Nine years ago, Porsche introduced the premium crossover-SUV segment’s first plug-in hybrid. That vehicle, which arrived as the 2011 Cayenne S E-Hybrid, debuted with an innovative “sandwich” hybrid powertrain -- the electric motor was packaged between the engine and the gearbox. This arrangement ensured that a collective 374 horsepower would flow through the transmission -- whether electric, combustion, or a combination of both -- to provide seamless power to all four of the Cayenne’s wheels. The technology worked -- the 2011 Cayenne S E-Hybrid was not only efficient, but impressively sporty.

Porsche’s follow-up act -- the 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid -- is light-years more advanced than its early predecessor, thanks to rapidly evolving technology. In addition to its 3rd-generation chassis, which is stiffer and lighter than ever before, the crossover’s “sandwich” hybrid powertrain boasts a thoroughly modern turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 and an electric motor with combined system output of 455 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. A traditional 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission transmits power to Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive. Electrical energy is stored in a liquid-cooled 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, packaged beneath the rear load floor to ensure that passenger space isn’t compromised.

Despite its obvious complexity, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is visually identical to its standard siblings -- apart from Porsche’s signature Acid Green paint on the brake calipers, badge surrounds and instrument needles. The 5-passenger crossover SUV shares all exterior and interior components with its combustion-only twin, including a versatile interior and an extensive list of premium options.

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Yet everything becomes unique once the E-Hybrid begins to drive. In default E-Power mode (the other choices are Hybrid Auto, E-Hold and E-Charge), the Porsche will only consume electricity for about the first 25 miles, at speeds upwards of 85 mph -- completely emission-free. Once the battery is depleted, the combustion engine fires to life in Hybrid Auto to complement the motor (the battery is never technically “empty”). Like all hybrids, the SUV relies on regenerative braking during deceleration, which helps to explain the odd feeling on the brake pedal while slowing down.

The operator doesn’t have to deplete the battery upon start-up. If you select E-Hold mode, the battery charge is retained until needed. On the other hand, choose E-Charge and something magical happens -- the Porsche uses the combustion engine to recharge the battery while en route to the destination (of course, this does come at the slight expense of fuel economy). The ability to charge while underway increases the convenience quotient by a full point as the Cayenne E-Hybrid is remarkably capable of arriving at journey's end with a full battery charge.

Yet, despite the apparent focus on efficiency, the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s primary mission isn’t hypermiling. Instead, Porsche designates the crossover SUV as an ambassador to its E-Performance initiative -- it’s a performance vehicle.

Mash the throttle in Sport Plus mode and the combined electric/combustion powertrain blasts the Cayenne to 60 mph in just over 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 157 mph. The 5,000-pound Porsche defies physics with tenacious cornering ability (thanks, in part, to available 22-inch wheels -- a first for the automaker) and pedal-feel aside, stops surprisingly drama-free with standard multi-piston brakes. While no owner will ever take the E-Hybrid to a racing circuit, based on its driving dynamics, it’s not entirely implausible.

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For those times when drivers want to reduce their workload, Porsche will offer its InnoDrive advanced adaptive cruise control on the E-Hybrid. In addition to the common velocity and lane-keep capabilities, the InnoDrive system combines onboard map data and traffic telemetry to proactively read road conditions and optimize the powertrain -- improving efficiency. It’s another leap towards future autonomy.

In terms of replenishing the battery, the E-Hybrid offers a quick option. With a 32-amp connection and the optional 7.2 kW onboard charger, a fully depleted battery may be brought back to a full charge in just 2.3 hours. With a 10-amp connection, and the standard 3.6 kW onboard charger, the same charge takes 7.8 hours -- overnight. (During my drive, I noted that the E-Charge mode is faster than both plug-in methods.)

It’s a challenge to fault the 3rd-generation Cayenne E-Hybrid. The German engineers have seamlessly integrated hybrid technology into a high-performance vehicle -- it pleases both those seeking efficiency, and those seeking driving fun. This premium SUV is genuinely the best of both worlds.

Look for the all-new 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid in showrooms beginning in the first quarter of 2019.

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