ONCE deemed a horrendous diversion by Porsche purists, the Cayenne has gone on to become the single biggest-selling model in the Porsche range with more than 280,000 of them sold worldwide since the car’s launch back in 2002.
The new Cayenne is a lighter, cleaner, more economical and prettier version of its predecessor and somehow it manages to pull off a clever trick. It appears visually shorter than the car it replaces; yet it’s actually longer (by 48mm). The effect is that the second generation appears smaller than the car it replaces. It looks like it’s been on a health trip – not bodybuilding, more muscle-toning yoga.
Looks-wise, the car has definitely improved. It appears far more curvaceous and less masculine and boxy. Porsche’s designers have gone a long way towards addressing some of the elements that made some people declare the first generation Cayenne “ugly’”, and they’ve made the new Cayenne more Porsche-like.
Still, the last thing anyone would ever have said about the Cayenne was that it was environmentally friendly. It was at the top of the eco movement’s automotive hit list. But not this one: Porsche’s hybrid Cayenne model is now the cleanest vehicle Porsche makes. The Cayenne has been rehabilitated, cleansed.
Sitting in the new S Hybrid, I struggle to comprehend the car’s silence. Because I can’t hear the engine, I turn the ignition key more than once. It’s a schoolboy error. Did the car that the world loved to hate just get in touch with its inner hippy?
The hybrid system is impressive. Not least because I am almost entirely unable to notice the transitions between its different operating modes when driving. I know only because there is an “energy flow” display on the dash to tell me, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to tell.
The car has a 3.0 litre V6 engine backed up by an electric motor that provides additional power on demand. It will use either the electric motor or the engine, or make use of both working together, depending on driving conditions.
This means in the City you can drive the car over short distances and up to 37mph on electric power alone, remaining utterly free of emissions. But if you want a quick getaway the electric motor can serve to give you an additional boost. The engine itself can even be completely switched off at speeds of up to 97mph. Here the engine is completely disengaged from the drive-train and instead you can cruise along without power in what Porsche calls “sailing mode”, saving even more fuel.
The result of all this is that you get V8 performance from a V6 engine, with a reduction in emissions and greater economy. Together the engine outputs 380hp-333hp from the engine and 47hp from the motor – the result is a combined cycle of 34.4mpg. But it is in the city that the Hybrid S is most striking. According to Porsche you can still maintain as little as 32.5mpg. This represents a massive improvement on the 19.5mpg you’ll get around the city in the regular Cayenne S.
Yet thanks to Porsche’s commitment to developing more powerful cars that use less fuel and are more efficient and cleaner (what it calls “Porsche Intelligent Performance”) – all this hasn’t come at the cost of performance. The hybrid Cayenne can accelerate from stationary to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds and on to 150mph. Sure these figures are slower than the regular Cayenne S (0-62mph in 5.9secs, 160mph top speed) but it means the Hybrid S is far more worthy of the Porsche badge on its bonnet than the quite considerably slower diesel (0-62mph in 7.8secs, 135mph top speed). What’s more it produces just 193g/km CO2.
The Cayenne has been completely redesigned inside too, which is most notable for the
increase in overall quality. The Carerra GT inspired the redesigned cockpit and it’s all
recognizably Porsche, just better. It looks and feels far more luxurious although the great array of switchgear on the centre console is a little intimidating. I can’t imagine ever being able to find any one of its buttons while driving without needing to look for it first. The vents on the central dash seem somewhat alien – kind of biomechanical like the otherworldly work of HR Giger. (The interior designer must be an Alien movie fan.) A lot of the car’s extra length has translated into passenger space. The rear-seat bench can now be moved forward and back by 160mm and even the backrest can be adjusted to three different settings for comfort.
So why would you buy the Cayenne S Hybrid? Well, with the world’s increasing oil gap and rising fuel prices, it offers almost Cayenne S-like performance with almost equivalent economy to the Cayenne Diesel. Which means the Cayenne S Hybrid allows you to pretty much have your cake and eat it too.
And if you don’t care about economy, blow your cash on the Turbo S. And let the greens eat cake.