So – 575hp supercharged V8 or 680hp plug-in hybrid? Dan decides…
By Dan Prosser / Sunday, November 28, 2021 / Loading comments
Not so long ago, the average high-performance SUV was a rudimentary brute. It would have a meaty V8 beneath its bonnet, wider tyres within its wheel arches and hefty anti-roll bars down below. But like every other category of performance car, the fast 4×4 has gradually become more and more sophisticated – perhaps none more so than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid.
Here is a car with a 4.0-litre V8 and turbos nestled within its ‘vee’ for ultra-sharp throttle response. Its four-wheel drive system is capable of shuffling torque not only fore and aft but between the rear wheels to ramp agility right the way up. With an 18kWh battery, plug-in capability and a 136hp motor mounted between the engine and gearbox, it can run on electricity alone for up to 25 miles at a time, emitting precisely nothing from its four exhaust tips.
On and on it goes. Suspension is by three-chamber air springs all round with adaptive damping, capable of adjusting the ride height to suit the terrain or driving style. There are 48-volt active anti-roll bars to keep body roll in check in corners without banjaxing the ride quality, plus standard-fit carbon ceramic brakes gripped by 10-piston calipers. Specify your Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid the way Porsche GB has its press demonstrator and it will have rear-wheel steering too (and cost in excess of £146,000…).
With 680hp the range-topping Cayenne is breathtakingly fast, reaching 62mph from standstill in 3.8 seconds and not stopping until it hits 183mph. But all of that componentry and capability comes at a staggering cost, and in this instance I’m not talking about money. At almost 2,500kg, the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is alarmingly heavy.
So the important question is whether or not all of that actually represents true progress. The Porsche is altogether cleverer, more tech-laden and better future-proofed than a conventional kind of performance SUV, but it isn’t yet clear that all that wizardry really equates to a better ownership proposition, or that it makes the car more enjoyable to drive.
It would be unfair to describe the Range Rover Sport SVR as one of those old-timer performance SUVs with a bruising V8, fat tyres and fatter anti-roll bars, but as it rumbles noisily to a stop alongside the Cayenne, it does suddenly appear outmoded, like seeing mate chuck a Nokia 3210 onto the bar top beside your iPhone 13 Pro. Land Rover will of course close that gap when the new Range Rover Sport arrives next year, most probably with some of the voguish chassis and powertrain technologies that have already appeared on the new Range Rover.
This, in the company’s own words, is the ‘fastest, most powerful and dynamic Land Rover ever produced.’ And yet it’s still very much a Land Rover, so rather than roll on grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber like the Porsche, it wears all-season tyres (though road-biased Continental SportContact 5s are available optionally). There are air springs and an active locking rear differential, but hydraulic rather than 48-volt anti-roll bars, no carbon ceramic brakes, no rear-steer and certainly no plug-in capability or zero emissions mode. Its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is a development of the AJ-V8 that was introduced six years before the original Cayenne was launched, developing 575hp in this installation.
The SVR is almost 200kg lighter than the Turbo S E-Hybrid, and at £123,900 even this farewell Ultimate Edition variant is £8,000 cheaper than the Porsche before options. It’s very nearly as quick as the Cayenne, taking only seven tenths of a second longer to hit 62mph and giving up only 7mph at the top end.
Neither one does the cosy country pub thing when you climb into their cabins – no wood veneers or quilted leather here – both instead feeling more like a vodka bar with acres of pale leather and shimmering touchscreens. It’s actually the Land Rover that feels more overtly sporting inside, thanks mostly to its thinly padded bucket-style seats and flashes of glossy carbon fibre.
You drive the Cayenne and suspect the SVR couldn’t possibly trouble it. With its air springs and anti-roll bars that can decouple when driving in a straight line its ride quality is good, though not quite as pillowy soft as it might be – containing all that mass requires plenty of support at each corner, no matter how much technology you’ve thrown at it. But the Porsche is freakishly agile for one so heavy, its body scarcely leaning over in corners, its steering astonishingly responsive and its cornering grip great enough to make you laugh out loud.
And of course it feels absurdly quick in a straight line, too. This car barrels along a B-road like charging rhino, thundering along at a rate that would make a typical Boxster driver sweat. On an undulating road you do feel the weight of the thing, but mostly you’re just amazed at what it can do.
And the Land Rover? It’s mightily impressive as well. There is a more brittle quality to its ride, but it too has excellent body control, decent agility given its height and more straight-line speed than you could ever reasonably expect of a big 4×4. The V8 is dripping with character, delivering its supercharged power the instant you call for it and in the linear, building way of such engines, all the while spewing a cacophonous volley fire of noise at the scenery behind it.
Dynamically it gives up so little to the Porsche. Its steering doesn’t feel as immediate and its brake pedal isn’t quite so reassuring, and on all-terrain tyres it doesn’t generate the same nailed-on cornering grip. But given one is a Porsche and the other a Land Rover, and two more diametrically opposed mass market car makers you’d struggle to name, the gap between them out on a meandering B-road is nothing like as chasmic as you might imagine.
Of course – and on these tyres at least – the SVR will do things off-road the Turbo S E-Hybrid couldn’t dream of doing. But against all my expectations, what I found I missed most while driving the Land Rover was watching the battery charge level climb while sitting on the motorway, choosing just the right moment when coming into town to switch to electric mode, then slipping through the city and arriving home all but undetected.
That’s the Porsche’s best trick – being one of the most catastrophically accelerative and agile SUVs ever built one moment, then the virtuous zero emissions plug-in hybrid the next. For where I live, that’s a better party piece than the Land Rover’s baby Nascar soundtrack.
Sharper, faster, more comfortable and cleaner than the Range Rover Sport SVR, the ultra-modern Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is the better performance SUV overall. But there really isn’t a huge amount in it and when the Land Rover’s all-new replacement arrives late next year, the tables may yet be turned through the full 180. I look forward to finding out.
SPECIFICATION | 2021 RANGE ROVER SPORT SVR ULTIMATE EDITION
Engine: 5,000cc supercharged V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000-6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 176mph
Weight: 2,302kg DIN
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE CAYENNE TURBO S E-HYBRID
Engine: 3,996cc, V8 twin-turbo, plus 17.9kWh (gross) electric motor
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic S, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected] (engine [email protected],750-6,000rpm)
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500-5,000rpm (engine [email protected],100-4,500rpm)
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
Top speed: 183mph
Weight: 2,490kg (DIN)
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