Ian Lamming drives the rule book shredding Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupé.
IF ever a car defied the laws of physics it is this one.
While the word ‘hybrid’ is associated with icecap saving, air cleansing, ear drum protecting technology, loved by eco-warriors and those wanting to cheat the taxman, it doesn’t always have to be that way.
Porsche has been using the same tech on the track for years and to its engineers it’s more about efficiency, speed and sheer power than simply hugging a tree – in fact that’s probably the last thing a Porsche driver wants to do, if you know what I mean.
On the steering wheel of the latest Cayenne there’s a modest looking knob with which you can change the car’s various settings. But it’s the button in the middle that’s the most interesting. Hit that and for the next 20 seconds you get the lot in one ballistic release of shockwave-provoking power that spits the big SUV forward like vitriol from a US president’s lips.
The 4.0 litre V8, complete with hot twin turbos, would be enough for most people but the S E-Hybrid also adds the muscle and creamy torque of an electric motor.
It’s easier to let the figures do the talking: maximum joint power is 680hp with a bewildering 900Nm of torque; 62mph comes up in 3.8 seconds and 99mph in 8.5 seconds, before a sound barrier threatening top speed of 183mph (on track days, obviously). This is physical law defying at its most remarkable particularly as the Cayenne is, after all, a big SUV.
But this Cayenne is also a plug in hybrid, capable of travelling more than 30 miles (at reasonable speeds, not flat out) on battery alone and emitting very little CO2, while returning 50+mpg – this does not compute.
Neither does it make sense that this level of performance, mixed with the slithery wet North Pennine roads that form today’s test track, allows such prodigious grip.
With that amount of horsepower and torque available at the press of a tiny button, driver would normally tiptoe around the asphalt for fear of falling off the edge of the world.
Not so with this Cayenne which handles the conditions with such supreme ability you just drive the super-quick Porsche as if the roads were dry. It may be raining but who cares? There’s not a hint of movement in the wrong direction, nor a twitch from the wide rubber. Grip is immense as the all-wheel-drive monitors traction and works to keep all the corners planted and pointing forward. Suspension somehow manages to eradicate all cabin roll but not at the expense of comfort – it’s the perfect balance.
But we shouldn’t be surprised really. Ferdinand Porsche designed and built a four-wheel-driven electric vehicle for the k. u. k. Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co. in Vienna in 1899 and presented it to the public during the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, so the company certainly knows a bit about 4WD technology.
This loveliest of Porsches comes in the very attractive coupe bodyshell, though you can opt for the full blown SUV skin. It is characteristically Cayenne with front airvents large enough to swallow the world but the new rear end is a very tidy exercise in design and comes complete with a sizeable spoiler that pops out at speed.
Inside is a glorious mix of traditional looking dials, including a lap-timer, and haptics-fantastic touch screen and switchgear. The key functions are always close to hand with secondary ones just a prod, swipe and dab away. It’s a great set up and I love the birdseye view Google Earth-type satnav. It also works in conjunction with the hybrid system, planning the route ahead and using electric when it is required the most
The interior features exemplary ergonomics The adaptive front sports seats (18-way, electrically adjustable, with memory) are perfectly sculpted for dynamic driving, providing excellent lateral support without compromising on comfort.
The Alcantara sports steering wheel is chunky and tactile and so direct that direction changes seem to occur at the merest thought. Cayenne really is a special place to inhabit.
So, once again, Porsche has managed to tear up the rule book, rewrite the physics curriculum and reinvent the wheel with a hybrid SUV that is certainly like no other.
Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupé
Engine: 4.0 litre V8 with electric
0-62mph: 3.8 secs
Top speed: 183mph
Combined MPG: 52.3
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
CO2 g/km: 122
Price: £141,469.00 (including extras)