An air of practicality sweeps over Porsche these days. It’s not unlike the strong winds coming off the Mediterranean Sea on the warm spring day when I find myself behind the wheel of a 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid pushing toward the French coast from hilly Provence.

This warm, humid breeze stirs up nearly fluorescent pollen in the trees while providing a slight respite from the sun’s baking heat. One big difference is that the dark storm clouds tainted with diesel emissions, not to mention a scandal that loomed over Porsche, appear to have diminished.

Distant rain clouds in France are a more pressing concern as I thread my way through Citroen hatchbacks toward the Mediterranean, making the most of the Cayenne’s turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and the electric motor it’s paired to.

DON'T MISS: 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid: eco without compromise

The automaker has high hopes for this latest variant of the third-generation Cayenne in Europe, where nearly two-thirds of Panamera sedans sold have the same gasoline-hybrid powertrain underhood. Porsche won’t sell the Cayenne E-Hybrid in the U.S. until early next year, a period we’d advise patiently waiting out.

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

Technology on the march

Where the outgoing Cayenne S E-Hybrid had a sporty “S” in its name, its 416 horsepower didn’t quite live up to the task. For 2019, the S nomenclature vanishes, and we’re not sure why because power increases to a combined output of 455 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. Porsche gets to those numbers through some fuzzy math: the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 gas engine checks in with 335 hp and 332 lb-ft, while the electric motor supplies 134 hp and 195 lb-ft.

The old Cayenne S E-Hybrid’s electric motor furnished just 95 hp and its 10.8-kw battery paled in capacity versus the 14.4-kw unit in the new E-Hybrid. The S E-Hybrid felt like a stopgap; the new one doesn’t.

ALSO SEE: Wolfgang Porsche shares his top 5 favorite Porsches

The 2019 E-Hybrid shuttles power to all four corners with immediacy, something remarkable for a 5,000-pound vehicle. Since the electric motor doesn’t need to spool up, power is instantaneous and Porsche quotes a believable 4.7-second 0-60 mph sprint.

Mind you, that’s a couple of ticks faster than the Cayenne S, and eight tenths of a second faster than the S E-Hybrid, which only lasted two model years before giving way to this new and improved model. The E-Hybrid’s roughly $81,000 base price also undercuts the Cayenne S by about $3,000.

Winds of change, indeed. Now, the Cayenne E-Hybrid is the one to have.

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

Despite the Porsche’s impressive performance, Mother Nature wins this round: the dark clouds have caught up to me and soon heavy rain pours.

The Cayenne E-Hybrid’s powertrain doesn’t even notice, and the automatic windshield wipers wake up to clear the view ahead. In the Cayenne, Porsche uses a conventional 8-speed automatic transmission with a torque converter rather than the Panamera E-Hybrid’s dual-clutch setup. The automatic suits the Cayenne’s multi-faceted nature well: a wide spread between gears for highway loping but plenty of choices for snappy response on a twisty road.

On this Wednesday in May, France is between holidays—a rare back-to-work moment for a country that relishes time away from work. Nobody told the tourists in their lumbering campers. They plod along even slower in the rain, and the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s powertrain adapts to the situation, even if I don’t.

MUST SEE: 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid first drive review: the 918 Spyder distilled

For Europe’s congested urban centers that restrict cars running on combustion engines, the Cayenne’s drive mode selector can be set to hold onto the 14.1-kwh lithium-ion battery’s full electric charge until it’s needed for emissions-free driving. It's called E-Hold, and Porsche quotes about 27 miles of electric-only driving range and a maximum speed of about 70 mph, but those figures were determined using a European standard rather than the EPA’s. Look for a lower range when the E-Hybrid comes to America, perhaps 20-23 miles.

As for charging, Porsche figures a little over two hours to top off a depleted battery using the optional 7.2-kw charger on a Level 2 (240-volt) outlet. The standard 3.6-kw charger on a household 120-volt outlet takes nearly 8 hours, which may be just fine for basic commuting.

The rain lets up and the road opens up enough for me to thread the Cayenne E-Hybrid between the campers. Power is near instantaneous, and I almost forget about the innocuous, unmarked button located in the center of the drive mode knob on the steering wheel. Press it and, as long as the battery is charged, the Cayenne surges forward with 20 seconds of full battery torque for especially spirited passing response.

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

It’s like an arcade game boost mode, only in real life and without the need for a pocket full of quarters.

In typical driving, the standard Hybrid mode uses the lithium-ion battery to boost performance. The result is smooth, linear power and almost no hint of underhood rumble even as the tachometer needle sweeps toward redline.

An E-Charge mode runs the gas engine at a higher rate to charge the battery while driving. For Americans, that mode is dubious—cheating, almost—but for Europeans on their way to an emissions-free zone, it could prove handy.

The Cayenne E-Hybrid comes standard with the Sport Chrono package that’s optional on the Cayenne S—an odd quirk that further adds to the hybrid’s appeal. That means that both Sport and Sport+ drive modes are just a twist away on the steering wheel dial.

For now, Porsche is mum on fuel-economy figures for the Cayenne E-Hybrid, but they will certainly best the outgoing hybrid’s 24 mpg combined rating.

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

Other than making fewer stops at gas stations, the Cayenne E-Hybrid does little to advertise its eco-chic credentials. The bright green accents outside—about the same shade as the pollen swirling through the air—are thankfully not carried over to the Cayenne’s sublime, roomy interior.

The rain commences again as I approach La Grand-Motte, a seaside town especially popular with European pensioners on holiday, and I’m forced to stab the brakes as a lumbering Renault van with Belgian plates stumbles into my lane. Here the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s only notable weakness comes into play: rubbery brake feel. Six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers grab the steel rotors with authority and bring things to a quick halt, but these regenerative brakes give up a hint of pedal communication compared to the conventional binders in the Cayenne S.

Still, the brakes don’t rain on the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s parade too much. They’re the only demerit of a crossover that otherwise combines all the right virtues—usability, performance, refinement, improved efficiency, and even value.

Porsche provided travel and airfare to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.