Why would I buy it?
- Hybrid efficiency
- Driving manners
Why would I avoid it?
- Uninspiring cabin
- Expensive optional extras
The Porsche Cayenne’s arrival into the automotive scene was like that of a young, zealous Bollywood protagonist walking into a dimly lit nightclub packed with red and black armchairs, posh glassware, lot of smoke and a befuddled rogue, and his henchmen. Not everyone was thrilled with the arrival but it was quite a sight and they all took notice.
On sale in India since 2018, the current-gen Porsche Cayenne still represents an idiosyncratic point of difference. And the E-Hybrid model that you see here aims to put an unconventional spin on the ever-popular posh SUV formula. So what’s it like?
Engine and Performance
The bit about unconventional spin comes from the fact that this Cayenne is a parallel hybrid which means under the hood you will find not one but two sources of momentum – a 340bhp, three-litre V6 petrol engine that’s partially assisted by an electric motor that takes the combined output to around 462bhp. Not earth-shattering by any means but it’s more than enough for situations this Porsche is likely to find itself in. There’s a also a recalibrated eight-speed ‘Tiptronic S’ gearbox that’s responsible for transmitting the power to all four wheels.
So here’s how it works. You have a dedicated electric-only driving mode called E-Power and the Cayenne E-Hybrid always starts in that mode and as long as you are doing sensible speeds within city limits, the Cayenne gets up to speed in an incredibly smooth manner with ample pace. Better still, you have a pure electric driving range of up to 44 kilometers and it undoubtedly works best in stop-and-go traffic wherein you tend to spend a lot of time without covering a whole lot of distance. Now, as you would expect, the Cayenne is dead silent at slow speeds and in EV mode you could even sneak up on other motorists, it’s that silent.
Also, during our tests we managed to hit speeds of up to 130kmph before the car automatically switched to Hybrid Auto mode and engaged the petrol engine. It’s worth noting that the extent of the boost assistance from the electric motor and battery recharging depends on the driving mode. In Sport and Sport Plus modes, all of the battery's energy can be used to boost acceleration and throttle response. So what does this translate to on the road? With over 700Nm of torque available from just above idling rpm, the Cayenne E-Hybrid gets up and pulls hard. With both the motors working together, this family SUV is surprisingly quick and it will complete the 0-100kmph sprint in 5.05 seconds as tested.
The only thing lacking here is a raspy soundtrack to accompany the velocity. In fact, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is disappointingly muted though some might argue rightly so. Now, parallel hybrids are known to be extremely responsive on the go and the Cayenne is no exception. In our roll-on acceleration tests, it did the 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph runs in just 3.11 and 3.80 seconds respectively which is frankly phenomenal.
Ride and Handling
The Cayenne rides well for an SUV running 20-inch wheels and that’s mainly down to how well the air suspension continually adjusts to the road conditions. You do hear it working at times and feel some vertical movements over rippled surfaces but the system is capable of smoothening out most of the road imperfections without overly increasing the damping force. The ride comfort is thoroughly compliant especially if you put the car in medium ride height mode along with Hybrid/Sport Plus driving mode.
It’s no 911 GT3 RS but the Cayenne E-Hybrid is more reactive dynamically than a full-size SUV of its weight and size has any right to be. Granted it’s an SUV at the end of the day and despite Porsche’s incredibly clever stability systems you can feel the heft during weight transfer as you go hard through the corners, but at the same time you also feel planted and secure with so much mass moving underneath you.
Interior Space and Comfort
In true German fashion, the Cayenne’s cabin feels like it has been put together meticulously by a bunch of people who would know exactly what they are doing. The quality is second to none and there’s an underlying solidity to the smallest of buttons and knobs and how they operate. However, there is no sense of occasion to this cabin and the overall ambience is borderline underwhelming. Sure, you get lovely upholstery and expensive leather everywhere and top-notch aluminium bits to go with the sporty all-back theme but, when it all comes together it doesn’t exactly feel opulent. What’s also bit of a concern is the generous use of gloss black trim for the center console - it’s a fingerprint magnet and in the long run will scratch easily as well, given that it houses almost all of the controls.
Space up front is good with lots of knee room and sufficient thigh support, although, what’s even more impressive is the excellent visibility thanks to the high driving position and a fairly low set dash. For what is essentially a sporty SUV, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is surprisingly comfortable at the back, too. Both the seatback and the base are long and extremely supportive with just that right amount of cushioning for maximum comfort over long journeys.
Features and Equipment
The main display for the infotainment system is fantastic when it comes to touch response and graphics, though, it does take some getting used to. There’s an overload of information at any given point and compared to the systems in similarly priced Mercedes, BMW and Audis, the overall UI is nowhere as intuitive as you might hope. As standard, you get adaptive air suspension, Porsche’s Sport Chrono Package, 19-inch wheels, panoramic roof, LED headlights, a four-zone climate control, eight-way electrically adjustable front seats, front/side/curtain and even knee airbags, front and rear park assist, infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, powered tailgate and a semi digital instrument console.
The list doesn’t end there, of course. You can spec your Cayenne E-Hybrid with a lot more features but they are all part of pricey optional extras. For instance, our test car came fitted with the optional 20-inch Sport wheels that you can get for Rs 3.80 lakh. The optional Bose surround system (also fitted here) costs Rs 2.67 lakh. Special two tone interior combinations can cost as much as Rs 7.80 lakh and if you fancy the adaptive sports seats with 18-way adjustment then be ready to shell out around Rs 3.93 lakh.
The Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is almost a contradiction to common opinions. It’s a large, eco-friendly hybrid SUV with the personality of a sports car embedded into it by a legendary carmaker. That being said, it’s not perfect, with doubts raised over its uninspiring interior and the all-important value factor, coming in at Rs 1.87 crore (on-road Mumbai). Add a few optional extras and you are past the two crore mark and that’s a lot of money for a five-seater family SUV. You could have an Audi Q8 or a Range Rover Sport for less money, instead. But here’s the thing, neither would be able to combine performance, efficiency and rewarding dynamics the way the Cayenne E-Hybrid would.
Pictures by Kapil Angane