It’s incredibly efficient, but the 2015 Cayenne S E-Hybrid just doesn’t feel like a Porsche
Sean Carson | January 2015
Did you know that Porsche is actually the only manufacturer to offer three plug-in hybrids? Not even the might of Toyota or General Motors can better that claim.
Alongside the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid luxury four-door and the stellar 918 Spyder hybrid hypercar, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is another record breaker. It’s the “first plug-in hybrid in the premium SUV segment”.
That’s important, because in a world where road tax is dictated by CO2 emissions, if you want a large, luxury off-roader that doesn’t cost the earth to run, until now you’ve not really had much choice.
And, actually, the same is still true: because the Cayenne S E-Hybrid – denoted by its luminescent badging and brake calipers – is the only choice. Not literally, of course, but emitting just 79g/km CO2 and returning a quoted 83.2mpg combined, this big 4×4 is not only the most efficient car in its class, it’s even less polluting than a Toyota Prius.
What’s the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid like to drive?
With a focus on efficiency it does mean performance takes a back seat. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid will still out accelerate most hot hatches – stopping the clock from rest to 62mph in 5.9 seconds, helped by the instant torque from the electric motor off the line – but the powertrain feels a touch strained in this 2,350kg SUV.
Total output from the 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol V6 and electric motor is 416hp – a maximum of 333hp from the petrol unit and 95hp from the electric motor.
This last figure is more than double what the old Cayenne hybrid boasted, and around town in electric only mode it shows. There’s 229lb ft of silent, electrically fed torque on offer, which makes the Cayenne feel swift and smooth. You’ll theoretically be able to cruise around like this for up to 22 miles or at a max of 78mph depending on driving style, too.
It’s when you’re out of town and the petrol engine fires up that the performance feels lacking. The V6 wails but acceleration is subdued as the electric motor’s effectiveness is reduced at higher speed.
Cruise along more gently and the Cayenne S E-Hybrid makes more sense. The dampers in comfort mode make light work of all but the worst surfaces and the suspension contains the car’s significant mass well if you don’t push too hard.
But this is a Porsche, so you will. Although the steering is accurate and precise, there’s not much feedback and, combined with the powertrain, it just doesn’t feel particularly engaging, appropriate or Porsche-like. Dare we say it, it feels a bit like a more luxurious Audi.
Still, this is not a performance car. It’s about efficiency, and the German manufacturer has nailed the brief here. It’s got the luxury aspect covered off, too. The interior is sumptuous and well appointed, with all the gadgets and equipment on offer that you could want – including Porsche’s Car Connect system.
What technology does the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid get?
On that subject, the Car Connect System allows the Porsche smartphone app to check the charging and battery status, set when you want to charge the car (great if you want to use off-peak electricity) and the electric only range overlaid onto a map. A useful bit of kit.
Inside the Cayenne S E-Hybrid there’s a mode to conserve battery charge, with another setting to activate the all-electric mode if you’re in a built up area.
There’s also Porsche Active Suspension Management to change the response of the dampers, hill descent control and a host of clever traction and stability control systems to help performance both on- and off-road.
The best piece of technology, however, is the hybrid powertrain. For any minor deficiencies in performance when you push it hard, the two engines are so slickly integrated and the eight-speed PDK automatic gearbox so smooth that the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is beautifully soothing to drive.
Just make sure you stick to this style of wafting to and from work and you’ll be delightfully contented with not having to fill your big, two-tonne plus Porsche up all that frequently.
Verdict: 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid
There’s no doubt the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is premium enough to be a Porsche, with the updated SUVs looks and refined, plush cabin cossetting its occupants supremely, but dynamically the car feels more like it emanated from the Audi stables as opposed to emerging a Porsche thoroughbred.
What you can’t deny is the Cayenne’s official efficiency numbers – 83.2mpg with 79g/km CO2 is astonishing when you realise the car’s weight and that the old non-plug-in hybrid Cayenne emitted 193g/km.
That’s incredible progress, and at £61,474 with free road tax and congestion charge exemption, it’s strong value for a very frugal, luxurious SUV.
Specification: 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, e motor
Gearbox: eight-speed PDK automatic with paddleshifters
Price from: £61,474
Torque: 435lb ft
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 151mph (78mph in electric mode)