Sensible, but not mundane
A hybrid SUV with a V-6 engine sounds like a mundane combination of practicality and efficiency, a 21st-century Wagon Queen Family Truckster for starched-chino worker bees wrestling spreadsheets in gray cubes. Porsche’s 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid, and it has a V-6 engine under the hood. But Porsche doesn’t really do mundane: The Cayenne E-Hybrid zips to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, has a top speed of 157 mph (253 km/h), and will bring a smile to your face on a twisting two-lane.
The E-Hybrid is the latest addition to the recently redesigned Cayenne lineup. Outside is the sleeker sheetmetal and the full-width taillight treatment that’s now a Porsche family trait. Inside is the upgraded interior with the 12.3-inch touchscreen at the center of the dash and the high-mounted center console with haptic-response touch switches under shiny black glass. As with the Panamera Hybrid models, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is visually distinguished by acid-green brake calipers and acid-green trim around the badging. Oh, and the fact there’s a flap on the left rear quarter panel for the charge plug, a mirror image of the fuel filler flap on the right.
With the launch of the E-Hybrid, Porsche has taken the opportunity to announce the availability of additional features and options across the 2019 Cayenne range. A head-up display is now available on Cayenne for the first time, along with 22-inch wheels and tires. Other goodies now available include a heated windshield, lane keeping assist, and 14-way power seats with massage function. Base price for the E-Hybrid is $80,950 USD, including destination, making it the second-cheapest model in the 2019 Cayenne lineup. That said, go mad on the configurator, and you can easily spend another 70 grand on options.
The Cayenne E-Hybrid’s drivetrain consists of Porsche’s single turbo 3.0-liter V-6 and a Porsche-designed e-motor fitted between the engine block and an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The internal combustion engine develops 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, the e-motor 134 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Total system output is 455 hp from 5,250 rpm to 6,400 rpm, with a meaty 516 lb-ft on tap from 1,000 to 3,750 rpm.
The 46 hp increase over the previous generation Cayenne E-Hybrid’s powertrain, says Porsche, is largely due to a 43 percent improvement in the output of the permanent magnet e-motor. Based on the one developed for the 918 hybrid hypercar, it has been converted from internal to external rotor configuration, which Porsche claims has improved power density and responsiveness.
The 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid is not only faster and more powerful than the outgoing model, it’ll also travel farther in pure EV mode, up to 27 miles (43 km) at speeds of up to 83 mph (134 km/h). The key enabling technology here is a liquid cooled 14.1-kW-hr battery pack that has 30 percent more capacity than the previous generation pack yet weighs the same. A 3.6-kW onboard charger is standard, and a 7.2-kW charger is available as an option for those who want faster charge times.
Of course, the beauty of a plug-in hybrid is that you don’t need to plan your trip around charge points. And the beauty of Porsche’s plug-in hybrid system is that it doesn’t just save the e-motor’s smooth power and instant-on torque for delivering silent, planet-saving EV motoring around town. Thanks to powertrain control strategies developed for the 918 Hybrid, the e-motor can also be used to boost the Cayenne’s performance on a fun-to-drive back road. The choice is yours.
Left to its own devices, the Cayenne E-Hybrid starts in E-Power mode, propelled solely by the electric motor. On a full charge, that gives you all the range you need for most local trips, and if the journey includes a freeway section, it’ll waft along silently on battery power with the rest of traffic. Need more grunt? Simply push the accelerator pedal past an artificially induced pressure point, and the internal combustion engine will fire up to lend a hand. It’s just like the kickdown function in an old-school automatic.
Being a Porsche, the Cayenne E-Hybrid has an E-Launch function for maximum acceleration away from the lights in pure EV mode: Simply keep the brake depressed and move the accelerator pedal to the pressure point. Sidestep the brake pedal, and you’re away. Don’t expect a Tesla Model X P100D Ludicrous launch, however: With the e-motor doing all the work, we’re talking Kia Rio power in a 5,060-pound (2,295-kg) SUV. Porsche claims a 0–35 mph (0-56 km/h) acceleration time of just over 6 seconds. That’s not going to pin you to the seat, but it’s enough to startle the snoozers at traffic lights.
When the battery charge depletes, the Cayenne E-Hybrid automatically switches to Hybrid Auto mode. The internal combustion engine kicks in, and the powertrain system figures out the most efficient mix of internal combustion engine and e-motor power, automatically using every opportunity to kick some charge back into the battery pack so the e-motor can provide torque fill when needed. It can also run in pure EV mode at low speeds over short distances.
Alternatively, drivers can select Hybrid Auto mode from the get-go via the steering-wheel-mounted controller. This is the best all-round mode for trips longer than 27 miles (43 km), as it allows battery charge to be husbanded for optimal use of the e-motor. The powertrain’s brain takes into account how you’ve been driving, your battery charge status, the topology of your route, and speed information, and seamlessly blends power and torque flows from the internal combustion engine and the e-motor accordingly. Program a destination into the sat-nav, and the system also factors the distance remaining into its calculations.
The Hybrid Auto mode can be manually adjusted via a submenu on the Cayenne’s touchscreen to prioritize the battery charge protocol. E-Hold mode ensures the current battery charge level is maintained—useful if you know you’re driving into a city where pure EV running is required. E-Charge mode asks the internal combustion engine to produce slightly more power than is needed to propel the vehicle and directs the excess to recharging the battery. It works: 35 miles (56 km) of 80 mph (129 km/h) cruising in E-Charge mode on a French autoroute during our test drive pumped 15 miles (24 km) of range back into our Cayenne E-Hybrid’s depleted battery.
Sport and Sport Plus are the fun modes. In Sport mode the Porsche not only stiffens its sinews and sharpens its responses, the battery’s charge is also kept to the minimum level needed to provide a power and torque boost on demand. Sport Plus takes everything up a notch and increases the rate at which the battery is charged to allow longer periods of e-motor boost, more often. In both modes, the internal combustion engine remains in continuous operation.
Hybrid haters might dismiss the Cayenne E-Hybrid as the least sporty Porsche you can buy. It’s not—the entry-level Cayenne, powered by the 335 hp V-6 engine, is slower to 60 mph and has a lower top speed. In Sport Plus mode the E-Hybrid can confidently hustle down the road at a pace that will leave most regular SUVs in a welter of thrashing engines, squealing tires, and smelly brakes.
Left to its own devices, the 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid delivers a strong combination of performance and efficiency. But it also allows drivers to switch the emphasis between the two, and not just in a purely binary fashion; there are subtle layers of functionality and capability to explore. It might be a hybrid SUV with a V-6 engine, but it’s an engaging one to drive.