2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid second drive review: The best of both worlds
With a starting price of $79,900, the 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is positioned below the $82,900 Cayenne S. But after a long drive along Oregon's forest highways and coastal roads, I feel like this positioning has to be backwards.
Let's start by looking at the numbers: The Cayenne E-Hybrid is more powerful than its S-badged sibling. A 3.0-liter, turbocharged V6 engine provides the basis for this plug-in powertrain, with a 14.1-kilowatt-hour battery offering supplemental electric boost. The gas engine itself is good for 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, with the battery adding an extra 134 hp and 295 lb-ft. Kooky hybrid math translates that into a total system output of 455 hp and 516 lb-ft, which are increases of 21 and 111, respectively, over the twin-turbocharged Cayenne S.
Hard-throttle acceleration is an exciting experience in the E-Hybrid. The eight-speed automatic transmission executes shifts that are as quick as they are seamless. And even though this is a 5,060-pound SUV -- 606 pounds heavier than a Cayenne S -- Porsche says the E-Hybrid will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds. That makes the plug-in hybrid 0.2 seconds quicker than a standard Cayenne S, though when equipped with launch control, the non-hybrid version can allegedly do the 0-to-60 dash in 4.6 seconds. So be careful when arguing bragging rights, I guess.
Drive it in E-Power mode, and the Cayenne E-Hybrid can travel at speeds up to 83 mph under electric motivation alone. Of course, if you sustain that speed, you won't achieve anywhere near the E-Hybrid's full EV range. Official EPA numbers aren't available as of this writing, but the 14.1-kWh battery should be good for about 20-ish miles of all-electric driving, assuming you go easy on the throttle. Overall, expect the Cayenne E-Hybrid to return slightly better fuel economy than the Cayenne S in the city and highway cycles.
Another great benefit of the onboard battery: sailing. Say you're going 75 mph on the highway and lift your foot off the gas, the engine can shut off until power is needed again. On the long downhill stretches along my test route in Oregon, the Cayenne can coast without using the engine for long periods of time. This sailing effect is only available in the Cayenne's default Hybrid drive mode, which uses a combination of battery and engine power as needed, with the goal of operating as efficiently as possible. Still, never fear, if you mash the throttle at any time, the whole kit and caboodle wakes up and delivers impressive thrust. There's also the sport response button in the middle of the drive mode selector wheel, too, which is a sort of push-to-pass, "all systems go!" setting that turns your otherwise mild-mannered hybrid into an absolute rocket for 20 seconds.
Sport and Sport Plus settings keep the engine running at all times, ensuring the powertrain's full monty is available whenever you need it. These modes also channel energy back into the battery, mostly so all of that electric boost is ready to deploy at a moment's notice.
The added weight of the battery doesn't upset the Cayenne's excellent on-road manners. This thing is an absolute joy to drive. Porsche's Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers are standard on all E-Hybrid models, as is the Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control. The special guest star here is the optional rear-axle steering, which makes the Cayenne far more agile while cornering. Like other Porsches, the E-Hybrid's steering offers excellent weight, and makes this fattest Cayenne feel lighter than it actually is. That none of this comes at the expense of highway cruising comfort is even better. The Cayenne E-Hybrid can be a cushy road-tripper or an engaging backroad companion; the two are not mutually exclusive.
If there's one nit to pick in the hybrid's on-road demeanor, it's the brakes. The transition between regenerative and mechanical braking isn't seamless, and results in a herky-jerky stopping experience that's uncharacteristic for a Porsche. The brakes are initially grabby, but then the pedal sort of lightens up. It's kind of like what I've experienced in Cayennes with Porsche's Surface Coated Brakes. That is to say, not great. Oh, and the brakes -- like other exterior accents -- are painted acid green, though I'm told customers can forego this brightwork if desired.
The only other downside of the E-Hybrid is a slight reduction in cargo space, due to the battery being housed under the load floor. With the rear seats up, the E-Hybrid offers 22.7 cubic feet of space compared to the Cayenne S' 27.2. Fold the back bench and the plug-in Porsche's cargo hold swells to 56.8 cubes. Again, that's a slight reduction compared to the 60.3 cubic feet of the Cayenne S, itself one of the less-capacious offerings in the midsize luxury SUV segment.
Aside from that, the E-Hybrid's interior carries over unchanged from other Cayenne models, save for battery-specific gauges and acid green accents in the gauge cluster. Supportive leather chairs keep passengers snug and comfy up front, while the back bench has enough room for two or three passengers, depending on their size. Porsche's typically endless array of interior options are on hand, with myriad colors and trims available (for a price).
Front and center in the Cayenne's cockpit is the Porsche Communication Management infotainment system, housed on a super-responsive, 12.3-inch touchscreen. The home screen is customizable, the graphics are crisp, and Apple CarPlay and a Wi-Fi hotspot are included free of charge. (Sorry, Android users.)
Elsewhere on the tech front, the E-Hybrid can be had with Porsche's new InnoDrive adaptive cruise control system which can automatically raise or lower the Cayenne's speed for curves, inclines or speed limits by using the GPS navigation data. This driver-assistance tech works with active lane-keeping assist to make highway driving even more effortless, and when you've reached your destination, the Remote Park Assist can help you squeeze into even the tightest spaces.
Taken as a whole, there aren't any real downsides to the E-Hybrid package. It keeps the same on-road rhythms as other Cayennes, meaning it's the best-driving SUV in its class, without question. For folks already interested in the Cayenne, the E-Hybrid offers more performance than the S with some eco-centric benefits. And hey, it costs a little less, too.
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