I know it’s strange to begin a motoring review with a short essay on the nuances of human nature’s desire to balance a spectrum of extremes as summarized by ancient Eastern philosophy. But bear with me for bit as I work to find a segue into the new Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid – something that is all about Italian design and modern ingenuity.
But before we go there, we need to go back to 700 B.C.E China. It was about this time that references to the concept of Yin and Yang started to appear. In very simplistic terms, Yin and Yang is the principle of opposite yet complementary energies. Things like night and day, which are two opposite things in their nature but can’t exist without the other. The Yin and Yang diagram actually came from the tracking of the sun’s movement over the year and includes the cycle of the sun, four seasons and became the foundation of the Chinese calendar. Even today, thousands of years after its inception, it is a mindboggling profound concept. Of course, like a lot of profound ancient wisdom, modern Western culture has appropriated it into a relationship summary (“we’re so like Yin and Yang, but it just works”) and an excuse for hippies to tie dye their t-shirts and drop acid. But this principle is also an important basis for understanding why the new Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is such an important release.
You see, the E-Hybrid Cayenne combines a three-litre V6 engine (250 kW/340 hp) with an electric engine (100 kW/136 hp) to generate a whopping 340 kW (462 hp) while achieving a combined fuel consumption of just 3.4 – 3.2 l/100 km. You could drive up to a distance of 44 kilometres and speed of 135 kilometres per hour on electricity alone and if you want to avoid the pump as much as possible the E-Hybrid’s plug in enables and comes with an AC universal charger. You can also time the charging to run at certain times to take advantage of cheaper off-peak times.
But I think the real magic is when you just let the power sources work together and combine to provide more power and better consumption. At lower more refined speeds you could be running purely on electric, at an instant though if you need it the 6 cylinders of combustion magic will kick in. The transition is just so smooth that it all seems like the same fluid source but of course, they are from different worlds. Night and day some might say.
The concept of a hybrid powertrain of course isn’t new but there is something about how Porsche have pulled these very opposite elements together to create something so Yin and Yang. Two opposites that just seem built for each other and work together as a single seamless entity. It’s like watching Mad Max and the Jetsons simultaneously on two screens side by side and it all making sense as one compelling story.
While the powertrain situation is so amazing that it will get you questioning certain aspects of life, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is more than cylinders, batteries and electro-magnetized copper.
Translating this energy into usable movement is an 8 speed Tiptronic S transmission, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and an active hang-on all-wheel drive with “an electronically regulated, map-controlled multi-plate clutch”. In English, this means that the ride is totally responsive up and down the gear shifts, and the handling is more like something out of a low two-seater than something that has a trunk capacity of 645 litres and can tow a 3.5 tonne trailer.
So again, to draw on this Yin and Yang thesis there is another element of contrary forces in the fact that this is a 5 door SUV but has all of the driving and performance characteristics of a sports car. You can be over 6 foot if you want, you can carry other people and you can carry luggage and all without feeling like you are driving a granny flat.
Inside there is enough formed and sculptured leather to give a Fendi handbag anxiety issues and at the centre of it all is one very wide, widescreen touchscreen display. The command centre if you like for your leather-bound cockpit (That sentence sounded better in my head). For any serious motoring anorak though, this screen is a portal into a world of vehicle information, battery data, driving efficiency and settings that might keep you occupied for 30 minutes before you realised that you haven’t left the driveway, which is off course a pity as this is really a fun car to drive.
I’m not actually sure if the E-Hybrid is the answer to understanding life in a way that 700 B.C.E Taoism was to guide us into doing but I think it comes close.