Latest Cayenne Hybrid
In 2003 when Porsche introduced the Cayenne SUV to America, many enthusiasts felt this sports-car sacrilege would be a death knell for the legendary German brand. Sixteen years later Porsche is as strong as ever, and not only does the automaker still offer an exciting sports car lineup, the Cayenne has moved into its third generation touting more performance than ever before. And now, in addition to high performance, the Cayenne adds a high level of efficiency with the introduction of the next-generation plug-in Cayenne E-Hybrid.
Porsche is no stranger to the concept of the high-performance hybrid. The most powerful version of the Porsche Panamera is a hybrid, and the legendary 918 featured a gas-electric powertrain with stunning results. The company did offer the Cayenne as a plug-in hybrid in the previous generation, but this new version possesses considerably better efficiency and performance.
Currently the Cayenne lineup offers a single hybrid: the Cayenne E-Hybrid. If previous generations —and the hybrid lineup in the Panamera — are any indication, expect even more powerful versions joining the lineup at some point.
Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
With a starting price of $79,900, the Cayenne E-Hybrid comes well equipped with dual-zone climate control, a particulate/pollen filter, leather-trimmed front seats with 8-way power adjustment, four USB charging ports, park assist with a rearview camera, a Sport Chrono Package, Apple CarPlay and a premium audio system with 10 speakers. Also standard are LED headlights and taillights, 19-inch wheels and signature Acid-Green brake calipers. As with other Porsches, the list of optional features for the Cayenne E-Hybrid is extensive — and priced accordingly.
Under the Hood
The Cayenne E-Hybrid derives power from a 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder engine producing 335 horsepower teamed with an electric motor that produces 134 horsepower. The electric motor generates 43 percent more power than the previous-generation Cayenne PHEV. Total output of the hybrid system is 455 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque at a very low 1000 rpm. An onboard 3.6 kW charger is standard; quicker charging is possible with an optional 7.2 kW charger.
Hybrids and SUVs are not typically associated with high performance, but this is a Porsche. The Cayenne E-Hybrid sprints to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and has a top track speed — yes, a track speed for a hybrid SUV — of 157 mph. And if utility is more important than performance, this potent powertrain gives the Cayenne E-Hybrid a maximum towing capacity of 7,716 pounds. All Cayenne E-Hybrids are equipped with a new 8-speed quick-shifting Tiptronic S transmission as well as full-time all-wheel drive.
Porsche has not announced fuel-economy numbers or electric-only range for the Cayenne E-Hybrid; however, based on experience during a press drive, we observed that a full electric charge will provide approximately 21 miles of electric-only operation. After driving the E-Hybrid several hundred miles including freeway cruising as well as aggressive runs on two-lane winding roads, the trip computer still displayed an average of almost 29 mpg — an impressive number for such a large high-performance vehicle.
Sport Chrono Package
With the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s standard Sport Chrono Package, drivers select from four drive modes via a dial on the steering wheel to manage power according to the particular driving conditions. With E-Power selected, the Cayenne will operate as a fully electric vehicle as long as there is charge left in the batteries. Acceleration is more than adequate — the electric motor provides almost 300 lb-ft of torque from idle — and the Cayenne will continue to operate as an EV up to 83 mph. This mode is ideal for cruising through small towns or sitting in rush hour traffic. Other mode options are Hybrid Auto, Sport and Sport Plus. Hybrid mode functions like a standard hybrid vehicle, using electric power when there isn’t much load and adding in the gasoline engine when needed. Sport mode uses the electric motor for additional boost when available.
Sport Plus mode is our favorite — not only does it provide maximum boost and power, it also charges the batteries. During our drive we used Sport Plus on winding roads in central Oregon, and when we would arrive at a small town there would be adequate charge in the batteries to switch to E-Power for a silent run down main street. Once we were out of town and back on curvy roads it was back to Sport Plus. Repeat as needed.
The new Cayenne has a large, readable display screen nicely integrated into the dashboard. Quick access to navigation, phone, media and other primary items gets handled via permanent controls on the left side of the screen. Adding to the high-tech look of the Cayenne’s cockpit, the center console surrounds the gear shift with hard buttons redundant to the display screen as well as climate control settings and other drive controls. Volume is controlled by a roller knob hidden behind the shifter — it can take some time to remember its location.
Seats are available with multiple adjustments that function well to obtain proper seating position. The cushions are a bit stiff; however, they offer decent support — after many hours behind the wheel we returned without any fatigue or stiffness.
The Cayenne is not a small vehicle, which is a definite plus for rear-seat passengers. With plenty of legroom and headroom, the E-Hybrid allows two adult passengers to travel in complete comfort during a long road trip. The middle seat is a bit tight but certainly usable in a pinch. Seats fold flat to create a rather large cargo space.
The Cayenne E-Hybrid’s rear hatch opens wide for easy loading and unloading. Those equipped with air suspension can be lowered by the push of a button in the cargo area to optimize load-in height. The E-Hybrid has slightly less space than the standard Cayenne — the batteries sit beneath the cargo floor, raising it up a few inches. That said, most will never notice any difference and there’s still plenty of room for several bags, luggage or other cargo.
On the Road
The Cayenne E-Hybrid has multiple personalities behind the wheel, which makes it ideal for many driving situations. When first setting out the mode defaults to E-Power (if there is battery available), and as we made our way through the streets of Eugene, Oregon, the Cayenne moved along silently and smoothly. Around town there is no need for strong acceleration; the electric motor provides plenty of power. And when we transitioned to a freeway onramp, E-Power mode easily got the large SUV up to highway speeds.
Once on the freeway we switched to Hybrid Auto, which provides the best mix of efficiency and performance. Gauges indicate when the gas engine engages, which is so seamless and quiet that without the tachometer coming to life one would never notice it had happened. Overall the ride is quiet and comfortable — as a high-priced SUV should feel.
During our press drive we also had the opportunity to enjoy the Cayenne E-Hybrid on some very winding two-lane roads through central Oregon. When switched to Sport Plus, the Cayenne takes on a completely different character. The engine roars, digs in with plenty of torque and provides rapid acceleration to make passing slower vehicles a breeze. With excellent grip, precise steering and even optional 4-wheel steering, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is a blast to drive on back roads. However, this vehicle does weigh more than 5,000 pounds — as speeds increase the mass becomes more noticeable, and eventually physics will win.
Right for You?
As the American automotive landscape continues to shift in favor of SUVs and increased electrification, it’s gratifying to see Porsche embracing these trends with a vehicle that is still all Porsche. This new generation Cayenne E-Hybrid is fittingly the best the company has offered, with performance on a level expected from Porsche while at the same time providing impressive efficiency and plentiful utility. The Cayenne E-Hybrid can be best described as the Porsche of hybrid SUVs — high praise indeed.
Pros: Excellent performance; impressive efficiency; no loss of utility.
Cons: Controls can be overwhelming; no Android Auto; easily optioned to approach $100,000.
Bottom Line: Cayenne E-Hybrid brings a great blend of efficiency, performance and utility to the premium SUV market.