Batteries included

With no more Porsche diesels, hybrid power is the only way to go

Porsche has taken the rather bold decision to suspend sales of its diesel-powered cars, and focus its attention on hybrids instead. So have hybrids now reached a level of capability that means they can fill the void?

The new Cayenne Hybrid provides an answer that convinces in parts. Right now, there is clearly a financial argument in its favour arising from on tax liability which is itself based largely on CO2 emissions. But these claimed emissions bear no relation to the real world in this Porsche or, indeed, any other hybrid on sale, and it remains to be seen what financial hit will result when tax is worked out using the catchily titled Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) readings which a more accurate measure of efficiency.

In the meantime, Porsche has taken the electric drive system from the still fresh Panamera and installed it in the even newer Cayenne. Paired to a 3-litre V6 petrol engine it produces around 450bhp (I am unable to be precise because the car I drove was an unhomologated prototype for which figures have yet to be released). Power is directed in four directions via a ZF eight-speed gearbox and not the double-clutch PDK transmission used by both the Macan and Panamera because it allows the car to tow the maximum 3500kg load allowed by law. Its stablemates can only haul 2500kg.

If it has a problem, it is that the car whose shoes into which it now steps, the old Cayenne Diesel S, was not just the best Cayenne I’ve ever driven, but perhaps the best diesel too. True, it didn’t have quite the power of this Cayenne, but it did have eight cylinders instead of six and even more torque, both of which are probably more important in a car such as this.

Then again the new Cayenne is far lighter than the last and the V6 not without charm. It doesn’t feel like it will shred the tarmac every time you press the pedal because you have to push it all the way to the floor to tell both its electric and petrol powertrains to provide peak power simultaneously. But when it does get going, the performance is entirely convincing.

And if you ask it to operate on electricity alone, it’s even better. Compared to the last Cayenne hybrid, its output has risen from 87bhp to 134bhp and its all-electric range from little more than 20 miles to little less than 30. And you can drive it down the motorway fast enough to get plenty of points on your licence without it so much as opening a valve. But it’s best off-road, an environment it will hardly ever visit, because the hybrid delivers power so precisely that managing speed over really rough terrain is the easiest I’ve known it.

Make no mistake, were one available, I would still choose a diesel Cayenne: the torque, the range and the real-world fuel consumption make too persuasive an argument, but if you still hanker after a Cayenne and are wondering whether instead to go for one of its rivals which still have diesels on sale, I’d still take a look first. Diesel or not, this Cayenne is still a capable and likeable product.


Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

Price n/a Engine 3.0 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged,  electric motor Power 450bhp@5400rpm Torque 500lb ft@1100rpm Weight 2400kg Power to weight 188bhp per tonne Transmission eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive 0-62mph 5.3sec Top speed 157mph Economy n/a CO2 n/a