The last thing expected from a world-renowned sports-car maker was an SUV, but Porsche was able to pull this off for survival’s sake. When the economic conditions experienced a downfall, this German automaker didn’t suffer much—not until the early 1990s, when it was shaken to its core and almost died. For Porsche to stay independent, it needed to produce a third-model line that will sell better than the Porsche 911 and Porsche Boxster. Since Americans were going loco over SUVs, and the US was still the automaker’s biggest market, Porsche tried its luck in the SUV market with the Porsche Cayenne, a mid-size luxury SUV, which was made out of the company’s need for a more dependable source of profit than just the sports car market.
2002: V-8 models
The first-generation Porsche Cayenne was launched as a four-door, five-passenger wagon powered by a V-8 and equipped with a dual-range four-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission, and other surprising SUV features. Among the first Cayenne models were the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. Both models came with a basic 4.5-liter, high-tech V-8 engine, but the Turbo engine came with a pair of power-boosting exhaust-gas compressors with intercoolers.
2005: V-6 models
In early 2005, the V-6 base model of Porsche Cayenne was introduced. It was powered by a 3.2-liter version of Volkswagen’s “VR6” engine, which has a narrow-angle design featuring an iron block and four valves per cylinder. Within a few months, a six-speed manual transmission was offered as a no-charge option for this entry-level model.
2006: The Turbo S
This model was able to deliver a whooping 520 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 530 pound-feet of torque at 2750 rpm. Its engine was provided with larger intercoolers, the engine computer was remapped, and the cooling system was upgraded. Brake system upgrades were also done, and new 20-inch SportTechno wheels and high-performance tires were fitted in.
2008: Heavily revamped versions
Dubbed as the second-generation Cayenne, 2008 models received a complete makeover, with a host of new features and fresh styling. With new headlamps and bigger front air intakes, these newer models exude a wider and meaner looks. The base model was powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 while the twin-turbo version made way for the 4.8-liter V-8. All models were equipped with the Porsche Stability Management system, a rollover sensor, a standard power liftgate, and a “Sport” button on the dashboard, which modifies the suspension, engine, and transmission electronics for high-performance driving.
According to Business Week, in just a year since Porsche Cayenne’s launching in the US market, its strong sales had greatly helped the company in paying down its debt. Despite the production cost of this SUV, Porsche had collected $2.1 billion in cash, which was used to lower its debt to $128 million. The Cayenne’s sales also provided the company its 10.1 percent net profit margin, which was the industry’s highest for that year. This is the reason Business Week titled its story about Porsche Cayenne with: “This SUV can tow an entire carmaker.”