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2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid: Porsche proves SUVs can be powerful and efficient [First Look]

2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid / Photo by Jill Ciminillo

Wending through the mountains of Southern California, the sun was shining, the roads were perfectly curvy, and I was driving an easy 65 mph. It was only when I'd catch up to traffic that I'd look down at my speedo and realize how fast I was driving. In an SUV.

But, true to its Porsche roots, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid drives fast and feels slow. Perfectly competent on S-curves, the Cayenne is actually one of those SUVs that handles more like a sports car.

New for 2015, Porsche launches a plug-in E-Hybrid version of the Cayenne, promising up to 14 miles of electric-only range. A Facebook friend scoffed at these numbers saying it might be fine for the city but not when you do a lot of highway driving.

I beg to differ.

The all-wheel drive Cayenne S E-Hybrid has an estimated 47 MPGe fuel economy, and E-Charge mode gives the driver the ability to recharge the battery aggressively while driving. Several times during the day-long test, I'd use up the 14 miles of range, switch to E-Charge and then switch back to electric-only driving.

Our test was too short to confirm actual fuel economy numbers, but we were able to confirm that you can drive in electric-only range up to about 80 mph. You just can't slam your foot onto the accelerator. Otherwise the car thinks you need a little help from the combustion engine.

The Cayenne S E-Hybrid is equipped with 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine that delivers 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Mated to the electric motor, total system output is 416 horsepower, which translates into a 0-to-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds - in not only an SUV but also a hybrid to boot.

The E-Hybrid replaces the regular hybrid model for 2015, and promises 36 more horsepower and a top speed of 151 mph.

The 2015 E-Hybrid has 35 more horsepower than the outgoing Hybrid, and it is 0.7 seconds faster in the 0-to-60 mph time.{} Combine that with the fact that you get a nice boost in fuel economy from the all-electric driving capability, and you've got a more powerful vehicle that's even more fuel efficient. Heads up: It also costs about $6K more.

During the course of the morning I spent with the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, I was very impressed not only with the smooth seamless power but also the fact that the vehicle could switch in and out of electric mode without notice. Usually there's an engine stutter or a vibration that can be felt through the gas pedal. But there was nothing. It was easy power when you needed it, and efficient when you did not.

The Cayenne S E-Hybrid comes with four driving modes, depending on what you're trying to achieve. All charged up? Go with the E-Power mode for all-electric driving. On the highway and need to re-charge? E-Charge mode will sent power back to the battery for when you're ready to do another stint of all-electric driving. On your favorite curvy back road? Then you're definitely looking for Sport or Sport+ mode.{} Don't want to think about it? Then Hybrid mode will be your best bet for comfortable driving dynamics and the best fuel efficiency.

Hybrid mode - best fuel economy and highest rates of efficiency over long distances

The Cayenne entered its second generation in 2011, 7 years after its original launch in 2003. So, 2015 brings a refresh of the model lineup. In addition to the E-Hybrid, the 2015 Cayenne is available in three other trims:

  • Diesel: Equipped with a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel {}V-6 that delivers 240 horsepower. The 0-to-60 mph time is 7.2 seconds. Base price: $61,700.
  • S: Equipped with a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6 that delivers 420 horsepower. The 0-to-60 mph time is 5.2 seconds. Base price: $74,100.
  • Turbo: Equipped with a 4.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 that delivers 520 horsepower. The 0-to-60 mph time is 4.2 seconds. Base price: $113,600.

For 2015 the Cayenne gets some freshened exterior styling with more "essential design lines." The hood, fenders, wheel arches and tail end all get kissed with some more dramatic touches -- all of which give the appearance of a broader stance.

I really like the tail end of the 2015 Cayenne with its more defined lines, which add more visual appeal. I'm particularly fond of the four-point brake lights that mimic the daytime running lights and the four points of the Porsche shield.

Another new design element: Porsche added a turn signal to the side mirrors.

The Cayenne S E-Hybrid gets some additional touches that set it apart in the form of some Acid Green accents.{} Brake calipers,{} badging and gauge needles all get the special treatment.

It's been a while since I've driven a Cayenne, but I can honesty say it just keeps getting better. While skeptics may think that Porsche is selling its soul with an SUV (and a sedan!), I say: Drive it. Then we'll talk. Cayenne is the perfect vehicle for someone who needs more space but doesn't want to give up the fun-to-drive sentiment.

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