- Published: Friday, 03 April 2015 01:58
It's big and heavy, but on a thimble of fuel it'll run forever. Meet the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid
SINGAPORE — There’s been a Cayenne Hybrid on sale in Singapore before this, but the car pictured here is the Cayenne S E-Hybrid: a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or PHEV). This plug-in Porsche is only the third such machine to go on sale here after the BMW i8 and… another Porsche, the Panamera S E-Hybrid.
How does it work? Is the tech relevant here? And does it drive like a Porsche? Glad you asked. Read the first local report to find out…
“Cayenne S E-Hybrid” and “ Cayenne Hybrid”. What’s the difference?As I mentioned, the previous Cayenne Hybrid was a relatively normal petrol-electric car with a battery that was topped up on the move by braking and deceleration. This new S E-Hybrid is a plug-in. You not only put petrol in the tank, you plug a wall-mounted charger into a port to top up its batteries. Budget 2.7 hours if you spent every last Watt.
But why exactly do you need to charge it?
OK, pretend or imagine that your phone runs on petrol. You fill up its tank and you can play Candy Crush for a week before taking it to Shell. Then someone invents the power bank. Running off that handy device, your phone uses no petrol for a day, and then when you get home you top up the power bank by plugging it into the wall. Never mind if it runs empty; you still have petrol to fall back on. A PHEV is like that; it’s basically two cars (one battery powered, one petrol powered) in one.
Ah, I get it now! So… what is each car like?
The petrol side is pretty impressive by itself. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid has a 3.0-litre supercharged V6. That contributes 333bhp to the party. On the electric side there’s a 95bhp motor and a 10.8kWh battery bank. It lives under the boot floor, costing you 90 litres of space there, but you’re still left with 580 litres to play with, or 1,690 litres if you fold the rear seats.
Sounds practical… and a bit confusing, actually. How do you drive two cars in one?
In a word? Normally. Like any hybrid the Cayenne can juggle the balance between electric and petrol power by itself to minimise fuel burn. Pootle along and the switch from petrol to electricity (or a combo of both) is pretty seamless. Push the accelerator to the carpet and it’s all hands on deck to propel the heavy Cayenne forward with a palpable rush. A supercharger, a biggish V6 and an electric motor all working together is something everyone should experience.
Does it still handle like a Porsche, though?
For such a tall thing the new Cayenne is a surprisingly graceful machine through bends, but the S E-Hybrid does feel different. It might be the 19-inch wheels (versus the Cayenne V6’s 18-inchers), but it’s rougher over bumps and the steering wheel kicks back in your hands sometimes if you hit a small patch of rough tarmac mid-corner. There’s regenerative braking for the batteries, so the left pedal is sometimes grabby, sometimes gentle. The big Porsche can still muster tremendous grip, though, so if you’re psychologically up to it you can hurl it around bends and ignore the 265kg weight penalty of the hybrid hardware. Overall there’s capability here, but not true fluidity.
But surely no one chooses the hybrid one for sportiness?
True. Porsche’s own sales material says to buy a Cayenne S for performance and the S E-Hybrid if you want something futuristic. And it does in some ways feel like something from the future.
At first glance it’s standard Cayenne inside — smallish steering wheel from the 918 Spyder, a rather busy one-button-per-function array of controls, solidly built cabin with lots of leather and large, plush seats. But peer closer and you’ll see “acid green” needles and an unusual instrument that shows power reserve. Plus there are two special buttons, marked E-Power and E-Charge.
E-Power! Sounds exciting...
Actually, pressing it puts the V6 engine into a coma, leaving an electric car that emits nothing from the tailpipes. The Cayenne then wafts around in eerie silence, like it’s sailing along on God’s breath. 310Nm of torque lets you keep up with most traffic, and the 125km/h top speed is more than enough. Just ask a policeman.
On a good day you can apparently do this for 36km, but in start-stop traffic and with the a/c going, figure on the batteries giving out at 20km. Mind you, you can press “E-Charge” to wake the engine up and generate electricity, to top them back up while propelling the Porsche.
Why would you?
True, it would be better to use juice from SP Services (we figure a full charge costs less than ten bucks) where possible, but E-Charge lets you save battery if, say, you’re on a highway and intend to finish your journey in the CBD, where electric drive is particularly efficient (or where petrol combustion is particularly wasteful). Basically you can leave the Cayenne to decide, or you can use the buttons to replenish or spend the batteries’ juice as you wish.
Bottom line, then: does the technology work?
See for yourself! After one 43km drive mixing town and highway traffic, we managed 3.6L/100km. We’d driven for 77 minutes, and 50 minutes of that was on battery power alone. The official economy claim is 3.4L/100km, but then we only started out with the batteries at 80 percent.
Not bad. So why aren’t PHEVs more common?
Well, they’re about to be. BMW is launching a plug-in X5 here in 2016, and Mitsubishi is readying the Outlander PHEV for sale this year. Further down the line, Mercedes wants 17 plug-in models in its line-up, while BMW is developing a plug-in version of every mainstream model from now on. The Germans foresee a future in which some city centres will ban cars that aren’t zero emissions.
What about Singapore?
Frankly, PHEVs are being held back by a lack of charging infrastructure. Your Cayenne S E-Hybrid will come with a wall charger, but unless you have your own porch you’ll have nowhere to mount it. Besides, there’s a psychological barrier, too. Annoying people will ask you how much it would cost to replace the batteries.
How much would it cost to replace the batteries?
Don’t know. But battery tech has come a long way — Toyota and Lexus guarantee their hybrid batteries for 10 years here. Nissan says that in five years of selling the all-electric Leaf, it has only seen three battery failures ever.
MORE TO READ: Does plug-in tech really work in Singapore?
Hmm… maybe I should give the S E-Hybrid a try.
If you’re in the market for a Cayenne, then yes. The Cayenne S is actually only $400 cheaper than the S E-Hybrid, comparing base prices. The PHEV Porsche is marginally slower and clumsier through corners than the regular petrol car, but in E-Power mode it’s a delight: silent, unruffled, and yes, kinda futuristic.
Drive the S E-Hybrid a bit, and going back to a regular car feels like stepping back into a noisy, inefficient past, almost like it would be to use a petrol-powered phone.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2,995cc, 24v, V6, supercharged
Power 333bhp at 5,500-6,500rpm
Torque 440Nm at 3,000 - 5,250rpm
Electric Motor 95bhp, 310Nm
Battery Lithium ion, 10.8kWh
System Power 416bhp at 5,500rpm
Max Torque 590Nm at 1,250rpm-4,000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 243km/h
0-100km/h 5.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 3.4L/100km
Price $398,688 without COE