Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid 2015 Road Test

The name Porsche conjures up images of sports cars – but the German company’s most popular model by far is the Cayenne, accounting for 60 per cent of sales. That means a mid-life facelift is quite important for the big SUV - not that you can tell by looking at it.

The styling remains very much the same as before, despite most of the panels being changed. The most noticeable tweaks are at the back, where the redesigned tail lights differentiates the new Cayenne quite noticeably from its predecessor, but there is also a fresh bonnet design, a new grille, more colours and various other subtle changes.

But it’s under the metal where the most significant changes have been made. Firstly the petrol Cayenne S no longer gets a V8 engine, instead using a 3.6-litre V6 BiTurbo, but perhaps the most important changes are to the hybrid model, which now uses the same plug-in system as seen in the Panamera E-Hybrid.

It’s the cleanest engine in the range, emitting just 79g/km of CO2 – so it’s free to tax. Official economy is 69.2mpg and there’s a range of around 22 miles as a pure electric vehicle. Yet, despite the car’s green credentials it is capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in a Boxster worrying 5.9 seconds. Top speed is 151mph.

Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid 2015 (6)

Performance is good even in pure-electric mode, with enough pace to happily cruise at motorway speeds. If you want to be particularly kind to the planet, or if you’re driving in a busy town it is possible to force the car to run as a purely electric vehicle, though the engine will still cut in if you shove the accelerator pedal hard enough.

The E-Hybrid is at its best when you leave the settings and overrides alone. It works almost seamlessly on the road – the refined V6 petrol engine is quiet at low speeds, so when it cuts in or out you can barely tell unless you’re stationary. Thankfully, despite the impressive refinement there is still a subtle, enjoyable exhaust note when pushing on.

The eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth and there’s a seriously impressive 590Nm of torque on tap, so overtaking slower traffic is absolutely effortless – and as you’d hope from a Porsche the handling is terrific for such a tall, heavy car, in part thanks to the permanent all-wheel drive.

The steering is accurate, responsive and nicely-weighted and there is a sense of balance and poise that is typically absent in cars so large. Through corners the Cayenne E-Hybrid is certainly enjoyable to drive – but it is here that its hybrid model shows its weaknesses next to the traditional variants in the range.

Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid 2015 (11)

The diesel and petrol models just feel that little bit more nimble and precise when driven hard. The throttle and brake pedals are more direct and the response from the car is more predictable and enjoyable in petrol or diesel-powered Cayenne variants. That’s not to say the E-Hybrid is poor, it’s just not quite as good.

Being a large SUV, the Cayenne is spacious enough for family use, with a generous back row and a beautifully finished dashboard, which despite featuring a huge number of controls is very user-friendly. On the negative side there is no room for a spare wheel in the E-Hybrid because of the battery pack.

Standard equipment includes an automatic tailgate and cruise control, plus post-collision braking system – but the high-tech gizmos are optional. These include adaptive cruise control, air suspension and advanced smartphone connectivity that lets you control some car functions remotely – like telling the batteries what time to start charging.

For the keener driver the Cayenne E-Hybrid might not be quite as good as other Cayenne versions, but it is still among the most enjoyable SUVs on sale. It’s about the same price as a Diesel S, though – a car that will probably have similar economy in real world driving, but that is better to drive. The 11 per cent BIK rate for the hybrid will seal the deal for company car drivers – but for anyone else we’d still pick the diesel.

The Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is on sale now.

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