Porsche Cayenne 2019 e-hybrid
launch-review

2019 Porsche Cayenne and Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe review

International first drive

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If the Cayenne Turbo isn't quite quick enough for you, Porsche has taken the wraps off the even faster Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid. It's a mouthful, but does it give you a big smile in return? Paul Maric finds out.
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We're doing 260km/h on a German autobahn in a 2535kg missile that's capable of consuming just 3.7 litres of fuel per 100km (NEDC). It boggles the mind, but what you're looking at here is the fastest Porsche Cayenne ever built, and now it's available as both a regular Cayenne and a Cayenne Coupe.

It's a bit of a mouthful, but the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid sits atop the respective Cayenne and Cayenne Coupe ranges. We had the chance to drive both the regular SUV and the Coupe version, but spent most of our time at the wheel of the Coupe, so we'll focus primarily on that model (and yes, we're aware that a Coupe is defined as a "car with a fixed roof, two doors, and a sloping rear").

On paper, both vehicles are virtually identical. The Cayenne measures 4926mm in length, while the Cayenne Coupe is slightly longer at 4939mm. The Coupe's body is also slightly wider, measuring 1989mm (compared to 1983mm for the Cayenne). The wheelbase and front track widths are also identical, but it's the weight and rear track width that differ slightly.

The Cayenne offers a 1670mm wide track width, while the Coupe pushes it out by 18mm to 1688mm. The Coupe is also heavier, coming in at 2535kg in comparison to the Cayenne at 2490kg.

Before we get into how the Coupe drives, it's worth having a quick look at how much this pair of quick SUVs is going to set you back. The Cayenne range kicks off from $116,600 (plus on-road costs) for the entry-level, with the current top-specification model, the Cayenne Turbo, tipping the scales at $241,600 (plus on-road costs).

The Cayenne Coupe follows similar pricing, but demands a circa $11,400 extra investment. It kicks off from $128,000 (plus on-road costs) for the Cayenne Coupe and climbs to $253,600 (plus on-road costs) for the Cayenne Turbo Coupe.

Taking the crown of the top-specification model in both guises, the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid will set you back an additional $46,400 in regular SUV trim ($288,000 plus on-road costs) and an extra $39,100 in Coupe trim ($292,700 plus on-road costs).

Hitting 100km/h from standstill in just 3.8 seconds is no easy task – nor is rocketing from 0–200km/h in 13.2 seconds – but it's made possible thanks to the plug-in hybrid drivetrain mated to a big twin-turbocharged V8 engine.

The petrol engine is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that produces 404kW of power and 770Nm of torque. That peak torque is available from 2100rpm through to 4500rpm.

Filling in the bottom end of the rev band is a permanent-field synchronous motor with an external rotor. Producing a maximum 100kW of power and 400Nm of torque, the electric motor is mated to a 14.1kWh battery system and offers peak torque from 100rpm through to 2300rpm.

The combined system then produces 500kW of power and 900Nm of torque (which peaks between 1500rpm and taps out at 5000rpm). The system is fed through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission, which sits in between the electric motor and petrol V8 engine.

Using a separating clutch within the hybrid module, the system is able to engage either just the electric drivetrain or a combination of the electric drivetrain and internal combustion drivetrain for added torque boost.

On paper, it all sounds pretty impressive, but it's not until you put it into practice that it all starts making sense.

Using a drive-mode selector on the steering wheel or the vehicle's infotainment screen, the driver is able to move between several driving modes that include: E-Power, Hybrid Auto, E-Hold, E-Charge, Sport and Sport Plus.

E-Power mode runs exclusively on electric power at speeds up to 135km/h. With a driving range of 40km, it's the option most people will use if commuting to and from work. It's actually quite impressive given there is enough torque to move the car without fuss – normally PHEV systems rely too much on the petrol engine when there isn't enough torque available from the electric system.

In fact, in E-Power mode it'll accelerate from 0–60km/h in 6.6 seconds, which is more than enough to keep up with traffic. We managed to test this feature out on a 35km loop from our hotel and on to a motorway. To be honest, I didn't actually realise it was in E-Power mode until we reached the freeway and noticed the engine was off.

The other two E-modes are E-Hold and E-Charge. E-Hold places a stop on any current being drawn from the battery and is designed to maintain the current float level. E-Charge kicks the petrol engine on and uses an alternator to charge the battery system to 100 per cent.

Sport and Sport Plus modes leave the petrol engine running constantly, and also keep a minimum float charge in the battery system to ensure boost from the electric drivetrain is always available.

So, how does all this come together out on the road? Let's start with the most obvious part – performance.

With realistic speed limits, Germany was the best place to stretch the legs of the Cayenne Coupe without the lingering risk of hidden speed cameras or right-lane hogs (well, left-lane hogs in Europe).

On a section of derestricted autobahn, the Cayenne Coupe comfortably sits at 150km/h with little fuss. The ride is arguably the best part of the Cayenne Coupe.

Both the front and rear suspension systems feature an aluminium multi-link system with adaptive three-chamber air suspension that's able to vary spring rates and damping virtually immediately. In addition to aluminium forged control arms at the rear, the ride height can be set to five different levels, with the lowest setting coming into play at speeds above 210km/h.

This allows it to offer comfort at virtually any speed. When the speed picks up, though, the Cayenne Coupe is transformed into an autobahn missile. As we wind on pace towards 260km/h, the body hunkers down and it starts feeling as stable as a 911 would at this speed.

The wing at the rear fully extends and the suspension lowers to limit drag. At this speed we're covering a little over 72 metres per second, and the last thing on your mind is that this car weighs over 2500kg.

As it's accelerating in Sport Plus mode, there is an almighty bellow from the exhaust that isn't robbed by the hybrid drivetrain. It still sounds as loud and as proud as it did before they started adding battery packs into the mix.

What about pulling up this monster? That gargantuan task is undertaken by an equally gargantuan set of stoppers.

At the front, the rotors measure 440mm in diameter and feature 10-piston monobloc fixed callipers. The rear stoppers are equally as impressive, coming in at 410mm in diameter with four-piston monobloc callipers. Both the front and rear rotors are made of a ceramic-composite material for virtually constant fade-free stopping power.

What about corners? Porsche has employed some clever technology that pairs with the meaty 285mm front (on 21-inch wheels) and 315mm wide rear tyres (on 21-inch wheels) to limit body movement and offer full control for the driver.

Both the front and rear axles feature a 48V active roll stabilisation system capable of totally eliminating body roll. The two roll bars on each axle are fed through a pivot motor that can rotate the roll bars and lift or lower a suspension arm to compensate for body roll.

It also has a dual purpose that allows it to offer extra suspension travel in off-road conditions, plus an ability to isolate opposite roll bar movement through the pivot motor, which gives the suspension at each corner of the vehicle full control over damping.

The result of this is a body that sits flat through corners and allows the driver to comfortably and confidently feed in throttle on the exit of a corner. All of this technology is great, but doesn't hide the fact this car weighs a little over 2500kg without passengers.

Rear-axle steering can be optioned to further improve handling. The package steers the rear axle in the opposite direction at speeds up to 80km/h, while at speeds above 80km/h, the axle steers in the same direction as the front axle at up to three degrees. The added benefit of this is a reduction in turning circle from 12.1m to 11.5m.

While the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe accelerates like an angry bull, the whole package is let down by the braking system. Not the quality or capability of the brakes themselves, but brake pedal feel at lower speeds.

The brake pedal is incredibly sensitive, and that inconsistent feel causes jarring moments as the vehicle decelerates and the gearbox rolls back through gears. It gets to a point where it's almost impossible to bring the car to a consistently smooth stop without jerking forwards.

It's an issue common to most plug-in hybrid vehicles, but surely advancements in this technology would have led us to a better braking system to manage the synergy between hybrid system braking and conventional hydraulic system braking.

On the electric front, the 14.1kWh battery system offers 40km of driving range and can be charged using an AC charger at up to 7.2kW on a 400V circuit. Using this method, charging takes 2.4 hours, while switching to a 10A power outlet at 230V bumps the time required for charging up to six hours.

Given the average Australian daily commute is less than 40km, the plug-in hybrid option is a great way to cut the fuel bill by simply charging at work during the day or at home during the night ahead of your drive.

Just like the rest of the Cayenne range, this package is a huge step forward for Porsche on the technology side. Central to the cabin is a big 12.3-inch screen that features super-fast processing and the latest wireless smartphone mirroring technology such as Apple CarPlay – new to this model is wireless Apple CarPlay and the inclusion of USB-C connectivity.

The infotainment system is very easy to use and offers further interaction options through a voice-recognition function on the steering wheel. Ahead of the driver is a large head-up display, which can be configured to display a range of different visual characteristics across six segments.

Surprisingly, leg and head room in the second row feel just as good as the regular Cayenne. In my regular driving position (which has the seat quite far back), it was easy to fit behind the seat with good knee, toe and head room (our test vehicle had the glass panoramic roof). The second row also offers two ISOFIX anchorage points on the two outboard seats.

If you opt for the Cayenne Coupe over the Cayenne, you'll take a hit of almost 25 per cent on luggage capacity. It drops from 645L to 500L with the second row in place, and 1605L to 1440L with the second row folded flat. Both models offer a 3000kg braked towing capacity, but keep in mind the maximum 120kg downball weight essentially limits your towing capacity to 1200kg.

The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid and Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe both represent the latest, greatest and fastest from Porsche's SUV division. With a sizeable step up from the current top-specification Cayenne Turbo and Cayenne Turbo Coupe, you need to ask yourself the question whether the bigger brakes and slight performance bump are worth enough of your cash.

If it were us, we'd probably just stick with the Cayenne Turbo or Cayenne Turbo Coupe. But, if you need the best Porsche has to offer on the SUV front, this is the car you'll want to line up for.

The Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid and Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe go on sale in Australia just before the end of 2019.

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