Christoph Oerleke helped launch the first Porsche Cayenne in 2002 and has worked on every iteration since – now as product line manager for the current car. After 25 years at Weissach, does he not fancy putting his stamp on a 911? “Not really. The Cayenne is a greater challenge for me. It has to tick so many boxes, from driving on rough terrain to a racetrack, and still be a comfortable car to use every day.”
Nowhere is this breadth of ability broader than in the plug-in E-Hybrid models, which combine mighty performance with electrified efficiency. This most practical Porsche has even won the top award for towing from the Caravan and Motorhome Club. You can’t say that about a 911.
The 470hp Cayenne E-Hybrid (£79,800) debuted earlier this year; now it’s the turn of the 519hp S (£84,400) and 739hp Turbo (£130,300). However, in the interest of consumer journalism, I’ve jumped straight into the flagship Turbo Coupe with GT Package (£154,000), which replaces the non-hybrid 640hp Turbo GT – currently the fastest SUV around the Nürburgring.
Ready for the ‘Ring
Will the Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid with GT Package (henceforth shortened simply to ‘GT’ to preserve printing ink) attempt to break Porsche’s own ’Ring record? Christoph won’t say, but with 10mm lowered suspension, PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes, wider front wheels, optional Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres and 100kg less weight than a regular Turbo E-Hybrid, it surely stands a good chance.
You can order your Cayenne as a square-backed SUV or more stylish Coupe – with the exception of the GT, which only comes in the sleeker body style. Both versions are roomy enough for five adults and crammed with tech, including a curved digital display for the driver and an optional screen for the front passenger: cleverly tinted so they can browse the internet or watch YouTube without distracting you from the road. The dashboard-mounted toggle for the Tiptronic S automatic gearbox doesn’t seem very ‘Porsche’, but it’s a minor quibble.
There is no off-roading – nor indeed caravan-towing – on today’s agenda and, while our route will eventually lead to a racetrack, I first need to escape the maelstrom of rush-hour Barcelona. Thankfully, the Cayenne’s enlarged 25.9kWh battery, which charges in 2hr 30min using a home wallbox and offers 45 miles of electric-only range, allows for calm, clean progress through the suburbs.
A heavy hitter
Heading north on dual carriageways towards the mountains of Montserrat, I switch into Sport mode and the 4.0-litre V8 engine wakes up with a baritone snarl. Aided by the ever-ready torque of the e-motor, the GT overtakes lesser traffic in an instant, its new two-chamber air suspension combining a supple ride with reassuring stability at speed.
As the roads start to buck and weave, even the GT’s standard Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV) can’t fully compensate for its 2,495kg kerb weight – some 275kg heavier than the outgoing Turbo GT, thanks to all that hybrid hardware. It’s brutally rapid and resolutely unflappable, but the sense of urgent immediacy, of driving a family-sized 911 GT3, has been eroded a little.
Ironically, at the brilliant Parcmotor Castellolí circuit, originally designed for motorcycle racing, the GT really comes into its own. Its mighty 10-piston brakes hold firm where the steel rotors of a regular Turbo start to fade, and testing the limits of grip – rarely possible on the road – reveals the benign brilliance of its chassis. Here, where most luxury SUVs would be far beyond their comfort zone, the GT is hedonistic, uproarious fun.
From wafting silently through the city to smoking sideways around a track, the GT certainly fulfils a broad brief. But I’d probably spend half the money on a standard Cayenne E-Hybrid, then buy a Cayman GTS 4.0 sports car with the change. That’s an even better way to tick every box.
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