Prevailing industry winds being what they are, it should surprise no one that the Cayenne SUV is Porsche's second best-selling model in the U.S. — beaten only by the smaller, less expensive Macan SUV. Of those Cayennes, a respectable percentage — 12 percent in 2017 — have been hybrids, and Porsche expects that number to continue climbing. That's why the company is placing big bets on its electrification strategy, the latest example of which is the 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid.
If you missed it, let's recap the tech overview from a few weeks ago: Underhood, all Cayenne E-Hybrids get a 3.0-liter single twin-scroll turbo gasoline V6 making 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque plus an electric motor nestled between the flywheel and transmission. Net system output including the electric motor is a stout 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The power is routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission and delivered to the wheels via standard Porsche Traction Management all-wheel drive. Lest you think the Cayenne E-Hybrid isn’t a legitimate workhorse, it’s also capable of towing 7,000 pounds.
A liquid-cooled 14.1-kWh battery pack fits beneath the rear luggage floor, providing roughly 30 percent more electricity storage than the previous Cayenne E-Hybrid. All-electric range is listed as approximately 27 miles on the Euro test cycle at up to 83 mph — official U.S. EPA fuel economy and electric range figures aren’t out yet. Expect a fully drained battery to charge in 2.3 hours with a 230-volt, 32-amp connection and an optional 7.2-kW onboard charger or 7.8 hours using a 230-volt/10-amp connection and the standard 3.6-kW charger.
All E-Hybrid Cayennes will get a substantial amount of standard equipment, including the Sport Chrono package with adjustable driving modes: Drivers can choose EV (while the juice lasts), hybrid automatic, Sport and Sport Plus; Porsche Active Suspension Management is included, though the three-chamber air suspension runs extra, and Auxiliary Cabin Conditioning will heat/cool the interior while the Cayenne is plugged in to an outlet, helping preserve the charge for driving. A head-up display, Porsche’s first, is optional, delivering a full-color readout of speed, tachometer and navigation info in the driver’s sight.
Expect to shell out at least $80,950 for a Cayenne E-Hybrid, but note that the options list can drastically affect that sticker price. Deliveries are currently scheduled to start in early 2019.
Hosting a drive event in the south of France in May should require some sort of car-review handicap; backdrops ripped straight out of a Monet painting could make a rusty Pinto look good, so it feels a bit unfair to drop us into Porsches here. If you buy a Cayenne E-Hybrid and don’t live in the French countryside, you should probably move there to get the full effect.
Stuck in LA, Atlanta or even central Paris traffic, though, is where most Cayenne E-Hybrids will spend the majority of their time, and the low-speed villages along our drive route provided a good sense of how Porsche manages the trickiest part of hybrid operation: the balance between regenerative braking and hydraulic braking when coming to a stop. It’s the part of driving most Cayenne E-Hybrid buyers will need the most practice at, and I never got completely comfortable with the calibration during our day’s drive. The brakes generally seem to provide too little deceleration for the first portion of pedal travel, then too much, making it difficult to approach stop signs or traffic roundabouts smoothly. The truth is all hybrids and EVs suffer from this effect to some extent, and additional drive time would have familiarized this particular setup –- still, the learning curve is something to be aware of for drivers considering a Cayenne E-Hybrid as their first electrified vehicle.
Off the brakes, the hybrid Cayenne is every bit a Porsche, solid and unflappable on the smooth asphalt of our drive route. Of the four drive modes on our tester, H, or hybrid automatic, seemed to offer the most leisurely acceleration, while E (electric only, when charge is available) is brisk and silent –- it’s perfect for low-speed driving in town where the effortless torque and smoothness make for pleasant putzing. Switch to sport or sport-plus for a more traditional Porsche experience –- the gas engine is on at all times in those modes, including at idle, combining a nice internal combustion grumble with electric motor boost to augment the V6’s torque curve.
Unlike the brakes, the cabin is easy to get accustomed to, with typically impeccable Porsche construction and materials. Like other 2019 Cayennes, the E-Hybrid trades the former model’s imposing rows of center-console buttons for a clean, flat touch-pad arrangement with tactile feedback. The main center screen can be controlled via touch or a knob ahead of the gear shifter, and reconfigurable screen areas within the instrument cluster allow for customized displays showing navigation, fuel economy, night vision and more. Multiple external camera views can be displayed on the main screen, making it easier to see blind spots while parking and helping to keep those optional 22-inch wheels off the curb.
Interior space is a Cayenne high point — both front and rear seats provide ample space even with multiple six-footers on board. More importantly, from a cargo carrying perspective, you'd never know this Cayenne was a plug-in hybrid. The battery module is stashed well below the cargo load floor, and there's ample height and depth for luggage, dogs or whatever else you'd want to throw in the back.
As with the similarly electrified Panamera, assuming you’ve settled on a Cayenne the question becomes: Why wouldn’t you choose the Cayenne E-Hybrid? OK, the acid green accents maybe, but other than that? It’s plenty quick, delivers smoothness in EV mode that no internal-combustion SUV, Porsche or otherwise, can offer and starts at the affordable end of the Cayenne price spectrum. By all means keep a GT3 RS fueled with premium for track days; for shopping trips and daycare runs, the Cayenne E-Hybrid with a full battery delivers best.
On Sale: Late 2018
Base Price: $80,950
Powertrain: 3-liter turbo V6 with electric motor; 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, AWD
Output: 455 hp, 516 lb-ft torque (total system output)
Curb Weight: 5,060 lbs
0-60 MPH: 4.7 sec (mfr)
Fuel Economy: TBD(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Minimal compromise required to get a much more efficient Cayenne
Cons: Unintuitive transition between regenerative and hydraulic brakes