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Costly chemistry in Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid

It’s said that the Internal Combustion Engine is so fundamentally inefficient that 62 per cent of the energy is lost before it sniffs the flywheel. So while every Cayenne since its genesis in 2002 has deployed endless alchemy to increase the output, lower the emissions, smooth out the drivability and still produce an exciting noise reminiscent of a sports car, engineers are always at loggerheads with the laws of diminishing returns.

If you prefer bigger rewards in mechanical efficiency versus performance, you’re better off shopping in the hybrid aisle. Now for some number crunching; the first Cayenne Hybrid was launched in 2010 and was revolutionary for the time; came with a coasting function, could do speeds of around 45kph in electric mode and with all systems working together, with some forgivable idiosyncrasies,  could do 0-100kph in around 6.5 seconds.  By the times Porsche’s second effort arrived in 2014, the brand was in the throes of launching the 918 hypercar, itself a descendant from the 919 World Endurance Champion that would go on to three consecutive wins at Le Mans. Hybrid Porsches had infiltrated the mainstream and so by 2019 the most radical thing about the new Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is that, apart from acid-green calipers, is not radical at all.

I digress, a 2019 Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is a completely different tool to the 2010 model that gradually got people looking at Porsche as a company that seemed to know more about the future than we did. More than that, Porsche wasn’t intimidated by what they saw and throughout those years no amount of information or learning was wasted. In those nine years Porsche has slashed 100 g/km, taken consumption down by 50 per cent, tripled the kilowatts from the electric motors, cut the 0-100kph nearly down the middle and added 15kph to the electric-only speed – for longer.  Good luck matching those results with cylinders alone.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid South Africa

In reality, the gap is actually wider. Whereas previous hybrids were mercurial things that wore their complexity like a badge of honour, the latest Cayenne is a far more cohesive package as to how and where it chooses to get its power from. There are modes too, plenty of them and each one will work as hard as it possibly can to deliver the furthest EV range – about 50 kilometres – or the fullest performance of 0-100kph in 3.8 seconds. Between those extremes lie myriad blended settings, but none of them get the brakes to act without grabby regenerative feedback through the pedal. Oh how trivial our complaints have become…

When at the wheel, you can forget all these things and drive the same way you would a normal Cayenne, or experiment with interesting ways to arrive at your destination with new personal bests in silent efficiency, which sounds absurd in what is Porsche’s most powerful and fastest Cayenne – stronger than a Lamborghini Urus but also fractionally slower because it weighs 300 kilograms more. Normally such a weight penalty would absolutely be a wrecking ball on a car’s behaviour but out on the syrupy roads around Germany and Belgium I would be lying if I could tell you where they hid it all, such is the enveloping combination of the hybrid V8 and roll mitigation from the 48v system.

This is a car that needs to aim high on the chain of performance SUVs, just for it to beat the Cayenne Turbo which offers nearly identical V8 performance for R500 000 less. However if you are partisan towards hybrids versus those who careen into full electric cars – Porsche launches one next month – this one attempts to be the most complete Cayenne you can buy.

Porsche customers are always hungry for the next fastest version which is why I suspect simply being the fastest Cayenne on sale will be enough persuasion for them to join the E-Hybrid family. For the rest of us who see Porsches as being pure, lean, single-focussed machines, then the merger of a dual powertrain system in the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid seems cumbersome especially when every other Cayenne sold alongside it is not incomplete for superb all-roundedness or speed. Andrew Leopold

R2 867 000

  • 4.0 V8+hybrid
  • 500kW
  • 900Nm
  • 8spd auto
  • 3.8 secs
  • 3.9l/100km
  • 90 g/km
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