We go to take the 680hp Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe out on the autobahn, and put Porsche’s most potent SUV yet through its paces.
It accelerates from a standstill to 100kph in a scarcely believable 3.8 seconds, which is about the time it takes to say ‘Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe’, the ridiculously long and rather convoluted name for Porsche’s latest and outrageously powerful SUV.
This hybrid variant uses the same 136hp electric motor that powers the Cayenne E-Hybrid, which we exclusively tested last month, but it swaps the 462hp, 3.0-litre V6 figure for the 550hp 4.0-litre V8 from the Cayenne Turbo, and this combination makes a colossal 680hp of hybrid power.
This headline figure makes the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe and the regular Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid (which also gets this powertrain) the most powerful Porsche SUVs ever. In fact, these top variants of the Coupe and regular Cayenne have dislodged the 650hp Lamborghini Urus as the most powerful SUV in the VW Group, and come close to the 707hp Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which is still the pinnacle of SUV power.
Apart from the body style, the Coupe and SUV versions of the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid are mechanically identical too. Both can hit a top speed of 295kph, both weigh around 2.5 tonnes (the Coupe is a mere 45kg heavier) and when they come to India some time in the second-half of 2020, both will cost north of Rs 2.4 crore. The Coupe, of course, will have a premium over the standard version of around Rs 10 lakh – just for the style. Style? Yes, that’s the appeal of the SUV coupe with its neither-here-nor-there design that has made this breed quite an incomprehensible rage. The concept of an SUV coupe was started by BMW, with Mercedes close on its heels and Audi soon joining the bandwagon. The purist that it is, Porsche initially resisted this pretty purposeless body style, but looking at the sales trend and the fatter profit margins gained by redesigning the roof and adding a few sporty elements, the German sportscar brand eventually capitulated. The Cayenne Coupe has only just arrived, a year after the third-generation Cayenne’s launch.
Coupe version of Cayenne gets roof and tailgate-mounted spoiler.
Predictably, the Cayenne Coupe is the Cayenne SUV with a tapered roof. The pinched rear end is neatly finished with a roof spoiler, in addition to the active one on the tailgate, and there’s a hint of 911 in the raked C-pillar. Lowering the roof has stretched the Coupe version a bit, which is a smidgen longer. It’s heavier than the regular Turbo S E-Hybrid too, by around 45kg, thanks to a heavier rear glass and redesigned tailgate.
Coupe boot space less than regular model but holds a fair bit.
With vertical space reduced, luggage room too has shrunk from 645 litres in the SUV to 500 litres in the coupe. The Coupe’s swooping roof eats into headroom as well, but Porsche has smartly dropped the rear seats by 30mm to more than compensate for a roof that’s lower by 20mm. The lower seating position at the rear has a downside though – outside visibility isn’t as good as in the regular higher-roofed Cayenne and neither is under-thigh support. But this isn’t a car to be chauffeured in, not when you’ve got the range-topping engine under the hood.
Coupe seats slightly lowered to compensate for sloping roof.
With its excess power, weight and a bank-busting price tag, Porsche’s flagship SUV may look like an overindulgence in something that destroys the ozone layer, changes climate and guzzles fossil fuel. The truth is that the Turbo S E-Hybrid powertrain can be exceptionally clean, thanks to its plug-in hybrid system. This German monster can run on electric power alone for short distances, which makes it as non-polluting as a Mahindra e2o. And the timing of my drive in Porsche’s most potent hybrid SUVs couldn’t have been more appropriate.
I landed in Dusseldorf bang in the middle of Europe’s worst heat wave in years and felt good about doing my bit for global warming by cruising down the autobahn in full electric mode, which can be used at speeds of up to 130kph. Running on just battery power (there’s a 14.1kWh battery pack stuffed under the rear seat), the Cayenne Coupe I drive first is super silent and all I can hear is a bit of road noise and the gentle whir of the air con, which is doing a stellar job of keeping the cabin at an even and pleasant 22deg C. The large tacho with its needle resting at zero is all but redundant, with the engine shut off in electric mode, but it’s still the biggest and most important dial in the signature five-dial instrument cluster. It’s Porsche’s way of saying that the engine is still the heart and soul of their cars. And what an engine it is.
4.0-litre Turbo V8 mated to electric motor churns out a combined 680hp.
Mash the throttle pedal into the thick carpet and the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol instantly comes alive with an angry roar, like a tiger woken from its sleep. The tacho needle flicks up like it’s business as usual. Switch from Electric to Sport Plus mode, the most extreme of the drive settings, and the Cayenne goes from clean-and-green to red hot. The combination of the 136hp electric motor’s instant response and the brute force of the 550hp V8 delivers staggering acceleration that pins you hard into the contoured sports bucket seats. In fact, the rush of acceleration is so addictive that I can’t resist flexing my right foot to close every gap in traffic. The German autobahn is the playground for cars like this blisteringly quick SUV, where certain derestricted sections are an invitation to go as fast as you possibly can, which is exactly what I did.
Traffic was light just before the Belgian border and the fast lane was empty. This was my chance. Foot pinned to carpet, the tachometer needle was dancing up and down to the tune of the smooth and quick-shifting 8-speed gearbox, which seamlessly integrates the electric motor and engine. I hit 270kph with utter ease and could have gone faster, but had to back off because of a slow-moving sedan that strayed into my lane. More astonishing is how utterly stable and planted the high-riding Cayenne feels at speeds an Airbus would take off. This is a seriously fast car for devouring the European continent.
Speed and weight don’t sit well together and making sure that they don’t become a handful for the driver is a battery of tech. Air suspension, adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars do a brilliant
job of masking the Turbo S E-Hybrid’s weight, and across the undulating country roads in Belgium, you can’t really tell it’s over 315kg heavier than the non-hybrid Cayenne Turbo.
Body control too is incredible for a heavy, high-riding SUV, and the flat and consistent ride makes holding ludicrous speeds all day long a pleasure. However, it’s at slow speeds that it is not as adept. On some unevenly paved rural roads in Belgium, the Cayenne Coupe’s secondary ride, which has to deal with smaller road imperfections like ruts and sharp edges, is clunky. It’s partly to do with the massive 21-inch wheels and slender sidewalls that can’t cushion the shocks effectively.
The brakes aren’t very linear and the rather aggressive regeneration makes the pedal feel artificial and wooden. A less sensitive and more progressive brake pedal would have completed the hybrid Cayenne’s otherwise top-class dynamic package.
As a daily driver, just how practical is this plug-in hybrid Cayenne? Topping up the battery from a home charging point can take up to six hours and is good for a range of around 40km in pure electric mode – perfect for driving in town, where you want to be as emission-free as possible.
On long drives, however, when the battery, which weighs around 350kg, runs out of charge, it’s just dead weight you’re then lugging around. The fact is that price and weight shoot up with a hybrid, which essentially has to carry two powertrains. So though the E-Hybrid is heavier and far more expensive than the non-hybrid Cayenne Turbo, it’s crucially far cleaner too. And that, in a strange way, makes speeding less of a sin!