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2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid: First Drive Review

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author photo by Michael Harley May 2018

Porsche introduced its all-new, third-generation Cayenne crossover late last year as a 2019 model. Its new chiseled appearance complemented a more luxurious and technically innovative 5-passenger crossover, which told shoppers that it had moved upscale. Yet, until now, Porsche had only announced a pair of turbocharged engines for the mid-size vehicle -- a choice between traditional V6 and V8 power. Last week, however, the German automaker added a new model that promises to alter the way people look at fuel-efficient crossovers: the all-new 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is a gasoline-electric variant tuned for performance.

Innovative Hybrid Packaging Delivers Power and Efficiency

The Cayenne E-Hybrid boasts a very unique hybrid "sandwich" powerplant under its hood. At the top is a traditional combustion engine (a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 455 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque). At the bottom is Porsche's "Tiptronic S" torque converter 8-speed gearbox. The filling in the middle -- literally sandwiched between the engine and the gearbox -- is an electric motor (rated at 134 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque). Included in the hybrid package is an electromechanically-actuated separating clutch, which allows the transmission to uncouple from the driven wheels at will. This arrangement maximizes efficiency as it virtually eliminates the considerable drag of a powertrain during coasting. Reducing unnecessary componentry, there is no traditional starter or alternator -- the electric motor accomplishes both tasks naturally.

Combining the power of the combustion engine and electric motor, the Cayenne E-Hybrid's total system output is 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque – the 0-to-60 mile-per-hour sprint is accomplished in just 4.7 seconds with a top track speed of 157 mph. Those figures best many dedicated sports cars.

Operator-Selected Drive Modes Include "E-Power" and "Sport Plus"

Mimicking the automaker's million-dollar 918 Spyder, which is also a hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle, the Cayenne E-Hybrid features four unique drive modes (E-Power, Hybrid Auto, E-Hold and E-Charge) that are accessed through the standard Sport Chrono dial on the steering wheel. The "E-Power" setting, which is the default driving mode, keeps the crossover in EV mode until its battery is depleted. "Hybrid Auto" automatically balances combustion and electric driving (for maximum vehicle range), while "E-Hold" deliberately holds the battery's charge until the operator wants it (e.g., use combustion on the highway and save the battery for the city). Lastly, "E-Charge" uses the combustion engine for propulsion and as a generator to charge the battery.

Two other modes (Sport and Sport Plus) are tuned for driving performance. "Sport" is mildly aggressive, always holding a minimal reserve charge in the battery, while "Sport Plus" maximizes performance -- delivering the fastest acceleration and, subsequently, the quickest battery recharging while in "E-Charge" mode. Understandably, it is the least efficient driving mode.

Plug-In Convenience, up to 25 Miles of Electric-Only Driving and the Ability to Self-Charge

Buried beneath the rear cargo floor of the all-wheel drive Cayenne E-Hybrid is a 14.1-kWh lithium ion battery pack with plug-in capabilities. With a 32-amp connection and the optional 7.2 kW onboard charger, a fully depleted battery may be brought back to a full charge in just 2.3 hours. With a 10-amp connection and the standard 3.6 kW on-board charger, the same charge takes 7.8 hours -- overnight. Owners may monitor the charging process, find charging stations and control vehicle functions on their smartphone with the Porsche Connect app, even when the vehicle is parked remotely.

With the Sport Chrono wheel in "E-Power," the liquid-cooled battery delivers 25-plus miles of pure-EV driving at speeds up to about 85 mph -- a velocity that is more than adequate for any U.S. road -- before the powertrain transitions back to a hybrid combustion mode. Yet a battery at a zero state-of-charge isn't an issue in this Porsche. Select the "E-Charge" mode via the infotainment menu, and the turbocharged V6 increases its power output to replenish the battery pack. Every mile driven adds more EV range, especially at highway speeds when the engine is running at a consistent pace. We deliberately depleted the E-Hybrid's battery several times, continuously finding amusement watching it add miles back to the range as the countryside passed by. A full re-charge may be accomplished after about an hour of high speed driving.

E-Performance That Disproves Its Hybrid Stereotype and Vehicle Size

While the Cayenne E-Hybrid is a near-silent runner while in "E-Power," effortlessly keeping up with traffic and never feeling lethargic, those who seek a bit more excitement need only to twist the Sport Chrono dial on the steering wheel to "Sport Plus" mode. The combustion engine immediately springs to life, throttle response becomes more aggressive and the suspension firms up (vehicles equipped with air suspension also lower, to reduce the center of gravity).

Despite a curb weight exceeding 5,000 pounds, the Cayenne transforms into a viable sports car. Handling is downright agile, making easy work of the meandering roads off the highway without noticeable body roll, or squealing tires (for the first time ever, Porsche will offer 22-inch wheels on the E-Hybrid). A commanding ride height makes it easy to see around slower vehicles on the straights, too, and the combined torque -- all 516 lb-ft -- make passing stress-free. Porsche calls this unexpected demeanor "E-Performance," and they appear to be taking it seriously.

A Visually Discreet Hybrid, Projecting Luxury and Innovation

Most hybrid vehicles look the part -- skinny tires, goofy styling and odd aerodynamic appendages. Yet that's not the case with the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid. Apart from the signature fluorescent Acid Green brake calipers and badge surrounds, most passers-by would be challenged to differentiate the E-Hybrid from its standard combustion siblings. The interior is also subtle, with Acid Green needles on some of the instrument dials and reconfigured digital displays that project hybrid-specific information (e.g., battery state-of-charge, electricity consumption and drive mode selections).

It's also interesting to note that Porsche will offer its InnoDrive system on the Cayenne E-Hybrid. InnoDrive is an advanced adaptive cruise control system that combines onboard map data with traffic telemetry. "Looking" at road conditions nearly two miles ahead, InnoDrive uses artificial intelligence to proactively select the best gear and powertrain mode to maximize efficiency without driver interaction.

A Performance Hybrid Fit for a Family, Yet Tuned for an Enthusiast

The third-generation Cayenne with standard powertrains raises the bar significantly in terms of traditional chassis design and handling. Yet the arrival of the all-new E-Hybrid variant moves another needle -- the hybrid crossover stereotype. Porsche, through its E-Performance initiative, has delivered a family-friendly sport-ute that is both fuel efficient and fast. Consider this premium crossover a chameleon, able to please even the most discerning drivers with the simple twist of its Sport Chrono dial.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid: First Drive Review - Autotrader