At the invite of the Porsche dealership in Towcester, a 2016 model year Cayenne S e-hybrid was my drive for the morning. The face lift for next year is quite minor in comparison to the changes we’re going to see with the latest release of the 911 and externally its only the rear that sees much in the way of improvements, making the car appear lower.
This particular car had seen no expense spared on the options front, boasting a panorama roof, air suspension, 21″ turbo design wheels (glad I don’t have to clean those) and full leather sports memory seats which have larger bottom and side bolsters to keep you firmly in place as you navigate the back roads of today’s Britain.
The plethora of functions handled by steering wheel and stalks (including optional cruise control), combined with the Tiptronic paddle shifts, make the steering column a rather crowded affair and I managed to accidentally engage the heated steering wheel at one point.
The elevated ride height obviously leads to an improved view of the road ahead but I was rather disappointed by the rearward vision, which is partially obscured by the multiple rear seat headrests – its would certainly be worth requesting the optional Park Assist package, especially if you’re not already used to such a relatively large vehicle. Running boards helped with ingress and egress – handy when you’re more used to driving one of Porsche’s sports models.
The optional air suspension as you might expect does a fantastic job of smoothing out the pot holes – I did the entire drive with it set to its middle mode, now labelled ‘Sport’ and even on Northamptonshire’s bumpy B-roads the ride was superb. We were out and about for 50 minutes and I left the car as relaxed as I had got in it; its easy to see how well the Cayenne suits long range cruising.
This was my first ever drive in a Cayenne, only the second in a (part-)electric car (a BMW i3), and with a weight approaching 2.5 tonnes you might expect it to be a bit of a handful. Power comes from a combination of a 328bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol backed up with a 94bhp electric motor so based on numbers alone you’d expect the performance to be fairly spectacular but yet I found myself employing 100% throttle on occasion because the first half of the pedal’s travel only engages the electric power. You would have to be mindful of this if you’ve come from almost any other vehicle because it does take a while to pick up the pace. But there’s no denying the economy this vehicle is capable of: if your commute is short (less than around 22 miles) and you’re careful with the throttle, its entirely possible you’ll do the whole journey on electric power alone. In fact one of the OPC Silverstone staff told me that one customer of theirs has now owned one of these for six months and is yet to put any more fuel in it.
There is no manual transmission option here; instead you have an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox (interesting they don’t employ the double clutch PDK box in Cayenne yet). But don’t expect the ponderous auto boxes of old as here gear changes are rapid and almost silent in operation and the Hill Start Assist takes all of the effort out of starting off on a slope.
Would I buy the e-hybrid Cayenne? Certainly if I was in the market for a car equally suited to long-range commutes as it is towing a race car, the Cayenne would be very high on my list, but the apparent the lack of pace from the get-go would put me off buying the hybrid model. If you’re a London driver however, the currently available savings on new car duty and congestion charge could well make this car a lot cheaper to run than you’d expect.
Words and photos: Chris Valentine