The Porsche Cayenne entered the automotive scene in the United States in 2003. I remember because I had just started writing about cars and I didn’t understand the big deal about Porsche having an SUV.
Fourteen years later, I still get comments about Porsche “selling out” and bemoaning the fate of the sports-car brand that now has a sedan and two SUVs.
To those people, I say: You’ve clearly never driven a Cayenne, Macan or Panamera.
My recent test of the 2017 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid shows that you can have your cake and eat it, too.
The Cayenne is currently in its second generation, and while the exterior styling has gotten smoothed out over the years, the vehicle has the same general shape that it was born with and is clearly recognizable as a Porsche.
One of my early design complaints with the previous generation was that it looked too much like a Volkswagen Touareg, which made sense since they were developed together. But as the years passed, the differences have grown, and while the Touareg has austere lines and angles, the Cayenne retains its sporty curves
If you don’t look at the center stack, the interior of the Cayenne is clean, simple and elegant. But as soon as your eyes hit the central midpoint of the dash, you’re assaulted with a barrage of buttons that takes some non-driving time to absorb.
Some of the button brigade I fully appreciated, such as the separate HVAC controls. Both driver and front passenger could not only control the temperature but also the fan speed. Since my husband likes to blast the AC at 65 degrees and I want a little warmth at 72 but no blasting air, this was a total marriage saver during the test period. Who cares about some visual clutter when you can have something as awesome as this?
One design theme that sets the E-Hybrids apart is the array of lime green (or in Porsche speak, Acid Green) accents, inside and out. I liked the pop of color, while my husband thought it was a bit overdone.
Ride & Handling
The Cayenne S E-Hybrid is equipped with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 as well as an electric motor. Maximum total system output is 416 horsepower, which is between the regular Cayenne (300 hp) and the Cayenne Turbo (520 hp).
Though the Cayenne S E-Hybrid has the word “hybrid” in it, let’s be clear, this is still very much a performance vehicle with a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.4 seconds. I played around with the available air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management, and while Sport and Sport Plus were fun for zippy driving, I kept it in comfort most of the time because it was a smoother ride.
The Cayenne has all the power you want for passing and off-the-line starts, but the beauty of this vehicle is you can jump into fuel sipper mode with the tap of a button (and a fully charged battery).
Since I didn’t have an easy way to charge during the test period, I played around with the E-Charge mode on a couple 30-mile-plus highway drives, and I loved the quiet silence of the E-Power. Your performance does suffer a bit when you flip that switch as 0-to-60-mph times rise to 8.9 seconds, but if you’re using this within the confines of a city (which would make sense), fast acceleration isn’t really necessary. It should be noted, however, that the Cayenne S E-Hybrid can stay in electric-only mode up to 78 mph.
The EPA estimates that the Cayenne S E-Hybrid can get around 22 MPG when using gasoline only. With the addition of electric driving, fuel economy goes up to 46 MPGe.
I have to admit, I didn’t manage to get anywhere near either of these, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact I wasn’t able to plug in and charge up; I did use the E-Charge option while driving; and, let’s face it, I was having fun in the E-Hybrid.
My combined driving for a three-day period came in around 18 mpg. When I flipped through vehicle information screens, I saw that the SUV had been driven 2,646.7 miles since its last reset and had been averaging 20.3 mpg. Looks like the previous drivers were having fun, too.
Clearly, if you want to get the best of both worlds, you need to charge at home. On a full charge, you can drive up to about 14 miles in electric-only mode.
Tech & gadgets
The coolest gadget on the Cayenne S E-Hybrid (IMHO) is the E-Charge. This is where the combustible engine is used to charge the battery while driving – and it totally makes sense if you’re driving for extended periods at highway speed. I found it took about 45 minutes of 70 mph driving to get the battery back up to 100 percent.
Other tech features available on the Cayenne S E-Hybrid include Apple CarPlay, 4G LTE hot spot, Bose surround-sound system, navigation, a Burmester high-end surround-sound system, rear-seat entertainment and Porsche Active Suspension Management.
Though the Cayenne starts with a base model at $60,600 and also offers GTS and Turbo models, we’re focusing on the E-Hybrid, since that was our test vehicle. While a price tag nearing $80K might seem steep, keep in mind both trims of the E-Hybrid are a Cayenne S, and the gasoline model of that car is just $2,500 less than the E-Hybrid.
Cayenne S E-Hybrid ($80,950): Standard features include an on-board charger with 3.6 kW, Bluetooth phone pairing, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with a 3-month trial, Bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear park assist, partial leather seating surfaces, 8-way power adjustable front seats, 1 USB port and a power liftgate.
Cayenne S E Hybrid Platinum Edition ($83,850): This top-tier trim adds Bose surround-sound audio system, the Porsche Dynamic Light System for the headlights, sport seats with Alcantara seat centers and front seat heaters.
The test vehicle was the Platinum Edition and added about $13K in options, including Rhodium Silver Metallic paint, air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management, heated multi-function steering wheel, rear seat heating, brushed aluminum interior package, LED headlights, soft close doors, 7.2 kW onboard charger, Porsche Universal Charger, 21-inch 911 Turbo Design Wheels, and the Premium Package. The as-tested price was $95,170.
The Cayenne S E-Hybrid has all the standard safety tech you’ve come to expect in modern vehicles such as advanced front air bags, rear side air bags, side-curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lights.
But if you want anything else, you’re going to pay extra.
Optional safety features include:
- Park assist with rearview camera ($660)
- Lane departure warning with lane change assist ($1,550)
- Adaptive cruise control with Porsche Active Safe ($2,310)
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have ever crash tested any version of the Cayenne. So, while the Cayenne has a mix of standard and available safety tech, it’s hard to say how safe it really is.
New for 2017
The Platinum Edition itself is all-new for the 2017 model year. It adds content such as sport seats with Alcantara center panels, a Porsche crest on the headrests, the Porsche Dynamic Light System and a Bose surround-sound system.
A few of my favorite things
I really love the fact you can have the performance of a sporty sedan packaged in the trappings of an SUV. Oh, and if you want to be fuel efficient, charge up at home and drive in electric-only mode to run your stop-and-go traffic errands.
I spent quite a bit of time in traffic during the test period, and I appreciated the seat comfort and visibility out all the windows. My 6-foot, 7-inch rear-seat passenger appreciated all the legroom he got behind a 4-foot, 11-inch driver.
The biggest fave: The individual front HVAC controls that could be adjusted for temperature and fan speed. Both my husband and I were able to be comfortable for our long drives, with him blasting cool air at the front passenger seat and me adding a little heat to the driver’s area.
What I can leave
There was only one USB port. In a five-passenger vehicle in 2017, I find this to be an egregious oversight.
While I love the fact that the Cayenne – and all Porsches – are highly customizable with a plethora of options, I find it a bit off-putting that everything seems to be an option. Want a paint color that isn’t white or black? It’s an option. Want heated front seats? Option. Rearview camera? Also an option. With an $80K price tag, I’d like to see a few of these things (OK, all of them) included as standard.
The bottom line
There may come a point in life when a speedy sports car doesn’t fit your lifestyle, and you may have to trade in your Boxster for something a tad more practical. Porsche realized this back in the early aughts, and introduced the Cayenne into its lineup. The midsize SUV was so successful, it now has sedan and compact SUV brethren.
Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to take the fun out of your drive, which is exactly where the Cayenne hits the sweet spot. Add a little lime green to the equation, and you can be eco chic as well.
If you love your Porsche, you never have to leave the brand.
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