by Michael Butler
It is becoming nearly impossible to find a bad Porsche. Sure, it doesn't always get everything right, but most of the time, the marque hardly misses a beat, and to such a degree that it makes the competition look pretty bad. Porsche builds one of the best performance SUVs out there, and in fact, was one of the first to start the trend of bullet train SUVs. Porsche has offered the Cayenne in hybrid form for a few years now, and it never ceases to amaze us. The SUV combines luxury and performance in a relatively economical package that simply blows the doors off most other hybrid SUVs. Powertrains include the 455-horsepower Cayenne E-Hybrid and the 670-hp Turbo S E-Hybrid, which uses a twin-turbo V8 to accelerate to sixty in only 3.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 183 mph. The hybrid range of Cayenne SUVs goes up against the Range Rover Hybrid and the Volvo XC90 Hybrid.
For 2021, Porsche has kept the Cayenne Hybrid range of SUVs unchanged. Still, the new model year has seen the return of the mighty GTS (reviewed separately with the conventionally-powered Cayenne), which is offered with a 453-hp twin-turbo V8 and acts as a gateway model to the high-powered Turbo variants.
The Porsche Cayenne has always been one of our favorite SUVs, not only because it is one of the best driving cars out there, but because it looks good while doing it. The 2021 range of hybrid Cayennes get LED lighting all around. While the E-Hybrid rolls on a set of 19-inch Cayenne wheels, the Turbo S E-Hybrid rides on 21-inch AeroDesign wheels. The exterior of the base model features rear privacy glass, an automatic rear hatch, as well as twin single-tube tailpipes. The Turbo model offers a panoramic roof, adaptive rear spoiler, and twin dual-tube exhaust exits.
The two Cayenne E-Hybrid trims vary slightly in terms of dimensions: the total length of the base model is 193.7 inches, while the Turbo S measures in at 194 inches. The width works out to 86.4 inches with the mirrors extended. While the E-Hybrid is 66.8 inches in height, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is a bit lower at 65.9 inches. Both SUVs roll on a 114-inch wheelbase. The curb weight of the base model is 5,164 pounds, while the Turbo S weighs in at heavy 5,675 lbs. While not many customers are likely to take a Cayenne E-Hybrid too far off-road, it does have a maximum ground clearance of 9.6 inches with the air suspension in its highest setting.
Don't let the term 'hybrid' fool you into thinking that these family-friendly SUVs are all about hugging trees and transporting abandoned kittens to the vet. Far from it: both Cayenne E-Hybrids are absolute rocket ships with enough performance to satisfy most needs. The Cayenne E-Hybrid is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine mated to a hybrid-electric system. On its own, the engine produces 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the electric system, you're looking at 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The Turbo S model gets a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 and an electric motor system that develops a total of 670 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque. Power gets sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The base model will sprint to sixty in 4.7 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package and reach a top speed of 157 mph, while the Turbo S will do the same in a scant 3.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package and power on to a top speed of 183 mph. A maximum towing capacity of 7,700 lbs is a reminder that this is a practical SUV, just in case those acceleration figures made you forget.
We don't know how Porsche does it, but time after time, it manages to make the Cayenne drive better than almost anything else in its class. The Cayenne is one of the best handling SUVs ever created, and that's a large part of the reason why we love it so much. Porsche has managed to develop a chassis that delivers crisp turn-in and a responsive front end that goes precisely where you tell it to. The hybrid versions do weigh between 582 and 619 lbs more than their equivalent gas-powered siblings, but they still manage to handle beautifully. What astonished us was its immense corner exit speeds: enter the turn slowly and punch it out at the exit, and you're thrown into the back of your seat. Unfortunately, one cannot avoid the slightly stiff suspension that comes with such sporty handling, even though these cars come with adaptive air suspension, but it is livable.
While there weren't any economy figures available for the 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid at the time of writing, we do know what 2020 models can do, and this is unlikely to change for the mechanically identical 2021 versions. It should go without saying, however, that due to the nature of these cars, fuel consumption isn't going to be mind-blowing, but thanks to the assistance of the hybrid systems, the Cayenne E-Hybrid can be rather frugal when it needs to be. This model will manage a fuel consumption figure of 21 mpg on the combined cycle, or 41 MPGe on electricity. The Turbo S E-Hybrid sees the gas-only figure drop to 18 mpg, and the electric figure declines to 39 MPGe. Both SUVs are fitted with a 19.8-gallon fuel tank, which should give you a range of between 356 and 416 miles on a single tank of gas. The 14.1 kWh battery pack will fully charge in 2.3 hours on a 230-volt, 32-amp connection and with the 7.2 kW optionally available on-board charger.
Porsche doesn't muck around when it comes to its cars' interiors. From the lowliest Boxster all the way up to the 911 Turbo, these cars offer stunning craftsmanship and exude class like few others. Get inside the Cayenne E-Hybrid, and you'll notice the rather elevated driving position that makes forward visibility quite good, although the sloping rear end does limit things somewhat. The seats in both the base and Turbo S models are great: the base model gets eight-way power-adjustable seats in the front, while the Turbo model sports a set of 18-way adjustable seats with memory. Seats are covered in leather (partial leather on the E-Hybrid), and the Cayenne will seat five occupants comfortably.
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is many things to many people: it can be a fast GT cruiser, an off-road companion, and even a full-blown sports car, but never forget that it is still a highly practical SUV. The Cayenne offers a good amount of space behind the rear seats, 22.7 cubic feet to be exact, which is tight when compared to the 34.1 cubic feet on offer in the Volvo XC90 and down from the circa 27 cubes found in the non-hybrid Cayenne derivatives. If you need even more room, the rear seats fold flat and offer an even larger 56.6 cubic feet of space. Small-item storage is somewhat of a disappointment as the regular storage spaces are smaller than average, especially the glovebox, but you still get four cupholders and a bottle holder in each door as well as a center console storage bin.
Porsche tends to hold back on the standard features and leave most of the good stuff for the options list, but the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid does get a few luxury items. The base model offers standard features such as two-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power-adjustable seats, cruise control, keyless entry, a rearview camera, as well as front and rear ParkAssist and a HomeLink garage door opener. The Turbo model gets upgraded 18-way power seats with memory, a panoramic roof, as well as Power Steering Plus. The base model gets a multifunction steering wheel with shift-paddles finished off in leather, and also gets four USB C charging ports. The Turbo gets a heated steering wheel, electric steering column adjustment, and an Alcantara headliner. Most driver-assist features cost extra, such as a surround-view camera system and adaptive cruise control.
Every Cayenne comes with a standard 12.3-inch infotainment display mounted in the middle of the dashboard. The interface is intuitive, and we love the fact that the home screen can be configured exactly how you want it. We did notice that the touchscreen smudges after some use, and we wish there were a rotary controller in play to mitigate this issue. Each car gets Porsche Connect Plus that includes Wi-Fi connectivity and Apple CarPlay integration. You also get Bluetooth streaming, HD Radio, and aux-in connectivity, along with navigation with voice control and SiriusXM satellite radio. The standard audio system uses ten speakers, but the Turbo model gets an even better Bose surround-sound system with 14 speakers, including a subwoofer.
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is yet to be recalled, but certain 2020 models have been for failure to warn the driver of worn brake pads, as well as a transmission oil pipe leak problem and fuel line issue, the latter only affecting Turbo S E-Hybrid derivatives. Certain 2019 Cayennes were also recalled for a malfunctioning reverse camera display. Porsche covers the E-Hybrid with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, including drivetrain and 24-hour roadside assistance cover for the same amount of time or distance traveled. You also get a 12-year corrosion warranty and an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery.
Unfortunately, the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid has not been tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS so we can't officially comment on its safety, but knowing Porsche, these SUVs should keep you safe in case something goes wrong. There's a full complement of airbags, including dual front knee airbags. Other standard features include front and rear ParkAssist, cruise control, a rearview camera, and LED headlights. Adding the optional Assistance package adds goodies such as a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, night vision assist, traffic sign recognition, and lane-keep assist. Many of these should be standard on a luxury SUV at the Cayenne E-Hybrid's price.
Where would you like us to start? The 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid carries on doing what it does best: combine all the things that make a luxury SUV great, and then add the driving ability of a sports car on top of that. It's such a great all-rounder that we struggle to think of anything better on the market. The exterior is handsome and not overdone. We love the wheel designs and the standard panoramic sunroof on the Turbo S model. The interior is impeccable: the craftsmanship is up there with the best, and although you don't get as many standard features, the ones you get look good and work well. The infotainment system is great, but we wish Porsche had included Android Auto in the mix. On the road, the E-Hybrid will blow you away with its sheer capability. In either the base or Turbo S version, there are oodles of lowdown torque, and the driving experience is simply stunning. Sure, it might be on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for.
The price of the 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid ranges from expensive to exorbitantly expensive, depending on which model you opt for. Starting with the base model Cayenne E-Hybrid, you're looking at an MSRP of $81,800, which does not include tax, registration, and a destination fee of $1,350. The Turbo S E-Hybrid is miles faster than the base car and sounds better too, but you're going to have to pay to play: the top-of-the-range hybrid Cayenne will set you back an eye-watering $163,200. That price can quickly reach closer to the $200k mark if you're not careful with the options.
When choosing between the two options on offer for 2021, you really can't go wrong with either. Both the E-Hybrid and the Turbo S E-Hybrid are good to look at, drive beautifully, and will happily whisk the kids to school and do the grocery run. Deciding on which one to go for then will purely depend on how many standard features you're after, and how fast you want to go. The Turbo S E-Hybrid is ballistic and will crush most sports cars in the zero-to-sixty sprint, but to access that twin-turbo V8 engine, you're going to have to pay double the price of the base model, which seems a bit much. It is for that reason alone that we would suggest going for the base model. The turbocharged V6 engine offers more than enough go, and its interior is still just as plush. Sure, you miss out on things like 18-way adjustable seats and the panoramic roof, but you will save around $80,000, which means there is more room to delve into the extensive options list.
The X5 is one of the originators of the luxury SUV market and was BMW's first midsize SUV, so it has made quite the name for itself over the past two decades or so. The X5 hybrid is powered by a six-cylinder BMW Twin Power Turbo PHEV Drivetrain. Power is rated at 389 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, both of which are lower than the base model Cayenne E-Hybrid. The Porsche is thus also a faster car. The exterior of the X5 is attractive, and we think it looks better than the Porsche, but that's subjective of course. The interior of the X5 is premium all right, but that of the Porsche feels more special. On the road, the BMW is a true handler, but it can't match the crisp responses of the Porsche, although it might be more comfortable at lower speeds. The BMW X5 does however offer more interior space, is $16,400 cheaper, and would be the car to go for if you're looking for lots of cargo space. That said, the Porsche is a better-balanced car and would be our choice here.
Volvo has been killing it in the SUV game in recent years, and we think that its cars are both good to look at and great to drive. The XC90 Hybrid is Volvo's largest hybrid SUV and brings a large number of goodies to the table that should worry the Porsche. The XC90 is powered by a 2.0-liter twincharged inline-four hybrid motor producing 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. That's a lot, but not enough to beat the Porsche, although the Volvo is the more efficient of the two. The exterior of the XC90 is more sedate, and we honestly think it looks too plain, so the Porsche takes that one. Inside, the Volvo is stunning, and there are lots of standard features on offer so that one goes to the Swede. On the road, it is clear that the Volvo was tuned for comfort, and is the better cruiser and low-speed crawler, but it can't match the Porsche for dynamic driving. It also undercuts the Porsche in base form by nearly $20,000, but the Porsche is just too good to let go of.
Check out some informative Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid video reviews below.