We’ve just driven the new Porsche Panamera. And the 2010 Porsche Cayenne. And the new Volkswagen Touareg. Well, we’ve driven one of the engines they’ll all share, at least. This current model Touareg is fitted with the new hybrid powertrain VW has developed with Porsche for all these new cars, and which Audi will use in a slightly modified form in the Q7. It’s a crucial new engine; it’s our first taste of how Porsche’s first ever saloon will drive, and it has to be good if the new Touareg, Cayenne and Panamera are to succeed, particularly in the vital but now very demanding US market.
So how does it work?
The combustion engine comes from the Audi S4; six cylinders, three litres, supercharged. It makes 328bhp and 324lb ft. An electric motor sits between the V6 and the eight-speed Aisin automatic gearbox; it’s powered by, and acts as a generator for, a nickel metal-hydride battery which occupies the spare wheel well. The AC motor can power the car unassisted up to 30mph and for over a mile, or it can assist the V6 and deliver a combined 369bhp and 405lb ft.
Pretty impressive figures…
Yes, and so are the claimed acceleration figures of under 6.8 seconds to 60mph and a top speed of 148mph; expect the lighter Panamera to go harder. Emissions will be 'under 210g/km' and consumption better than 31mpg, the kind of numbers you’d expect from a six-cylinder saloon, not a 2.4-tonne SUV.
They’re partly due to a disengagement clutch which allows the engine to be stopped completely if you come off the throttle at speeds of up to 90mph, giving you hybrid benefits outside town. But to compensate for the 175kg of extra weight there’s no spare wheel, no low-range transfer case and a lighter Torsen centre diff.
So how will my new Panamera/Cayenne/Touareg hybrid drive?
Very well. It does the usual, eerie, hybrid silent-running trick at low speeds, and maintains it for an impressively long time. When the V6 cuts in it does so exceptionally smoothly; blending petrol and electric power is the one of the toughest tasks when engineering a hybrid.
Nail the gas from standstill and with both motors working the acceleration is ferocious; it feels faster than those figures suggest, and is easily a match even for the daft R50 V10 diesel in the current Touareg. The only real issue seems to be brake feel; Porsche prides itself on the precision and consistency of its controls, and because it needs to combine regenerative and conventional hydraulic braking, this system currently offers neither.
And mad, Back-to-the-Future-style graphics too, I hope?
What hybrid would be complete without them? The dials on the production Touareg, to be launched at this year’s 2009 Frankfurt motor show in September, will be standard, but all the usual graphics showing power flows between the components and amount of fuel used and energy regenerated are displayed on the sat-nav screen.
The VW Touareg Hybrid is very good. The prototype we drove is essentially the finished product; VW’s engineers say there’s more work to be done on the brake feel, thankfully, and that Porsche versions will differ only very slightly, and probably only in the control software for the gearbox.
Cost will be a consideration; the hybrid system costs VW upwards of £4000, but it admits it can’t pass all of that on to customers. But regardless of how much fuel you save, and whether you have it in a Touareg, a Cayenne or a Panamera, it’s good enough to choose for its own sake.
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