Efficient and with electric power, a true SUV that's American in size but with a label that is quintessential sports car – the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid is all of this in one. It's a sort of Tesla challenger that understands modern needs differently than that premium American sedan.

The recipe that Porsche chose for its third plug-in hybrid model is typical of European manufacturers. The Cayenne was already an established model, and at the end of 2014, Porsche added a hybrid version. As befits a premium and sporty brand like Porsche, the Cayenne is a truly powerful thoroughbred. But once you unplug it from the charging station, you can drive the Cayenne for the first few dozen kilometers on electricity alone. The range is from 18 to 36 kilometers, depending of course on how you are driving, and you can reach speeds of up to 125 kilometers per hour on electric power alone. Providing adequate electricity for such a range are the lithium-ion batteries, that can store up to 10.8 kilowatt hours. The average consumption is 3.4 liters per 100 kilometers, which means emissions of only 79 grams of CO2 per kilometer. That one and the same car has two natures is evident in the Cayenne S E-Hybrid's system power. The combined output of the two engines is 416 hp, while the total torque is 590 Nm. Of course, as can be expected of an SUV, it's also equipped with four-wheel drive. The engines' 8-speed automatic transmission powers all four wheels. When only the electric motor is operating, a special clutch switches off the gasoline engine, meaning that the Cayenne's motors have a parallel connection.

The plug-in hybrid Cayenne starts with the help of electricity. Even when driving on electricity alone, the driver constantly hears the changing gear ratios (and there's a special gear-change program for electric driving). For electric, the E-Power button must be pressed. We switch this off by stepping harder on the gas pedal (if you need more power to pass somebody quickly). After the maneuver has been completed, the program automatically reverts to electric power.

Once we've used up all the electricity from the battery, the car automatically switches to the hybrid program. This makes the Cayenne all the more efficient. The driver has the power needed for each situation, be it electric or hybrid. For full power, the electric motor helps out, and if the driver steps off the accelerator, the "coasting" feature is immediately activated. The clutch then interrupts contact between the electric motor and the gas motor and, if we want to brake, the generator redistributes the energy from the reduced speed, in order to recharge the electric battery. We can also use the Sport mode, where a computer program manages the hybrid power in a way that is efficient and effective, with both engines delivering power.

The Cayenne's E-Charge program lets you efficiently use the engine power to charge the batteries as you drive ,if you want to have enough electricity to drive on electricity at the end of the trip.

The Cayenne S E-Hybrid performs well wherever we need electric power, not only on asphalt surfaces. Though it is an incredibly pleasant cruising car for highway driving, at maximum speed the average fuel consumption rises in a hurry. Of course, it's on the highway that the car's sporty side is most evident: it sits well on the road, has good stability at high speeds, and its air suspension is fully adjustable. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid won't let you down, even if you're driving off-road, since the constant four-wheel drive helps out with central lock and electronic traction control.

The feeling in the cabin is in keeping with the premium nature of this SUV. The high position gives you an excellent view of the road, and there's also a camera to help out when driving backwards. The steering wheel and its many buttons is more transparent than the central console, where there are even more buttons. This is the only aspect of the Cayenne that lags behind the Tesla Model S. Also the way the entertainment system is operated indicates that the Cayenne is still old school.

Feb. 9, 2016 Driving photo: Porsche

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Plugin magazine 04/2016


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