The luxury SUV turns 20 this year.
The release of the Cayenne in 2002 was a pivotal moment for Porsche. It was the German automaker’s first foray into the world of off-road vehicles, a popular model in the North American market in the early Aughts, and the timing of the Cayenne’s arrival was impeccable.
“[The Cayenne] has brought many new customers and fans from all over the world to Porsche over the past 20 years,” says Detlev von Platen, a member of the Executive Board for Sales and Marketing at Porsche, noting that since its launch the vehicle has been a “major draw” for people interested in the brand.
To mark this milestone 20th anniversary, we’re looking back at four memorable moments from the model’s history.
Porsche announces ‘Colorado’, a joint project with Volkswagen
Porsche’s first-ever Cayenne was announced in June of 1998 and what immediately set it apart was the platform. The SUV was set to be built as a joint project with Volkswagen and would be developed with the same architecture as VW’s Touareg. The collab, which would come to be known as ‘Colorado’, represented a first for the two brands. And while each vehicle would share the same platform, the engines and chassis were set to be created separately. Despite the initial excitement generated by the announcement of Colorado, Porsche would take four years to tinker and tweak before finally bringing the Cayenne to market.
Cayenne is officially released into the world
Porsche initially announced its contribution to the SUV market in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2002 that consumers would finally be able to take one home. The luxury family friendly touring vehicle was quick to prove itself as a sleek and safe people mover that was comfort forward. But was also impressively powerful. The first gen Cayenne (known internally as E1) was available in two V8 engine variants, including the Cayenne S with its 4.5-litre engine that could generate 335 hp and hit top speeds of 242 km/h, and the even more forceful Cayenne Turbo, with a 443 hp output and speeds of 266 km/h.
The Cayenne was just as comfortable on the track as it was off road. Its low-range transfer box helped to increase traction on unforgiving terrain while its centre-diff locks helped prevent wheels from spinning in situations where they may lose contact from the ground.
It was a versatile addition to the market at the time and the launch captured the attention of several customer segments. The Cayenne was a trifecta of power, comfort and agility.
Second-gen Cayenne receives hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains
Porsche has never been one to fall behind the trends. The introduction of the second generation Cayenne (E2) in 2010 brought with it hybrid and plug-in hybrid drive systems. The arrival quickly put the SUV at the forefront of its segment.
“Response from a standstill is wonderfully instant,” wrote automotive magazine Car after a test drive in 2009. “The 38kW electric motor develops a fulsome 221 lb ft of twist from a single heartbeat and the bulky Cayenne Hybrid veritably shoots forwards. You never quite feel the full combined effect of the V6’s 325 lb ft and the electric motor – the ECU intervenes in the name of battery protection.”
Porsche Cayenne taps into rally circuits, clocks success after success
The Porsche Cayenne has found its competitive niche over the years, too. In 2006, the Cayenne S was entered in the Transsyberia Rally, a 7,100 km race from Moscow to Mongolia, not once, but twice, by two separate teams. The Cayenne was made for this style of endurance and took home first and second place that year. Twelve months later, at the same event, the Cayenne swept the podium, taking first, second and third place. Seven out of the top 10 finishers that year were Porsche, and in 2008 19 Cayenne S Transsyberia-outfitted models were on the start line at the Siberia Rally and wound up scoring all top-10 spots with the exception of sixth place.