With its decision to develop a « multi-purpose sports vehicle », Porsche presents its design office and its boss at the time, Harm Lagaay, with major challenges. It was the first time in the company’s history that instead of a two-door sports car, a study for an SUV was required. The code name was « Colorado ». It was, in a way, the exact opposite of a sports car layout: a large, high-roofed car with four doors and room for five people and all their luggage. In addition, the Porsche Cayenne needed much more ground clearance than a classic sports car, because it also had to be among the best in off-road driving. Internally, the Cayenne is known by the code letter E for Enduro, with the first Cayenne being named E1 and the current model being the E3.
“Of course, it was not at all easy to express the identity of the Porsche brand in a car that had absolutely nothing to do with the existing models produced by our company. », said Harm Lagaay after the work was completed. The designer spent an entire year on the headlights alone. It wasn’t just that they had to integrate the dipped and main beam headlights and the cornering light while preserving the clear lines of the Cayenne’s bodywork – these were among the components that guaranteed the brand’s identity. .
Even today, any car enthusiast can recognize the face of the Porsche 911 of the 996 generation on the front of the first Cayenne. This impression was reinforced by the so-called topography of the front end. The highlight of the fenders and headlights is above that of the hood. This is a distinctive feature for a Porsche, as these outlines are a clear visual reference to the design of the iconic 911. However, it was significantly more difficult to achieve this specific design in the Cayenne, with its big V8 engine under the hood. .
The Porsche product has become a brand
Another feature of the 911-style hood is its visible tapering towards the front. The designers also wanted to adopt it for the Cayenne, but the engineers first came up with a square engine cover. This would make it easier to access the air filter and headlights. The designers prevailed on this, but they also worked with the car’s engineering team on areas that weren’t visible. For example, they worked together to come up with an optimized air filter layout.
Michael Mauer was also pleased that Porsche was willing to invest so much in design and construction under the internally named « Colorado » development project. In 2004, he succeeded Harm Lagaay as chief designer: “ For me, the Cayenne is a fundamental question. Whatever type of concept vehicle would have been used to improve the 911 and Boxster sports car lines, the step towards the third Porsche made the product a brand. And the design gave the car, whose proportions take it as far away from a sports car as possible, a Porsche identity that transcends the brand name. »
This is still evident today in the distinctive shoulder at the rear of the Cayenne E1 – in which Ferdinand Alexander Porsche played an important design role – as well as the smooth surfaces of the bodywork and the omission of a traditional grille between the fog lights. These classic Porsche features have also reduced the importance of the relatively large air intakes in the front apron. A front-mounted engine requires air for combustion and cooling. And Porsche customers were already used to the front air intakes of sports cars. In this case, however, they are responsible for cooling the brakes.
The doors were the biggest design challenge
Mauer describes the car’s side profile as the toughest design challenge. The Cayenne was created together with the Volkswagen Touareg, which is why the windshields and the four doors of the two SUVs are identical. “It’s easy to underestimate how much doors define the side of a car. Behind the back door we have maybe another yard, and only a bit more at the front, so there’s not much room to do much. »explains Mauer, who first worked on the Porsche SUV when the E1 facelift appeared in 2007.
“With the E1 II, we gave the whole car more visual sharpness and definition. », he recalls. However, the door problem was still there, as well as the difficulty of designing a fastback-style rear – one that would taper diagonally rearwards like a sports car. At Porsche, this is called the “flyline”. However, if the doors cannot be changed to prevent the roof line from falling, there is little space left at the rear to create a fly line that the customer recognizes as a characteristic feature. The options that remained to solve this problem were a more sloped design of the hard side windows behind the rear doors and the addition of a spoiler to extend the roofline.
Overall, even from today’s perspective, the first Cayenne with its formal clarity and emphasis on characteristic Porsche elements is a consistent member of the model range. The interior of the E1, however, was heavily influenced by Volkswagen. “The interior can hardly deny its kinship with the Touareg. », says Markus Auerbach, head of interior design styling at Porsche. Porsche has compromised, for example, on the brand’s usual five-tube design for the instrument cluster. While five intertwined rings are visible in front of the steering wheel, the tachometer is not positioned in the middle as is usual with Porsche, but rather to the left.
To achieve the usual Porsche arrangement, it would have been necessary to develop a new instrument cluster – an unforeseen investment for the first-generation Cayenne. However, Porsche was still able to include a number of signature elements: its own three-spoke steering wheel, handles on the center console that emphasize the SUV’s superb off-road performance, and the location of the ignition key found in the same location as in all Porsches – to the left of the steering wheel.