So here it is at last – the report from behind the wheel of Porsche’s first family car, the Cayenne. Forget all the hype and all the vituperation from Porsche traditionalists about “the Porsche SUV.” This car is a four-door Porsche first and an SUV second – it just happens that the most profitable route to a Porsche for buyers in the middle years between no family and an empty nest was through SUV country.
America is the biggest market for Porsche and every other high-value car manufacturer, and America is currently in the middle of a love affair with high-riding five-seaters with all-wheel drive. If the German company was going to extend its product range, there was only one way to go. If it had tried to build a high-performance sedan, it would have had to counter competition from some of the best cars on the planet – and although it could have matched them, it would not have been able to beat them. By building an SUV, it has been able to play to its strengths – power, handling, build quality and an often-forgotten long experience in 4x4 technology – to take on a raft of me-too products and win.
Climb that mountain
It had a mountain to climb thanks to its own reputation and place in the market, because for fifty years or so it has made nothing but two-seat sports cars. Those sports cars were so good that they built up a massive reputation and engendered a slavish devotion among their owners. The trouble is that Porsche became marked as a sports car manufacturer, and when it announced it was to build an SUV, a large number of people who should have known better said that the result could not be a Porsche.