Porsche: Can hybrids plug the diesel void?

Diesel never played a huge role for Porsche, but that doesn't mean it won't be missed.
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After whispers from earlier this year, Porsche this week announced it's getting out of the diesel business.

Production of the Macan S Diesel and Panamera 4S Diesel was halted in February, kickstarting speculation about what role the fuel would play in Porsches future.

Although he stopped short of "demonising" diesel, Porsche CEO, Oliver Blume, admitted the dieselgate saga caused "a lot of trouble" for the brand – despite diesel cars representing only slightly more than 10 per cent of the brand's global sales.

"We as a sports car manufacturer... for whom diesel has always played a secondary role, have come to the conclusion that we would like our future to be diesel-free," Blume said in a statement. "Petrol engines are well suited for sporty driving."

Sweeping into the void left by diesel is hybrid power. In a February statement, Porsche said "the demand for diesel models is falling, whereas interest in hybrid and petrol models is increasing significantly", citing the fact 60 per cent of all Panamera models sold in Europe are plug-in hybrids.

That figure is closer to 25 per cent for the Panamera in Australia. Given hybrid cars own just 1.3 per cent of the Australian market, the fact a quarter of Panamera buyers opt for the hybrid is notable.

The fourth-generation Cayenne Diesel – or lack thereof – poses a slightly different question. A diesel was actually promised at launch, but details were hard to come by. Now, it's simply not going to make production.

Hybrid power is expected to play a bigger role in the new range. The Cayenne e-Hybrid will be priced from $135,600 before on-roads when it arrives next month, slotting neatly between the base Cayenne and up-spec Cayenne S. It's priced below the $145,500 S E-Hybrid from the outgoing third-generation range, too.

With 340kW of power and 700Nm of torque on tap, the car has the same towing capacity as the wider petrol range (3.5 tonnes braked) and outgoing diesel, but also promises 44km of pure-electric driving. Those numbers will be enough to swing some diesel buyers, while the ever-improving range of petrol engines will no doubt make others happy.

There's a third bunch, though, for whom only diesel will do in a big SUV. They're going to be forced elsewhere, but we'll have to wait until the full range touches down to know exactly how many of them are out there.

The plug-in hybrid range is part of a wider electrification push from Porsche, which is planning to roll out its first all-electric model, the Taycan, in 2020. With two electric motors and more than 440kW on tap, the car will hit 100km/h in a claimed 3.5 seconds, and cover over 500km on the NEDC test cycle.

It'll likely be joined by a higher-riding Cross Turismo, previewed by the Mission E Cross Turismo. A hybrid powertrain is in the works for the next-generation 911, too, with the model line's head engineer August Achleitner even leaving the door open for a pure-EV take on the rear-engine sports car.

“Two years ago I’d have said no way. Today I wouldn’t categorically rule it out,” Achleitner said, speaking about an electrified 911.

"I drove the prototype of our coming electric sports car, the Mission E (Taycan), and it was a very compelling experience. And the performance of the Porsche LMP race cars with hybrid drive systems is quite simply sensational.”