New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

As seamless as hybrids get

MONTPELLIER, France — Not all that far from our hotel was the University of Montpellier, founded in 1289, which you would think has given the U of M about 729 years to decide on a suitable sports mascot, but that does not seem to be the case.

Indeed, some things are hard to predict, even for one of the University of Montpellier’s notable students, Nostradamus, the visionary who probably knew in advance when he enrolled in the school in 1529 that he would soon be expelled once the University learned he had worked as an apothecary, or pharmacist, which was frowned upon then.

The clairvoyant Nostradamus would, of course, go on to foresee many global events, the vast majority open to interpretation, including the French Revolution, Adolph Hitler, the Apollo moon landing, multiple plagues, earthquakes, wars, floods, and Miley Cyrus.

But just as important are those events that Nostradamus failed to predict, including:

  • In 1999, Porsche announced it would build a sport utility vehicle.
  • In 2002, The New York Times suggested the “Cayenne,” as the SUV would be called, was causing much peeing of pants among Porsche loyalists, one reason being that the SUV resembled “a stretched and swollen Boxster,” the reporter wrote.
  • In 2003, the Cayenne went on sale, and the world did not end.
  • In 2011, half the vehicles Porsche sold in the U.S. were Cayennes.
  • In 2018, Porsche introduced the 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid to journalists. In Montpellier. Just to rub Nostradamus’ nose in his oversight.
  • In 2020, the award-winning (in 2013) University of Montpellier’s girls’ soccer team will be known as “the Montpellier Cayennes.” Or not.

And while much history is contained in the past 275 words, we’ve told you precious little about the 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, which is much more fun than a capsule description of it—another V-6 SUV hybrid—might suggest. As it has since 2003 with the Cayenne, Porsche consistently exceeds expectations, and does so again.

Yes, the Cayenne E-Hybrid has a V-6, the twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter from the base Cayenne that pumps out a respectable 335 horsepower, and 332 lb-ft of torque. But the plug-in hybrid model gets a boost from a surprisingly compact electric motor, located next to the eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission, making the grand total output a sobering 455 horsepower, with 516 lb-ft.

Those numbers are impressive, but while there’s an undeniable increase in power, it doesn’t really work like, say, a 455-hp V-8. This is indeed one of those vehicles in which, following a moment of inattention on the highway, you look down at its speedometer and go, “Crap!” The amount of power on tap, plus the eager transmission, moves the two-and-a-half-ton sport-ute along briskly and quietly, but it’s less invigorating than you might imagine. You want invigorating, buy the new Porsche Cayenne Turbo with 541 hp.

Of course, the Cayenne Turbo starts at $125,650, while the Cayenne E-Hybrid starts at $80,950, which—dollar for horsepower—is pretty reasonable. That’s with a very long list of standard equipment, but as anyone who has priced a Porsche—any Porsche—knows, options are available. Lots and lots of options.

Standard stuff includes (surprisingly) the Sport Chrono package; leather-trimmed seats; a 10-speaker, 150-watt sound system; the Porsche Communication Management system; front and rear park assist; and airbags aplenty. If you want an exterior color other than black or white, add $800.

Standard wheels are 19-inchers—we’d prefer the 21-inch tires and wheels that were on all our test Cayennes, though expect to pay for them—an extra $4,000 and up, as they come with body-colored wheel arch extensions. The standard 19-inch wheel is a reasonably handsome five-spoke design; it doesn’t look bad if you prefer to save the cash. Porsche’s website doesn’t list available 22-inch tires and wheels, but company executives say they will offer such a package.

Porsche’s active all-wheel-drive is standard, but off-roading was not a part of the press preview program. We did a bit of unauthorized dirt-roading on our own, and while the amount of ground clearance doesn’t encourage it, the Cayenne E-Hybrid should be fine for mild cow trailing. Any more than that, we’d definitely opt for the stainless steel front and rear skid plates ($1,560).

That said, Porsche didn’t encourage us to go drag racing, either, but with a (manufacturer’s suggested) 0 to 60 mph time of 4.7 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 13.3 seconds, and a top speed of 157 mph, we probably could have done that, too.

As far as the “E-Mobility” equipment, everything is standard except for a 7.2 kW onboard charger, which adds $840. The massaging seats ($2,000) were of great interest, but they aren’t yet available. Night vision assist ($2,420) and a head-up display ($1,720) would be nice, but if you are just interested in adding performance, Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control is worth the $3,590—but if you want that, you’ll have to get the adaptive air suspension for $2,170, too.

Active rear axle steering may be worth $1,620, especially if you do a lot of parking in tight spots. An extra $660 gets you the towing package, and with a towing capacity of a whopping 7,700 pounds, it’s worth it.

Of course, we’ve barely mentioned the fact this is indeed a plug-in hybrid. There are four separate driving modes: EV, or electric only; H, a hybrid automatic setting that lets the engine kick in as needed; and Sport and Sport Plus—those last two have the V-6 engine running all the time.

Porsche showed us a bare chassis, and it’s amazing how little space the 14.1-kWh battery pack takes up, sitting beneath the seemingly uncompromised rear luggage floor. Porsche doesn’t have an EPA rating yet, but a European test suggests pure electric power will last about 27 miles, with an all-electric top speed of 83 mph. Porsche doesn’t have EPA numbers on the base Cayenne with this V-6 engine, so we can’t even make an educated guess as to the E-Hybrid’s numbers based on that. The EPA rated the 2018 Cayenne S E-Hybrid at 47 mpg-e combined city/highway, and 22 mpg combined city/highway on gasoline.

The battery should recharge in about 2.3 hours with a 230-volt, 32-amp outlet and the aforementioned optional 7.2-kW onboard charger. Expect it to take 7.8 hours with a 230-volt/10-amp outlet and the standard 3.6-kW charger. The plug-in outlet is behind a flap on the driver’s-side rear fender; there’s an identical flap on the passenger side for gasoline.

On the road, this is about as seamless as hybrids get. The regenerative braking system, as it often does, results in an odd pedal feel, but the more you drive it, the less it annoys you. Steering feel could use a little work, though.

On the mostly smooth roads around Montpellier, the Cayenne’s ride was supple, never punishing on even the roughest pavement we encountered. On tight turns, the 5,060-pound E-Hybrid—that’s 683 pounds heavier than the base Cayenne—seemed a little under-tired.

Inside, the E-Hybrid has just the right amount of electro-information; it doesn’t club you over the head with pointed suggestions that you are wasting energy, but you can monitor how you are doing. The instrument panel is modern and viewer-friendly, and the big, mostly horizontal center screen is an effective focal point for the rest of the dashboard. This is an easy vehicle to get comfortable with, something we haven’t always been able to say about Porsches. Even without the massage function, front seats are comfortable and supportive, with room in the back for three actual adults.

Outside, this third-generation Cayenne is the most handsome of the three, looking nothing at all like the “stretched and swollen Boxster” that so offended The New York Times 16 years ago. We’ll let you decide how the “acid green” (Porsche’s term; it’s sort of a sickly lime) brake calipers look, but they do at least match the acid-green backing on emblems inside, outside, and even under the hood of the car, a lone highlight on a big black plate of plastic.

Porsche is mum on sales projections, but it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict the 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid should do quite well. It goes on sale later this year, with deliveries expected early in 2019.

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Specifications

ON SALE Fall 2018
PRICE $80,950 (base)
ENGINE 3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/335 hp @ 5,300-6,400 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 1,340-5,300 rpm
MOTOR 134 hp, 295 lb-ft
COMBINED OUTPUT 455 hp, 516 lb-ft
BATTERY Li-ion/14.1 kWh
TRANSMISSION 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE N/A
EPA MAX EV RANGE 27 miles
240V CHARGE TIME 2.3-7.8 hours (est.)
L x W x H 193.7 x 78.1 x 66.8 in
WHEELBASE 114.0 in
WEIGHT 5,060 lb
0-60 MPH 4.7 sec
TOP SPEED 157 mph

Buying Guide
Powered by Motortrend