Car Reviews SUV of the Year

Review: How the New Porsche Cayenne Pushes the Boundaries of Hybridization

The 2019 Cayenne is a 2020 SUV of the Year finalist

The 2019 Cayenne is a 2020 SUV of the Year finalist

Pros:

  • Great all around
  • Fun to drive
  • Up to 13 miles (21 km) EV range

Cons:

  • Questionable value
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Doesn’t check all boxes

A former SUV of the Year winner and the vehicle credited for putting Porsche back in the black, this year’s Porsche Cayenne arrived at SUV of the Year in plug-in e-Hybrid (PHEV) guise.

Although we knocked it for its merely evolutionary exterior design, it’s what’s inside that counts. The Cayenne’s new electric motor generates more than 43 percent more power (134 hp and 295 lb-ft) than the previous motor did. Plus, the battery capacity increases by about 30 percent (to 14.1 kW-hr) without increasing in physical size.

Read about Car, SUV, and Truck of the Year contenders and finalists HERE.

With a full charge, the Cayenne e-Hybrid will travel up to 13 miles (21 km) on electricity alone and up to a speed of 83 mph (133 km/h) before waking the 335-hp, 332-lb-ft internal combustion engine. “In Hybrid Auto, the car smartly charges, coasts, downshifts, and more to drive in the most efficient and most engaging possible manner,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “I wish all PHEVs were this well-tuned and integrated.”

According to features editor Scott Evans, this is what the Lincoln Aviator “wants to be when it grows up. The handoff from gas to electric is imperceptible every time, and you can damn sure feel the power.” That covers our engineering excellence criterion with ease.

How efficient is it? The EPA only supplies combined estimates for PHEVs, and by that measure, the 2019 Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid should earn 46 mpg-e. Our in-house EQUA Real mpg team found it to earn 24/27/26 mpg (9.8/8.7/9 L/100 km) city/highway/combined. We’d like another go at it to verify our methods and figures. Something seems off to us.

More on Porsche: The new Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid makes how much horsepower?

Don’t be fooled by the Cayenne’s green-ish mission. This is still a Porsche through and through. With its turbo V-6 and electric motor combined output reaching 455 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, this Cayenne raced from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds, the third-quickest SUV in the field.

But it’s not just rapid. “What a stupendous chassis,” Evans said. “It really hunkers down and drives like a tall Panamera when you ask it to. The responses are perfect.” Not only that, but it also took to our off-road testing as well as any other contender, fording deep sand, enveloping washboard surfaces, accomplishing steep hill ascents and descents with ease, and literally idling through our more difficult “frame twister” that diagonally hoists two wheels in the air.

The Cayenne also allowed some hooligan antics, sliding around sandy bends like a rally car. I searched “fun” in judges’ notes and found seven results. No other contender or finalist can match it in this regard. Porsche’s performance of intended function? Nailed it.

Value, however, is also something we judge. With a starting price of $80,950 USD and an as-tested price of $96,790 USD, the Cayenne e-Hybrid was definitely near the top rung of this year’s group in terms of price. Most of the standard advanced tech found on the other luxury entries is optional on the Porsche.

Senior production editor Zach Gale was pointed in his criticism: “Oh, did you want a full leather interior in your $80,000 USD Porsche SUV? That’ll be at least $3,750 USD more. How about memory seats with more than eight ways of adjustment? $1,680 USD. A panoramic roof? Hands-free keyless access? Adaptive cruise control? Ambient lighting? Heated front seats? All extra.”

Earning finalist status in the MotorTrend SUV of the Year contest is an achievement in itself. That a plug-in hybrid version of a Porsche SUV did so might surprise some. Not us. That Porsche can supply the kind of experience one expects from a vehicle wearing that prestigious badge while also pushing the boundaries of hybridization is a very positive omen for the brand and for SUVs as a whole.

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid (PHEV)
Base Price/As tested $80,950/$96,790
Power (SAE net) 335 @ 5,300 rpm (gas); 134 @ 2,800 rpm (elec); 455 hp (comb)
Torque (SAE net) 332 @ 1,340 rpm (gas); 295 @ 100 rpm (elec); 516 lb-ft (comb)
Accel, 0-60 mph 4.2 sec
Quarter-mile 12.7 sec @ 110.2 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 113 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.87 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 25.4 sec @ 0.78 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 13 mi EV, 22 mpg (gas)/46 mpg-e (comb)