If you ever wanted proof that we live in blessed automotive times, this is it. The Cayenne, the SUV that one-time Porsche loyalists said would kill the brand, is not only the company's best-selling SUV – a golden goose stocking the company's coffers to fund an ever-finer portfolio of sports cars – it's continuing to evolve into paradoxical new dimensions of mind-bending poise and performance.
The Cayenne has always done a great job of bringing both worlds together, offering an engaging drive and the kind of day-to-day capability that many lesser SUVs could never deliver. The former Hybrid and later E-Hybrid plug-in models began to show that Porsche was addressing the one missing piece of the puzzle: frugality.
With these new-for-2024 E-Hybrid models, which offer far more range than before, frugality is finally the name of the game. Meanwhile, its improved suspension system offers even greater comfort, yet features like rear-wheel steering and torque vectoring create an SUV that handles better than anything this size should. And there's the not-so-small matter of 729 bhp on tap, too. Let's dig into the details.
|2024 Porsche Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid Coupe
|Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 Hybrid
|Single Permanent-Magnet Synchronous
|729 BHP / 700 Pound-Feet
The Name Is The Key
The new Cayenne E-Hybrid Turbo offers a mighty 729 bhp and 700 pound-feet of torque when both its V8 and its electric motor are at full song. Even the lesser Cayenne S E-Hybrid offers 512 bhp and 553 lb-ft of torque. These are big numbers for an SUV of any colour, but for something that'll go for an estimated 50 miles without burning a drop of petrol? That's remarkable.
On the E-Hybrid Turbo, you get Porsche's tried and true turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 with a nearly square 591 bhp and 590 lb-ft before the battery kicks in. For the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, it's Porsche's similarly well-sorted 3.0-litre V6, making 348 bhp and 368 lb-ft on its own.
That kind of range is offered by a new 25.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack. That's up almost 50 percent over the old E-Hybrid's 17.9 kWh. The new battery is paired with a more advanced electrical system overall with several other tricks up its sleeve, like being able to hoover a whopping 88 kilowatts back from the electric motor under braking regeneration. More on that a little later.
Those kilowatts come from a new, 174-bhp electric motor sandwiched in between the internal combustion engine and the eight-speed automatic transmission. Its placement means the motor can add torque to that of the engine for maximum output. Alternately, it can drive the car on its own with full access to every gear. That means you can cruise up to 84 mph on the highway without firing the engine. Again, remarkable.
Smooth is Fast
For my time in the new plug-in Cayennes, Porsche started by throwing me the keys to a top-shelf Turbo E-Hybrid Coupe. The fastback flavour of the SUV gives up just 70 litres (2.5 cubic feet) of storage space, dropping from 730 to 660 litres (25.8 to 23.3 cu ft) in exchange for sharper looks further augmented here by some classic red PORSCHE graphics down the sides – graphics I admit that felt a bit out of place until I later appreciated just how quick the thing was.
The day started in some awful city traffic as we made our way through morning Barcelona rush hour. Drivers here aren't quite as discourteous as those in Rome, say, but neither are they patient toward foreigners who aren't entirely sure which lane to be in for an upcoming turn. I was repeatedly swarmed by hives of buzzing two-stroke scooters, which made me thankful for all of the Cayenne's standard Park Assist ultrasonic sensors, each chiming to alert me of many a sneaky overtake.
But as I inched through traffic and eventually broke free onto the highway, I was similarly impressed by just how smooth the new Cayenne's powertrain is. I was cruising along at an indicated 120 kilometres per hour (75 miles per hour) before I realised that I still hadn't fired that V8.
I was cruising along at an indicated 120 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour) before I realized that I still hadn't fired that V8.
When the engine did spin up while passing someone, the transition from EV to hybrid was so smooth I still couldn't tell. I had to toggle the digital gauge cluster over to display the tachometer to be sure. As I intentionally cycled back and forth from pure electric to hybrid, there was no lurch and hardly any sound.
In its comfort setting, the suspension only reinforces that. While the roads in this part of Spain are generally smooth, neither separation joints on the highways nor the odd bits of broken asphalt caused any fuss in the cabin. The experience was quiet and calm.
Now I know what you're thinking: This doesn't sound like much of a sports SUV. My destination that morning would go on to prove its performance mettle.
The schlep through traffic and up into the mountains north of Barcelona brought me to a wonderful hidden race track called Parcmotor Castelloni. When I arrived, I expected to be ushered into a different, track-prepped Cayenne. Not at all. I was instructed to pull the very same Turbo E-Hybrid Coupe onto pit lane and, without even changing tyre pressures (or putting on a helmet) I was sent out for a lap session on what turned out to be a fun, high-speed circuit.
I am well aware that effectively zero Cayenne owners will ever track their cars, but in these kinds of programs it is incredibly rare that we drive on both street and track on the same cars. That I went from one to the other with basically no prep shows the confidence Porsche has that this thing can handle it.
And yes, it can. It's no surprise that the Turbo E-Hybrid is quick. The 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds makes that obvious. But it's the power delivery that is more important. The torque of that sliver of an electric motor means the Cayenne drives right out of faster turns without hesitation, boost filling to provide the shove at higher speeds – a driving force that was plenty for this technical track.
You can tell it's a fast SUV by the numbers, but you have to drive one to feel how well it turns. Porsche has not only brought its rear-axle steering system to play here but its Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus rear differential as well. In concert, they make for a surprisingly nimble thing.
I say surprising because I was getting a little out of shape for my first lap at speed. Expecting understeer I turned in aggressively and aimed inside of the apex. Consistently, I had to make a late correction to avoid leaping over the curbing, then had to correct again as the rear stepped out under hard acceleration.
This Cayenne is a playful partner on the track, a genuinely good time. And, yes, the suspension did its part, ensuring the thing handled beautifully and even maintained little body roll despite my elevated position.
That spread – the aforementioned on-road smoothness and unexpected on-track poise – is thanks to the two-valve adaptive air suspension. This can not only do the usual tricks of raising the rig for off-road or dropping it for on-track stuff, but it can also vary compression and rebound damping on the fly to ensure optimal handling in all conditions. Best of all, it's standard equipment.
Turbo Versus S
While my on-track time was limited to the Turbo Coupe, I also wheeled a V6 Cayenne S E-Hybrid through some beautiful mountain roads in and around Montserrat. I have to say: The S would be the one for me. It offers the same battery and motor combination, so the initial surge of electric torque is the same. And, though it's down 217 bhp over the Turbo, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid still has 512 combined ponies on offer.
On the tight twists and turns, that was plenty. However, it was here that I started feeling some uneven brake performance. I was struggling to come to a calm and smooth stop. It was only later, in speaking with a Porsche engineer, that I realised what was going on: the E-Hybrid's braking system reconfigures itself depending on drive mode.
There are effectively two different braking modes that the car toggles between. A gentler, softer mode is used in the E-Power and Hybrid Auto modes, while Sport and Sport Plus get a more aggressive setting. As I spent much of my time on the road swinging back and forth between modes, feeling the different drive behaviours, I kept finding myself needing to add more braking force late or, in contrast, lurching to a too-early stop.
In the real world, though, I don't expect this to be a problem. Nobody will be spinning the steering wheel-mounted driving mode dial as manically as I was that day. Once I realised the difference, I came to appreciate the extra braking responsiveness when I was driving hard and the extra smoothness when dawdling through traffic.
Pick Your Plug-In
While this SUV will never be Porsche's biggest style powerhouse, the refreshed Cayenne's look and aesthetic are clean and attractive. For the E-Hybrid, there's not much in the way of visual differentiation.
Standard features, though, are significantly boosted over the base Cayenne. Matrix Design LED headlights, eight-way power seats, the aforementioned PASM, and even the Sport Chrono package come without ticking a single box. You will need to write a rather large check, though.
The final piece of the puzzle is cost, and as you can probably guess, given that wealth of performance and standard equipment, that cost is significant. The base, 2024 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid starts at £87,100, the Coupe at £90,100. The Turbo E-Hybrid SUV, meanwhile, is a significantly more dear £130,200, and the Coupe £132,600.
Yeah, ouch, but it's hard to feel too bitter about that. With enough electric range for most people to get to work and back without burning a drop of petrol, plus with the kind of remarkable speed and performance on offer here, it's a near-perfect package for big spenders who need a little more practicality than the rest of the Porsche lineup. Sure, it won't turn the heads of anyone on the street, but it will surely open wide the eyes of anyone you take for a ride.
Photos: Tim Stevens For InsideEVs
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2024 Porsche Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid Coupe