Porsche now has three plug-in electric vehicles, the most of any luxury manufacturer, it says — the Panamera S E-Hybrid large sedan, Cayenne S E-Hybrid SUV and the 918, a million-dollar, limited-edition sports car.
It is the electrified and more mainstream Panamera and Cayenne that are charting a new direction at Porsche. I’ve just tested the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, which has a starting price of $77,395 and was almost $102,000 with extras, including the $995 freight charge from Germany. It packages all-wheel drive with a wealth of luxury-class features to justify the pricing. (Which isn’t that strong when a popularly equipped 911 Carrera sports car will run $100,000-plus — and the Cayenne has seats for five and cargo room.)
The E-Hybrid is a puzzling answer to a “why” question, when few, I expect, asked for a plug-in Porsche. The Cayenne S E-Hybrid can be driven 19 miles on battery before combining forces with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 gasoline engine. The hybridization does the expected things, such as auto stop-start at idle, regenerative braking and energy capture on deceleration. But it also has a 19-mile electric driving range. The new plug-in models replace what were the standard gasoline-electric hybrids offered in the past.
In a $100,000 luxury vehicle, it’s not about fuel economy. With an electric driving range of just 19 miles, Prius drivers will chortle. But it is how those miles are applied that separate the Porsche experience. After 300 miles of driving, I was just halfway through the 21.1-gallon tank of premium fuel and the computer indicated there were another 230 miles till empty. For many owners, that will be as satisfying as nailing an apex in their 911, which, likely, will share garage space with an E-Hybrid.
The EPA cites a combined average of 22 mpg gasoline and the more convoluted electric rating of 47 MPGe combined. I was averaging 25 to 29.3 mpg combined city and highway — and this from an all-wheel-drive SUV weighing 5,809 pounds.
And those 19 miles are with pure electric Porsche performance at speeds to 78 mph. The engineers have given the sound of the electric powertrain a deep and respectable tone, which sounds the same when the engine is running.
The lithium-ion battery pack is stashed beneath the cargo floor, but compared to a standard Cayenne only about 3 cubic feet of storage space is lost.
A 3.6 kW charger comes with the purchase and it worked fine for charging at off-peak hours. Most E-Hybrid purchasers will want the more powerful and faster garage unit.
“Topping off” at home is an asset, but the E-Hybrid is fully functional whether the battery is charged or not; there is just limited EV driving. And the E-Hybrid experience isn’t about performance, either, though it has the Porsche pedigree.
The system pairs a 333-horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 gasoline engine, electric motor and 10.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. Total system power is 416-horsepower with 435 foot-pounds of torque from 1,250-4,000 rpm.
Porsche cites 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.4 seconds. But you’ll be hard on the pedal to get that 5.4. The general acceleration algorithm favors fuel economy and at times the nearly three tons of curb weight is felt. It’s not massiveness, just restraint in pouring on the power. But when you need it, the electric motor can deliver that torque immediately and move the Cayenne with Porsche swiftness and control. Six-piston vented disc brakes have 14.1-inch front rotors, 13-inch rotors rear.
E-Hybrid ownership is about the luxury. The Cayenne S tester was too immaculate for an SUV, with very high quality materials and attention to detail, from carpet to plastics and textures. The tester came with the Yachting Mahogany interior package, $3,100, which combines with lustrous darker wood with an equally lustrous, thin inlay of a light-colored wood. And there are the additional Yachting Mahogany grab handles, $2,380. The interior quality ranks with any $250,000 luxury car I’ve tested. And that shows just how far the Cayenne has evolved.
There is a vault-like quality to the sense of security on the road. Sightlines for the driver are unobstructed and entry and exit are comfortable front and rear. The center console is a cluttered mess of buttons, with too little storage or proper place to lay a phone. The cup holders are shallow and incapable of holding upright a small water bottle.
Trying to catch a tipping water bottle in an S curve becomes a new driving distraction. But the pursuit of performance in Porsche’s plug-in hybrid vehicles will reset perceptions of this company that is known for precision under pressure.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage