Supercar pace, ultra-low CO2 and driving satisfaction, all in one roomy package? Let’s see

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Well before the Porsche Cayenne took hold, time was when the wildest Porsche usually took the form of a turbocharged Porsche Porsche 911 replete with an enormous wing and, if extra security was required, front driveshafts.

In the turbulent wake of the Porsche GT2 RS and the subsequent launch of the new Porsche 911 Turbo S – a car with 641bhp, a 2.6sec 0-62mph time, hips wider than a bin lorry and a wing – you could argue that nothing has changed.

Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid isn’t exactly lacking in presence but the optional sports exhaust lets the 4.0-litre V8 shout even louder – and it really is loud.

However, if you accept that modern Porsche is really an SUV company that builds proper sports cars mainly to protect its pedigree (last year, it sold almost 200,000 Cayenne and Porsche Macan models compared with only 80,000 of everything else, which is a sobering statistic for the purists), then the ‘wildest’ model it makes is now the £123,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid.

In truth, this most extreme take on the third generation of Porsche’s financial saviour can lay claim to that title no matter how you frame the question. With 671bhp, it is the most powerful model the company makes, and with the capability of all-electric running, it is also one of the most frugal, at least on paper. It will go places no 911 or Porsche Panamera ever could and it will take an entire family along for the ride.

It is, if nothing else, wildly ambitious. What we’ll now discover is whether it’s also any good.

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The Cayenne line-up at a glance

The Turbo S E-Hybrid costs more than twice the price of the entry-level model in the Cayenne range, which uses a 335bhp V6 and more conventional suspension that consists of adaptive dampers and steel springs. Air suspension isn’t standard fit until you reach the level of the Turbo, which is also the entry point for Porsche’s mighty 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8.

All models get variable four-wheel drive with a rear-biased torque split and ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox.



Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid road test review - hero side

This most potent Cayenne’s plug-in hybrid powertrain has previously cropped up in the Porsche Panamera, although the numbers don’t get any easier to swallow with repeat readings. In total, there is 671bhp and 664lb ft, the latter arriving at 1500rpm – figures that suggest explosive performance in any circumstance.

The majority of that power, some 552bhp, is delivered via a front-mounted 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8. The remainder is provided by an electric motor tucked between the engine and the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, which is operating near the limit of its torque-channelling potential. Porsche says that with a stronger ’box, this powertrain could quite easily deliver as much as 850lb ft.

Active roof spoiler is unique to the Turbo Cayennes. Above 100mph, it tilts 6deg forward to increase stability and doubles its rake in Sport Plus mode.

Even without this theoretical maximum torque, the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is only around a second slower to 62mph than the 911 Turbo S, which is difficult to comprehend given that, at 2490kg, the SUV weighs some 850kg more than the coupé. But performance is just half the story. The 14.1kWh battery pack housed beneath the boot floor gives the car an electric-only range of up to 19 miles (down from an unrealistic, pre-WLTP figure of 27) and a CO2 figure as low as 110g/km, which looks almost as improbable as the acceleration figures. On the spec sheet, the car exhibits the contradictory extremes made possible only through electrification.

In similarly logic-defying fashion, the Cayenne’s mass and performance potential suggest some very clever chassis technology needs to be present, and it is. The Turbo S E-Hybrid is a rolling menu of what Porsche has at its disposal. As well as three-chamber air suspension, the car benefits from active anti-roll bars (two bars, joined in the middle by a pivot motor that torques them in opposite directions), torque vectoring controlled via the carbonceramic brakes and through the locking rear differential, and optional rear-axle steering, which our test car uses. It’s plain to see that the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is very much one of those cars that, paradoxically, needs additional weight to contain its weight.


Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid road test review - cabin

The lofty cabin is typical of Porsche, with a widely adjustable driving position and an ambience that’s best described as ‘functional luxury’.

It isn’t quite as opulent as that of the highest-ranking Range Rover models or the Bentley Bentayga, but it’s impossible to complain about fit and finish, and the general air of composure and competence can be just as reassuring as quilted leather, walnut veneer and knurled aluminium. Perhaps more so given the lack of pretence.

Central tacho is cleaner in its design than Porsche’s latest efforts, seen in the 911, and, indicating its electrified status, the Turbo S E-Hybrid gets an acid-green needle

As by far the most expensive car in the range, the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid also enjoys a high level of standard equipment, including excellent adaptive sports seats and an Alcantara rooflining. Our testers also liked the double visors, which allow you to block the sun from two aspects – very useful. However, owners might still be disappointed to find they’re expected to pay extra for small luxuries such as a head-up display, ambient lighting, seat ventilation and four-zone climate control.

As a hybrid, this model also loses out on boot space. With the large battery pack positioned beneath the boot floor, luggage capacity falls from 772 to 645 litres, and to make matters worse, there is no underfloor compartment in which to store the sizable charging cable. This is still an amply spacious car and back-row passenger room is generous, even with the panoramic roof fitted, but an Audi Q7 or even the regular Cayenne Turbo is better suited to those likely to need all the available space.

If you simply have to have the 671bhp Turbo S E-Hybrid as your family conveyance, the model does at least, like every other Cayenne, feature Isofix points on the outer rear seats, and usefully the backrests are 40/20/40 split-folding, with a central storage tray and deployable armrest.

Porsche Cayenne infotainment and sat-nav

The Cayenne uses Porsche’s mostly excellent PCM system, which comprises a responsive and crisp 12.0in central touchscreen and digital roundels within the main instrument binnacle. The broad range of menus can be tricky to navigate at first but it soon becomes intuitive and the home page function lets you customise how information is presented. Our main complaint is that greasy fingerprints are unavoidable and quickly undermine the smart aesthetic.

For the range-topping Turbo S E-Hybrid, Bose’s 710W surround-sound system is fitted as standard and, in our experience, would be worth paying for even if it were not. Provision for device charging is also excellent, with two USB ports in the front centre console and two more in the rear compartment. The car also has three 12V power sockets, covering all areas of the cabin. One chink in the infotainment arsenal, however, is that Android Auto is unavailable.


Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid road test review - engine

Despite its weight, such is the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid’s power that it level-pegged with the new Audi RS6 Avant during an impromptu drag race at Bruntingthorpe airfield, even at speeds beyond 100mph.

It makes up for its heft and frontal area with tectonic torque and almost seamless gearshifts. There aren’t many full-sized SUVs that will give you a proper punch in the gut from acceleration alone, but this is one of them and the effect of any full-bore start won’t be forgotten in a hurry. The official figure of 3.8sec to 62mph feels entirely believable.

Porsche’s active anti-roll bars are so strong that they could in theory tip the Cayenne into oversteer on corner entry. One for the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid RS.

The rest of the time, you’ll marvel at how effortlessly the two sources of power co-exist. The car starts in electric mode, and even once you’re up and running, it will look to switch off the engine as often as possible, particularly when coasting on quicker roads or crawling around town. The transitions are rapid and smooth, too, so you’re never caught short for acceleration, and the V8 always starts with an unmistakable growl that sets the bodyshell throbbing in almost comically dramatic fashion.

Hybrid mode, in which the car to some extent adapts to your driving style, is particularly good at knowing exactly when to fade out the engine, feed it back in or give in to the whims of the driver’s right foot and provide absolutely everything on offer. In this sense, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is as easily drivable as any comparably big SUV, including those without the added complications of a second source of propulsion. The top speed in electric mode – for those times when you want to drain the drive battery very quickly indeed – is 84mph.


Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid road test review - cornering

Twee as it sounds, there’s plenty of recognisable Porsche DNA in the way this hybrid colossus steers, and in broader terms you’ll not find any comparably large SUV that changes direction more accurately and with better body control than the Cayenne. These cars simply impart confidence better than the rest, although the more laid-back Range Rover Sport comes close.

Again, the default Hybrid mode is your best bet for British roads and the Turbo S E-Hybrid moves with a soft-touch precision well suited to the job at hand. Moving up through Sport and Sport Plus modes is therefore mostly unnecessary, although doing so will progressively stiffen the air suspension, sharpen the throttle response, alter the torque split and trigger the brake-based torque vectoring to better sling the car through corners – and then replicate the effect of an aggressive limited-slip differential on the way out.

Porsche’s air suspension is clever enough to vary ground clearance between 162mm and 245mm. Why? Because while few owners will test this out, the car needs to safely hit 180mph on the autobahn but also scrabble up off-road tracks. Tough brief.

Push on in Sport Plus and it’s hard to imagine how Porsche could have made this car more agile, short of giving it an entirely carbonfibre body or somehow else removing a good portion of the weight. The problem is that, despite being superbly managed, the sensation of extreme mass remains, and even the carbonceramic 10-piston brakes and very neatly controlled body movements can’t disguise it.

Logical thinking tells you the contact patches are so vast and the driveline so fast-reacting that you’re unlikely to come unstuck with the correct steering and throttle inputs. And yet the synapses in your backside and brain are constantly sensing the magnitude of the physics that would be unleashed if something did go wrong. It means progress can become mentally tiresome, because the Cayenne wants to be driven quickly and reminds you of that often. A Range Rover doesn’t do this and is therefore better company more of the time.

It all makes the Turbo S E-Hybrid a bit of a one-trick pony: not so satisfying to drive as ‘lesser’, lighter and – importantly – more pliant Cayenne models but needing, deep down, to be driven damned fast to show you what it can do. Rebel without a cause? Just a bit, and as if to prove it, the car’s a complete natural when it comes to power oversteer.


Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid road test review - hero front

If you want the trappings of Porsche Cayenne ownership with the benefits a plug-in hybrid powertrain brings, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is overshadowed, at least in logical terms, by the £68,358 V6-engined Cayenne E-Hybrid. This slower-but-not-slow model not only costs roughly half as much as its pumped-up sibling but also packs a marginally longer electric driving range.

Equally, if it’s speed and V8 character you want, the regular Cayenne Turbo costs some £23,000 less than the S E-Hybrid and offers better luggage space. However, the top-ranking hybrid model is forecast to hold its value better than the regular Turbo, resulting in some parity if you’re planning on using a PCP deal.

Spec advice: Go for the four-wheel steering (£1448), Park Assist cameras (£1002) and the PDLS Plus headlights (£1082), all of which will be useful on a daily basis. Avoid the painted vehicle key (£251)

As for practicalities, there are more capable alternatives elsewhere. One is the BMW X5 45e M Sport, whose £66,675 asking price looks good value in the context of its 389bhp output, fine dynamics and 51-mile electric range on the WLTP cycle.



Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid road test review - static rear

As an engineering showcase, the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid ranks alongside supercars such as the 911 GT2 RS. However, its freakish breadth of capability on paper results in a less than perfectly rounded product on the road and ultimately consigns this wild Porsche to curiosity status – a car reserved only for those who really have to have the most extreme of everything.

There will be some for whom the electric range – and one should bank on no more than 16 miles, whatever the official claims – will be useful on a daily basis, but those miles will be undertaken in a fairly sedate nature, when this fastest but heaviest Cayenne’s necessarily firm and tightly controlled ride is completely unnecessary.

Technically impressive but fails to make a convincing case for itself

Equally, the electric portion of the powertrain contributes less in performance than it takes away from the handling and steering, which are both dulled. With 542bhp, if you really want to, you can still scare yourself witless in the regular Cayenne Turbo, and that car is a more natural, enjoyable and considerably cheaper point-to-point machine than this hugely capable, strangely likeable, undoubtedly wild but largely pointless hybrid.


Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering.