Second Drive

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Second Drive | A more potent plug-in

Near-S performance at a near-S price.

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  • Engine
    3.0L V-6 / Electric Motor
  • Power
    455 HP / 516 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • 0-60 Time
    4.7 Seconds
  • Top Speed
    157 MPH
  • Drivetrain
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    5,060 LBS
  • Towing
    7,716 LBS
  • Seating
    2 + 3
  • Cargo
    27.2 Cu. Ft.
  • MPG
  • Base Price

EUGENE, Ore. – The 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid may have lost the S in its name, but its performance potential has actually been increased from its predecessor. The name change, or letter deletion, comes from Porsche's decision to better define this plug-in hybrid’s space within Cayenne lineup, making it less of an outlier. It now highlights its performance advantage over the base model but acknowledges the supremacy of the non-hybrid S.

The 2019 E-Hybrid builds upon its plug-in predecessor by using the 3.0-liter single-turbo V6 from the base Cayenne, which makes 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque and, as in all Cayennes, pairs it with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. In combination with a new, more powerful electric motor, the E-Hybrid makes 455 horsepower, on tap between 5,250 and 6,400 rpm, and 516 lb-ft of torque, which is available from an ultra-low 1,000 rpm to 3,750 revs.

Compared to the previous Cayenne S E-Hybrid plug-in that had 416 total system horsepower, the new E-Hybrid’s V6 is now turbocharged rather than supercharged, but the bigger change in the powertrain is a more robust electric motor. The electric motor makes 134 horsepower versus 95 previously. It’s fed by a 14.1-kWh battery pack, up from 10.8 kWh, yet the pack is no larger and tucks under the cargo floor.

The E-Hybrid actually surpasses the output of the Cayenne S, which uses a different V6,but because it weighs 600 pounds more, the non-hybrid maintains its performance advantage. That said, the actual performance disadvantage is minor. The E-Hybrid needs 4.7 seconds to sprint from zero to 60 mph (using launch control, part of the standard Sport Chrono package), a tenth slower than the Cayenne S with Sport Chrono. The S is also a tenth faster in the quarter, at 13.2 seconds. And the S’s top speed (164 mph) also bests the E-Hybrid’s 157. The E-Hybrid is well ahead of the standard model, however, which reaches 60 mph in 5.6 seconds using Launch Control, needs 14.2 seconds to complete the quarter-mile, and tops out at 152 mph.

There’s no word yet from the EPA on the E-Hybrid’s EV range, although when we fired up the car with a fully charged battery, the in-dash readout said there were 25 miles of EV range available, so that gives you a ballpark idea. The previous model was EPA rated at 14 miles. Recharging via the standard 3.6-kW unit using a 220-volt source should take around six hours, while the $840 optional 7.2-kW charger cuts that time to between two and three hours.

Unusual for a hybrid, the default driving mode for the Cayenne is full electric, here called E-Power, although the V6 will fire up if you push through the detent in the accelerator travel – necessary for anything more than gentle acceleration. To help identify that point, there’s a circular readout inset into the speedometer showing how much accelerator travel you have before you awaken the gas engine.

Curiously, E-Power mode has its own launch-control feature: Hold the brake pedal with your left foot and the accelerator with your right, keeping it just before the detent, for maximum electric acceleration. It sounds fun, but it’s hard to hold the accelerator shy of the detent, and maximum thrust is far from Ludicrous Mode. The Cayenne can, however, drive solely on battery power at speeds up to 83 mph, given sufficient battery charge and judicious application of the go pedal. When electric motoring at much lower speeds – under 20 mph or so – the E-Hybrid broadcasts a strange, sci-fi sound to alert pedestrians to its presence, although it’s not really audible inside the cabin.

As in other Sport-Chrono-equipped Porsches, a dial on the steering wheel provides easy access to the main drive modes, which besides E-Power are Hybrid Auto, Sport, and Sport Plus. Two sub-modes, E-Hold and E-Charge, also are available within Hybrid Auto but they’re under the Hybrid menu in the PCM screen and therefore less readily accessible. Hybrid Auto seeks “overall efficiency,” including by factoring in the distance to the destination if one is set in the navigation system. Within Hybrid Auto, the driver can more actively control the proceedings by selecting E-Hold to preserve battery charge for later, or E-Charge to more quickly replenish the battery using the engine.

What’s most impressive about the hybrid mode is how utterly seamless it is. The Cayenne E-Hybrid’s analog tachometer is the sole indicator that the engine has switched off – which it often will do even at highway speeds when the driver lifts off the accelerator – or when it fires back up. The V6’s largely silent operation is also a factor, but the smoothness of the transitions is remarkable nonetheless. Pull away from a stop and accelerator response is linear, the motor bolstering low-speed response and masking any turbo lag.

The Cayenne E-Hybrid’s Sport and Sport Plus modes both keep the engine running at all times. Sport uses the engine to maintain a minimum of 30 percent battery charge to ensure there’s electric boost when summoned. Sport Plus more aggressively recharges the batteries to 30 percent, and features more aggressive transmission and suspension programming. Pushing the button at the center of the mode dial instantly activates a 20-second boost mode and drops the transmission into a lower gear. A visual countdown pops up in the instrument cluster to let you know when the extra juice will expire – but you can always hit the button again to restart the party.

The cars we drove were equipped with Power Steering Plus, as most E-Hybrids will be. (The feature is bundled with the Premium Package or with the available four-wheel steering, and is also a standalone option.) It offers lower efforts at parking-lot speeds but doesn’t affect steering effort at higher speeds, and neither do the various modes. No matter: Effort levels are pleasant, and the Cayenne’s crisp steering is one of its best dynamic qualities.

Optional ($3,590) Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control – i.e., active anti-roll bars – was on one of the two examples we drove, and it all but eliminates body roll. Both E-Hybrids had the optional air springs ($2,170), and PASM adaptive dampers are standard. The suspension provides three levels of firmness, and even the softest setting felt tied-down as the E-Hybrid confidently coursed through the fast sweepers of our drive route in the mountains of southwest Oregon. The firmest setting faithfully transmits the pavement surface, but Oregon’s smooth roads didn’t provide a meaningful test of ride harshness. We can report that the firmest setting effectively squashed squat and dive that were somewhat evident although hardly bothersome in the softest setting. Overall the Cayenne E-Hybrid does a great job of masking its heft, although it’s hard not to think the Cayenne S would be even more athletic.

The E-Hybrids we drove were equipped with the standard brakes, with cast-iron rotors. We found them a bit tricky to modulate as they blend friction and regenerative braking. Two optional brake-system upgrades are available: Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB), in which the iron rotors get a special coating that minimizes brake dust and extends the life of the rotors, and Porsche’s ceramic composite rotors (PCCB), which save a few pounds and better resist fade. The hybrid’s calipers are acid green, as is the outline of the exterior nameplates. But buyers can opt for gray calipers or yellow ones if ceramic composite rotors are ordered.

The slightly odd brake feel is only noticeable during gentle stops and is one of the only areas (beyond the EV operation) in which the E-Hybrid’s otherness is evident. Porsche has really succeeded in making this model seem not like an oddball or an outlier. For instance, the E-Hybrid is rated to tow the same 7,716 pounds as other Cayennes. It can also be equipped with a new trailering assistant that can reverse for you when hitching up.

Driver's will be able to remotely check battery charge status and pre-condition the cabin through an app, but the tech that drivers will most regularly interact with is the high-res 12.3-inch central touchscreen and the new touch-sensitive controls on the center console. The former is highly configurable, offering as many as six different information pods, and can be manipulated via touch inputs or by using the small rotary controller. The center console buttons offer haptic feedback, and there are also welcome physical controls for interior temperature and fan speed, and a volume knob. The whole business is fairly user-friendly, as these things go, and would be more so once an owner sets the screen displays to his or her liking.

There are no bargains to be found at the Porsche store, but the Cayenne hybrid is now $3,000 less than a Cayenne S – and the savings are even greater when you factor in the E-Hybrid’s additional standard equipment, such as the Sport Chrono package. The idea now is that price hierarchy and performance hierarchy are aligned. Thus, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is a major step up on performance compared to the base Cayenne and nearly matching the S, while offering better fuel economy than either.

The question will be whether buyers of an $80,000-plus Porsche SUV care enough about a few extra mpg or the still-modest EV range, or whether they’d rather just have the S. One thing is for sure: Even in its heaviest form and packing a hybrid powertrain, this Cayenne drives very much like a Porsche.

Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Information

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