Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Cayenne S Hybrid gives a tantalising glimpse at Porsche’s ambitions. It has similar performance to a V8, yet returns six-cylinder economy. The car’s road manners impress, too, but how its cost will compare with VW’s Touareg hybrid – which will be near identical – remains to be seen.

It’s a little known fact that Ferdinand Porsche invented the hybrid car. Now, 109 years after he created the ‘Lohner-Porsche’ (powered by a 15bhp four-cylinder petrol engine and an 80-volt dynamo), his firm returns to the technology with the Cayenne S Hybrid.

Developed in partnership with Volkswagen, the all-new Cayenne S Hybrid is powered by a direct-injection supercharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 producing 333bhp, working with a single electric motor developing 52bhp. Torque from the Audi S4-sourced unit is rated at 440Nm, while the electric motor provides an impressive 300Nm from almost zero rpm.

The drivetrain is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, and the electric element of the hybrid module can run independently or be used as a ‘power boost’ function. Depending on the conditions, Porsche says its hybrid runs on electric power at up to 30mph. On our drive, what impressed us most was the effortless way it switched between petrol and electric modes. Acceleration is easily a match for a V8 Cayenne, and only the busy V6 soundtrack and gentle whirr from the electric motor on kickdown give the game away.

Porsche has fitted a clever ‘sail’ mode, too. This sees the electric motor take over when the driver backs off to settle at a cruising pace – although driving along an unrestricted German autobahn at 86mph with the rev counter displaying zero rpm was an eerie experience! The eight-ratio auto deserves praise. It shuffles cogs more seamlessly than some other multi-geared self-shifters.

Our short drive took in a combination of city routes and A-roads, as well as the autobahn, and we returned 26mpg in this prototype Cayenne S Hybrid. Porsche’s new diesel model (driven in Issue 1,050) returns similar figures, although it can’t touch the new car’s performance. Indeed, for all the Hybrid’s planet-saving technology, its pace impresses most – and this bodes well for the lighter petrol-electric Panamera, promised some time in 2011.

If you can get around the idea of an eco-minded Porsche 4x4 that performs best in town, this car has real appeal. What would Ferdinand have made of it?

Rival BMW X6 Hybrid

Not officially confirmed, but seen as a production-ready concept, big BMW matches the Porsche’s pace and fuel economy claims, and offers a more sporting character.

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