cayenne has really improved on the inside, and it’s the same story with the E-Hybrid model. The electrically adjustable seats make finding a comfortable driving position easy, while the material quality is right up there with Audi’s best. Alcantara covers much of the roof, while the dashboard and centre console are teeming with leather. Indeed, you’ll have to hunt pretty far down to find anything that feels remotely cheap.
And then there’s the new 12.3in infotainment screen, which has crisp graphics and responds well to inputs, even on the move. The digital screens in front of the driver work well, too, displaying the sat-nav map, driving data or – exclusively for the E-Hybrid – your remaining electric range and a diagram showing energy flow.
Room in the second row is good, with even my 6ft 2in frame able to fit behind a similarly lofty driver without any trouble.
The downside, though, of fitting the Cayenne with an extensive battery pack is that storage space in the boot has gone down by 100 litres, but there should still be enough room for a couple of large suitcases.
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