What started as a way to save a brand in trouble became one of its most legendary successes.
All the way back in 1989, Ferry Porsche predicted that an off-road Porsche would be a success, and that prediction quickly became something Porsche would depend on when the brand saw some of its worst financial trouble in the mid-90s. The Porsche Boxster, the mid-engined sports car that eventually gave way to the Cayman and now the entire 718 range, alleviated some of this trouble in 1996, but it quickly became clear that the Boxster wouldn’t get Porsche out of the woods alone. That’s when the idea came about to make an SUV for the North American market, which was quite receptive to SUVs at the time.
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Developed in conjunction with the Volkswagen Touareg, the Cayenne and Touareg would have separate chassis setups and engines on the same platform. This ensured that even though the platform would be shared with Volkswagen, the Porsche Cayenne had a unique character, and even though it was an SUV, it was very much a Porsche. 20 years ago in 2002, the Cayenne was brought onto the road, and the result was an explosive success and what remains to be one of Porsche’s highest-selling models to this day, a luxurious, sporty, and dynamic SUV that distilled Porsche’s driving character and put it into an entirely new form.
From the Cayenne, the even sportier Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S blossomed with more power and performance, as well as Porsche’s first hybrid, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid in 2010, which used a full hybrid system rather than a power-split hybrid that offered pure electric driving range and not only increased efficiency but also performance. Today, the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid improved on this foundation to be an incredibly formidable luxury performance SUV, able to get from 0-60 in just 3.8 seconds. The Cayenne also served as the base for rallying Porsches, and also the defiantly sporty Cayenne GTS. The Cayenne immediately became a success, delivering 35,000 examples each year in the first 8 years rather than the expected 25,000, and in 2020, the millionth Cayenne rolled off the assembly line, with over 80,000 Cayennes being sold in 2021. After 20 years, the Cayenne is still one of the most important Porsche models ever; it didn’t just save the brand, it changed it for the better.