Three seconds flat, 11.3 seconds at 120.1 mph. That’s the current record for the quickest SUV MotorTrend has ever tested, set by the 641-hp Lamborghini Urus just over two months ago. Already, it’s in danger. By a hybrid. Meet the 2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid.
With 670 hp and 663 lb-ft combined from its gasoline-electric powertrain, the Turbo S E-Hybrid out-muscles the all-gas Lambo by 29 hp and 36 lb-ft, making it the most powerful production SUV we’ve driven. It gets there with the Cayenne Turbo’s twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 making 541 hp and 567 lb-ft and the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s electric motor making 134 hp and 295 lb-ft, blended together with lots of software and delivered to all four wheels all the time. Porsche says it’ll hit 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, but forget I even mentioned that number. The standard Cayenne Turbo does it in 3.2 seconds.
You’re right, the electric motor, 14.1-kW-hr battery, and the fat cables connecting them add weight. Enough weight to counterbalance the 129 hp and 96 lb-ft advantage? Not likely. Enough to stop it from becoming the first SUV we’ve ever tested that hits 60 mph in under 3 seconds? Maybe.
It’s hard to know from behind the wheel. Like the new Cayenne Turbo, the Turbo S E-Hybrid has gone to a top-notch finishing school. When we pitted the Cayenne Turbo against the Urus in our Super (Stupid) SUV Showdown, I wrote “The Porsche is like driving the Lamborghini without setting your hair on fire, and where’s the fun in that? It’s like they both went to the same finishing school, but the Porsche was a straight-A student and the Lamborghini was all, ‘C’s get degrees!’” The Turbo S E-Hybrid is no different in that regard, it’s just quicker.
Rather than the 911 GT2 RS philosophy, it’s the more similar and more obvious Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid philosophy. Ridiculously quick, yes, but something of a sleeper. It’s all E-Hybrid badges and typical SUV shape. Most people will have no idea how quick it is, the kinds of supercars it can dust at a stoplight. Sure, it’s got a Porsche crest, but it’s still an SUV, right?
You’d think that from the driver’s seat. You sit up high, as you do in an SUV. The driving experience is somewhat disconnected from the world, isolated like a luxury sedan, not a hot rod. Speed builds up almost without your noticing. 80 mph feels like walking. It doesn’t feel fast until 130, not that I’d know. Pulling out of a parking lot, you have to look at the speedometer if you’re even a little heavy on the throttle, because you’ll be doing freeway speeds in seconds. Floor it, and you’re likely to get cited for “exhibition of speed,” or whatever the constabulary’s euphemism for accelerating too hard is in your state.
Thankfully, it’s not just a sledgehammer. All Turbo S E-Hybrids come standard with all the equipment needed to handle that kind of power. Carbon-ceramic brakes, active anti-roll bars, torque vectoring, air suspension, active dampers, and the Sport Chrono package are all standard. Rear steering is optional if you really like handling or being able to make tighter U-turns. So is a sport exhaust system, which is barely loud enough to hear inside the car, where you mostly get intake noise instead. 21-inch wheels and sticky summer tires are the norm, but you can get 22s if you want.
If you really want to go nuts with it, though, the squashed-roof Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe is billed as the sportier of the two. It gets three different lightweighting packages that can knock 70 pounds off the curb weight, likely enough to offset the battery in the trunk. Much of it comes from the best possible place, exchanging the panoramic sunroof for a carbon-fiber piece, thereby lowering the center of gravity.
Speed parts aside, you won’t forget it’s a hybrid, and not just because of the Acid Green brake calipers. The engine doesn’t fire when you start the vehicle, and the default E-Power mode will cruise you around on pure electric propulsion until the battery runs out or you stomp on the throttle (Porsche hasn’t provided an EV range estimate, but figure around 20 miles). Turbo S E-Hybrids get the faster 7.2-kW charger standard, so you’ll have a full battery any time you plug in for two and a half hours. There’s also Hybrid Auto mode, plus submodes that allow you to recharge the battery, or at least maintain whatever charge level it’s already at (Sport and Sport Plus modes also charge the battery so it’ll always be ready to add a performance boost).
Unlike many hybrids and most EVs, the Cayenne hybrids use an eight-speed automatic rather than a continuously variable transmission, so you feel it shifting gears under electric power. Mostly, it’s the interruption of acceleration you feel, something we’ve forgotten about as automatic transmissions have gotten smoother and more seamless in recent years (or have been reduced to single-gear designs for EVs).
What you’ll really feel, and the only thing that’s really objectionable about the Turbo S E-Hybrid (and the less powerful Cayenne E-Hybrid) is the brake pedal. Some automakers have done great work making their hybrid and EV regenerative brakes feel like traditional mechanical brakes. Porsche is not one of them. The brake pedal travel is very short, and the initial application is very grabby. Braking smoothly requires an extremely light touch, though if you’re light enough, you can actually feel the exact point in the pedal travel when it switches from regenerative to mechanical braking. The blending between the two could use more work; there’s an obvious increase in stopping power when the mechanical brakes take over that’ll ruin your perfect limousine stop. The actual stopping power, regardless of pedal feel, is phenomenal, which you want it to be with this kind of power.
Buying a 670-hp plug-in hybrid SUV to save the Earth while hauling ass is the exact kind of moral licensing I can get behind, and the new Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is as much the ultimate embodiment of that as it is a mouthful. If you can, too, you can get one early next year for $163,150 (or $165,650 for the Coupe model).
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