Celebrating the Porsche Cayenne?

The genre-defining sporty SUV has reached its angsty teenage years. But should we be throwing it a birthday party?

2y ago

Whichever way you cut it, fifteen years is a bloody long time. Not that I'm trying to make you feel old, but back at the beginning 2003 Justin Beiber was just nine years old, your computer would throw you off of the internet if your Mum picked up the telephone, and Top Gear hadn't yet hired James May.

If that doesn't make you feel your age, how about a few snippets from the world of motoring? The biggest release for 2003 was perhaps the Lamborghini Gallardo, not the LP560, nor the Spyder, but the original one depicted on cave drawings in the hills of Tuscany. The best-selling car in the UK was the original Ford Focus, and perhaps the most controversial was the subject of this afternoons missive; the Porsche Cayenne.

Porsche weren't the first 'premium' German brand to cash in on the SUV trend. Mercedes got there first in 1997 with the M-Class, which was terrible. Nor were they the first to attempt a 'sporting' off-road car, BMW's original (slightly less terrible) X5 can claim that dubious honour.

However, the Cayenne was such a departure for Porsche, a brand that had hitherto not even attempted a four-door saloon, that when the Cayenne debuted at the 2002 Paris Motor show we were all a bit shocked. You have to remember that this is Porsche we are talking about, the manufacturer that has struggled on for fifty years putting the 911's engine where it clearly shouldn't be. Their fans are even worse, remember when Porsche dared to use water instead of air as a cooling medium for the 996?

It was perhaps with the criticism of their fanbase still ringing in their ears that Porsche set out to design the first Cayenne. You can see what happened, the marketing department took the stylists to one side, they had a meeting and it went a bit like this...

Marketing: "We need to build a new SUV to cash in on the demand for them and stop our customers defecting to our rivals. But to avoid upsetting our fans, it has to look very much like a Porsche."

Styling team: "Err okay, leave it to us..."

That's how we ended up with something that looked exactly like a small potting shed to which someone had nailed a pair of Boxster headlamps. Nevertheless, buyers weren't put off by this and the Cayenne went on to be a roaring success. This is partly due to the fact that, if you can get past the hideous outward appearance, the Cayenne is a pretty good car. Certainly, it fulfils its remit of being the best drivers car of all the big SUV's with considerable aplomb, and though it can't match a Range Rover for class or off-road ability, it still commands a premium price tag through the feeling of sheer quality it possesses.

But, and it's a big Kardashian-esque but. The Cayenne has always been lambasted by car 'enthusiasts'. People say an SUV can't possibly be a proper Porsche. They say that the Cayenne opened the floodgates for a slew of cynical marketing exercises with jacked-up ride heights and posh badges. It can be argued that cars such as the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan wouldn't exist if it weren't for the success of the Cayenne.

So, what do we reckon then? The Cayenne, should it be celebrated 15 years on, or sent to its bedroom with no birthday cake?

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Comments (1)

  • It did indeed ‘save’ Porsche- moving into that segment gave Porsche a huge cash injection & their research indicated most Porsche owners had 2 other vehicles.

    It deserves recognition for what it gave us but I doubt it will ever become ‘desirable’.

    Almost every Porsche has reached collector status, even the ones that were more VW than Porsche. The cayenne remains at the cheap end of used cars despite being incredibly powerful and loaded with gadgets

      2 years ago