When the Porsche Cayenne first appeared in the early 2000s, it ruffled so many feathers because a crossover wearing a Porsche crest was supposedly blasphemous. Three generations in, the Cayenne is still here and it’s one of the brand’s best-selling models alongside the Panamera and the Macan. This crossover expanded Porsche’s appeal to a broader range of consumers and it proved that a high-riding four-door didn’t dilute its DNA. Electrified versions have also joined the lineup and we’ve got our hands on the 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid. Simply put, this is one of the best all-around models in Porsche’s current lineup and that’s not only because it’s a crossover.
In typical Porsche fashion, the Cayenne’s exterior follows an evolutionary direction instead of a revolutionary one across its three generations. It has a clear relationship to the 911, the 718 Series, Panamera, Taycan, and Macan. From the rounded headlights to the full-width LED taillights, the Porsche design language is there. Only this time you get it in an upright crossover with four doors and muscular fenders. If you’re looking for a svelte coupe-like utility vehicle, Porsche has you covered on that front, too, with the Cayenne Coupe, which is also offered with electrified powertrains and a 631-hp Turbo GT model.
The 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid gives you the best of all worlds. During our week with the crossover, we found that it’s right at home doing everything from an impromptu road trip to Palm Springs, carving up our favorite roads, or casually cruising around town in all-electric mode. There’s a sense of duality when driving the Cayenne E-Hybrid because of how well-rounded it is. Leave the car in E-Power or Comfort mode and it’ll calmly cruise down the highway or city streets while coddling you. The available adaptive air suspension does a fantastic job absorbing road imperfections and keeping harsh impacts out of the cabin, isolating you from the outside world. Smooth power delivery from the plug-in hybrid powertrain is relaxed but punchy, adding to its chill character.
All of that changes once you put the Cayenne E-Hybrid in Sport or Sport Plus mode. The powertrain, which couples a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with an electric motor, a 17.9-kWh battery, and an eight-speed automatic transmission, turns the assertiveness up to 11. This allows you to take advantage of its combined output of 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, resulting in effortless acceleration. Even with its 2.5-ton curb weight, the Cayenne E-Hybrid moves without any fuss when you put your foot down. The gearbox is snappy and knows exactly what you want when you need it. Between the electric motor and the engine’s minimal turbo lag, power delivery is seamless; put your foot down and you get instant response.
In addition to the powertrain getting livelier, the adaptive air suspension stiffens up and lowers the Cayenne E-Hybrid to its lowest height. The result is a crossover that handles like a sports sedan; there’s little body roll, allowing you to throw the Cayenne into corners confidently. Our test car also came equipped with the optional rear-wheel steering system, which allows it to rotate better by turning the wheels a few degrees in the opposite direction, tightening the turning radius, and minimizing understeer. Sticky staggered width Pirelli P Zero rubber on 20-inch wheels provides generous grip levels, amplifying the crossover’s spirited driving dynamics. The trade-off, however, is tire noise; there’s a good amount of it especially on uneven pavement. Regardless of what mode you’re in, the Cayenne has one of the best steering in its segment. It’s quick, accurate, communicative, and weighted nicely, adding to the crossover’s sporty feel.
You can further customize the Cayenne thanks to the Individual drive mode. Each of the four main drive modes can also be configured by selecting a different suspension for them. That means you can pick the Sport or Sport Plus calibration and low ride height while keeping the powertrain in E-Power or Hybrid mode.
In all-electric mode, the EPA rates the Cayenne E-Hybrid at 17 miles. During our week with the car, we easily bested those estimates, constantly getting close to 30 miles on a full charge. With a level 2 AC charger, you can fully charge the battery in about four to five hours. A standard household outlet doubles the charging time, meaning you’ll need to keep the car plugged in overnight. A full tank and a full charge allow the Cayenne E-Hybrid at 430 miles. The EPA rates the car 20/22/21 mpg city/highway/combined when driven as a hybrid.
Adding to the Cayenne’s multi-talented nature is its luxurious interior. The fit and finish are exceptional, everything you touch or operate feels expensive. Little things like knurled components for the infotainment controls elevate the experience and show off just how much attention to detail is put in the cabin. Opting for two-tone interior colors like the black and red combination in our test car adds vibrance and character to the clean but simple layout.
Should you need to use your Cayenne E-Hybrid for practical duties, there’s generous room for five passengers and their gear. Even with all seats up, there’s plenty of space for weekend bags and bulky items. The standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats provide additional flexibility by allowing you to haul long items while retaining seating for four. Fold the second row and you have plenty of room for flat-pack furniture. There’s a surprising number of cubbies, too, meaning you won’t be short on places to stow your water bottles and mobile devices.
Porsche’s latest infotainment system features a 12.3-inch touch screen that’s quick and responsive. The layout is simple and you can reconfigure the tiles in the main menu. It also retains menu shortcuts on the left side of the display so you can easily get to where you need to even with Apple CarPlay active. You can also opt for a 14-speaker Bose surround sound system with 710 watts. While it’s clear and easy to customize, the unit could immerse the cabin better. If you’re an audiophile, get the 21-speaker Burmester 3D High-End system but be ready to pay a pretty penny because it costs $7,000 on the Cayenne E-Hybrid.
The Cayenne E-Hybrid gets a full range of driver assistance features with several collision prevention technologies like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning as standard. They worked subtly in the background, reducing the chances of you turning them off because they don’t get annoying nor did they feel like they’re trying to take over driving duties. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and traffic jam assist are part of the Porsche InnoDrive option. This feature is also available as part of the Assistance package, which also includes a surround-view camera, night vision, and a head-up display.
Customizability is a hallmark of every Porsche model and it’s no different with the Cayenne E-Hybrid. Pricing starts at $83,150 for the base model. Our test car, which came with the Premium package plus several standalone options checked in at $101,650. You can further customize the car with larger alloy wheels, cool two-tone upholstery, special trim, contrasting colored seat belts, and more. Going crazy with the options, as you should know dear reader, will quickly cause the Cayenne’s sticker price to balloon.
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is proof that a crossover expands a brand’s appeal. When executed properly to stay faithful with its identity and heritage, it can prove its mettle and show that practicality and sportiness can coexist. That’s what the Cayenne has done for three generations; a family-friendly luxury midsize crossover brimming with Porsche DNA. The duality of its personality simply adds to the Cayenne’s appeal because the crossover is happy driving casually or spiritedly. Adding electrification to the mix further cuts the compromise because of its ability to operate in EV mode. Simply put, the Cayenne is a Porsche in every sense from the way it drives to the level of luxury and driving fun you get. Only now it’s wrapped in a practical package.