You have to hand it to Porsche. The sports-car manufacturer was one of the first to produce an SUV that placed equal importance on performance and fuel economy when it launched the Cayenne Hybrid almost 10 years ago. The 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is the latest iteration of that vehicle, and a lot has changed. The electrified Cayenne switched from a standard hybrid to the segment's first plug-in for 2015. And this year the V6 is turbocharged, rather than supercharged. These modifications add up to a vehicle that is more usable and efficient than its forebear and substantially more powerful than even last year's model.
2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid First Drive
Porsche's Newest Eco-Performance SUV
Wired Up, Fired Up and Ready to Go
While the plug-in Cayenne no longer bears last year's "S E Hybrid" moniker, the new model is no less performance-oriented. Under the hood, a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 puts out a somewhat modest 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. It is augmented by an electric motor drawing power from a 14.1-kWh rechargeable battery pack, resulting in a total combined system power of a healthy 455 hp and 516 lb-ft. Porsche says that's good for a 4.7-second 0-60 mph time when using launch control. You read that right, a hybrid with launch control.
If you want to treat the E-Hybrid like, well, a hybrid, the Cayenne is more than happy to oblige. Though the EPA has not yet officially rated the E-Hybrid's electric-only range, we saw an estimated 21 miles from a fully charged battery as we started our drive route. Of the Cayenne E-Hybrid's many drive modes — accessed via a dial on the steering wheel — the car starts in E-Power if the battery is charged. That's good for EV-only acceleration up to 83 mph, and there's a distinct stop in the pedal to let you know you've reached peak EV acceleration. Push past this point, and the gas engine turns on for extra oomph.
Once the battery is depleted, the car switches to Hybrid Auto mode, which is one of three selectable hybrid driving modes. In Hybrid Auto, the Cayenne drives like a standard hybrid, only charging the battery using regenerative brakes. The other two modes — E-Hold and E-Charge — are accessed via a touchscreen menu. E-Hold saves the battery's charge for use later in your drive; conversely, E-Charge keeps the engine churning, using excess power to recharge the battery.
On the road, acceleration in both EV and hybrid modes is impressive, with the extra thrust of the V6 palpable once it kicks on. We like the false "stop" in the pedal, as it provides a clear delineation between EV and gasoline power. That said, power delivery in Hybrid Auto feels more linear after the battery depletes because the pedal's simulated stop disappears. At heavy throttle, the Cayenne performs as you'd expect of an SUV with close to 500 hp on tap. And while the Sport and Sport + driving modes sharpen throttle response and keep the transmission in lower gears, drivers don't need to switch to these modes if they just want a quick performance boost. Hitting the button in the middle of the dial switches all variable settings to their most aggressive configuration for 20 seconds. It's good if you need a little extra power on the highway, or as you rapidly approach a tight set of corners.
Strap In and Feel the Gs
Though it weighs nearly 600 pounds more than the standard Cayenne, the E-Hybrid's extra mass has not dulled the SUV's performance abilities. Adaptive suspension dampers (Porsche's Active Suspension Management package) are standard, and they work wonders to help the slightly porkier Porsche handle like its more svelte siblings. Add the optional air suspension, and the Cayenne transforms from comfortable cruiser to corner-carver at the flip of a switch.
If you want increased dynamic performance, there are a number of features that are available for the E-Hybrid for the first time. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) adds electronically adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars to help the Cayenne corner flat in high-speed turns. While grip numbers gleaned from the skid pad at our test track might tell a different story, our test drive in Eugene, Oregon, revealed that in the real world, E-Hybrids handle similarly with or without PDCC. Don't check the box for this options list unless you really want to explore the capabilities of your eco Cayenne.
Ditto the carbon-ceramic brakes: Also available on the E-Hybrid for the first time, these fade-resistant discs only really reveal their benefits on the track. There's an intermediate option for those who want to step up from the standard steel rotors — Porsche's so-called surface-coated brakes. These larger discs are coated with a tungsten-carbide surface that Porsche says reduces brake dust. While we haven't tried it in the E-Hybrid yet, our tests with a Cayenne coupe with these brakes revealed they are quite grabby at the top of the pedal stroke. Make sure to drive an example before ordering. The standard brakes as still slightly grabby when you put your foot down, but braking doesn't feel as jerky as the previous hybrid.
Also new for the 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid is rear-axle steering, which tightens the turning radius at low speeds. Rear-axle steering requires the addition of Porsche's Power Steering Plus — a modestly priced system that reduces the amount of force necessary to turn the wheel at low speeds. Both options help execute parking-lot maneuvers.
E-Hybrid vs. Cayenne S
The Cayenne E-Hybrid's $82,450 price point and performance capabilities put it in close competition with the Cayenne S. Starting at $85,650, the Cayenne S has more power but roughly 100 fewer lb-ft of torque than the E-Hybrid. Even so, its lower weight helps it hit 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono package — 0.1 second quicker than the E-Hybrid. If you want a more dynamic Cayenne, the S is probably the way to go. For our money, the Cayenne E-Hybrid represents a stronger value, as the Sport Chrono package is standard, and its plug-in hybrid powertrain is considerably more fuel-efficient. We also like that you can order it without the E-Hybrid's signature Acid Green color accents if you don't feel it necessary to flaunt your eco cred.