Just to get on the same page, we’ve all gotten over the fact that Porsche makes a sport-utility vehicle, right? Since its introduction for 2003, the Porsche Cayenne has been a commercial success in the U.S., and the 16,205 examples of the Cayenne sold in America during 2014 helped deliver the cash flow to support the sale of 10,433 Porsche 911s in America during the same time period.
No Porsche Cayenne, no Porsche 911. Do the math.
Of course, the thing that really matters here is that the Cayenne drives like a Porsche, not like your neighbor’s sedan-based crossover and not like your other neighbor’s truck-based utility vehicle. The 2015 Porsche Cayenne is a sport-utility for grownups, an all-purpose, all-wheel-drive vehicle that does everything and feels like a Porsche while it’s doing it. Personally, we’re very OK with this.
Why isn’t the engine running?
Right now we’re hurtling down a steep and winding grade somewhere in the barren hills above San Diego, and we’re a little freaked out that the engine of the 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid is utterly silent. Actually, it’s not just silent; it’s not even running, as in zero rpm. It’s like we’re on some kind of Disneyland roller coaster ride, so we’re hoping that the Porsche imagineers back in Stuttgart know what they’re doing.
All this is perfectly normal, of course, because the Cayenne S E-Hybrid is just in what Porsche calls “sailing” mode, coasting with the engine shut down to save fuel. It’s formally known as “Porsche variable deceleration fuel cut-off,” a technology introduced in the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and since featured in other Porsche models. It’s a logical strategy for the 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, since fuel economy is crucial for the future of the SUV, no matter what you might think about the declining price of a gallon of gas.
The 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid is a combination of daily town car and weekend getaway car just like any other SUV, which is why Americans buy more utility-style vehicles than sedans. As a plug-in hybrid, the Cayenne delivers the assets of EV performance where and when you want them, so you don’t feel tethered to an EV charger. You motor electrically in your neighborhood or in downtown, and simply let the V-6 engine do the driving in between. And when you’re on the way to the lake on the weekend, EV power can also give the Cayenne a quick boost of acceleration when you want to pass that propane truck on an uphill grade.
Packing the electronics as well as the biking gear
As with the former Cayenne S Hybrid, the 2015 E-Hybrid carries its battery underneath the floor of the cargo area, only now this lithium-ion unit packs a charge of 10.8 kilowatt-hours instead of just 1.7 kWh from the old nickel-metal-hydride battery. It takes about 11 hours to recharge the battery from your 110-volt household outlet and about 2.7 hours from a 240-volt 16-amp outlet. If you replace the standard 3.6-kW on-board charger with the optional 7.2-kW unit, your charging time drops by half. Most important (well, for an SUV, anyway), the cargo capacity behind the second seat measures out to 20.5 cubic feet, about 3 cubic feet less than a non-hybrid.
Compared to your neighbor’s Prius PHEV, the Cayenne is of the big motor persuasion, with an electric motor rated at 95 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque to supplement the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Porsche tells us that all this power coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission will get this 5,181-pound all-wheel-drive Cayenne to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds on the way to a top speed of 151 mph.
Driving in a material world
Just as you’d expect with a Porsche, it takes some learning to get the most from driving the 2015 Cayenne S E-Hybrid. (That’s what makes it fun to drive any Porsche, right?)
When you want to drive with strictly in EV power, you punch the button on the center console that triggers “E-Power.” The Cayenne E-Hybrid can go as far as 22 miles and as fast as 78 mph on EV power alone. This is the mode you would use in your neighborhood or in a downtown area that might tax engine-powered vehicles.
When you want to charge the battery without engaging EV power, you tap the button that triggers “E-Charge,” which will engage the engine and recharge 80 percent of the battery’s capacity in about 20 minutes, although at the price of reduced fuel economy. This is what you’d do while driving between home and downtown.
The Cayenne E-Hybrid even has some tricks when you drive around in default mode. When you step deep into the drive-by-wire throttle pedal for maximum acceleration, you can feel a detent in the pedal travel that engages EV power for an added burst of acceleration.
Back to the future
There’s an awful lot of science in the 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, and it shows not only in the eco-friendly green with which the brake calipers have been finished but also in the extra 584 pounds this package represents over a Cayenne S. (Apparently some of the science is heavy.) Even so, the E-Hybrid looks like a Porsche (a newly reshaped form has matured at last), drives like a Porsche (three-mode PASM active suspension is standard), and, well, is priced like a Porsche (don’t let the list of options gobble up your wallet).
We even got to like the way that 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid sails along occasionally with the engine at rest. There’s not much battery regenerative deceleration in the default mode, yet the drivetrain doesn’t feel disconnected and the action of the regenerative brakes is very linear. The supercharged V-6 is quiet, although you can hear and feel the transmission finding the right gear as the speed drops and the powertrain prepares itself in case you want to accelerate again. And sometimes when you’re at rest, the E-Hybrid will even make one of those electronic noises that computers do when they’re thinking.
On the whole, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid is indeed an SUV that thinks, and it also thinks more than most sedans. Who would have thought that we would ever say such a thing about any sport-utility?
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