The world’s first sports SUV, the Porsche Cayenne is celebrating its 20th anniversary today. A true precursor to a rapidly expanding market, the Porsche Cayenne was decried when it was released, with some calling it mechanical heresy. Throwback to this crazy saga of the ugly duckling!
A controversial car upon its release
Porsche has long been a sports car manufacturer, and the Cayenne was a departure from that tradition. Many people felt that an SUV did not fit the image of the Stuttgart firm. Some also worried that the Cayenne was too big and heavy to be driven like a Porsche.
The Cayenne was first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 2002, and went on sale in 2003. While initial public reaction was not positive, the automaker had to work hard to convince people that the Cayenne was « a real Porsche ».
The genesis of the Porsche Cayenne
In the mid-1990s, the German manufacturer was in difficulty and was struggling to renew itself. If the release of the Boxster in 1996 does him good, the leaders know that it is dangerous to rely on the 911 and its derivatives alone. It is at this moment that the idea of a third type of Porsche started to germinate.
Ferdinand Piëch, then head of the group, wanted to produce an SUV that was as sporty as a Porsche should be. The project is called “Cayenne”, in reference to hot peppers.
The first steps were taken in 1997 with the presentation of the LMP concept car – for Le Mans Prototype – which would serve as the basis for the future Porsche Cayenne.
The design of the first Porsche Cayenne is entrusted to Harm Lagaay, who will also be at the origin of the Boxster. The latter borrows a lot from the 911 with, for example, its rear part or its flat six-cylinder engine located at the front of the cabin.
The market is not ready yet
The Porsche Cayenne was finally unveiled in 2002 at the Geneva Motor Show, but its commercial release was postponed to 2003. The reason? The market is not (yet) ready for an SUV from a sports car manufacturer
In Europe, the reception is almost unanimously negative and the first orders are very low. In the United States, on the other hand, the Cayenne is a real success and quickly compensates for the lack of sales in Europe. The Cayenne S, equipped with a V8, even won the « Truck Of the Year » award in North America in 2003.
A gradual and then explosive success
After reluctance, comes the time of acceptance. Even if the success was not yet total, the Porsche Cayenne gradually seduced the European public and became one of the brand’s best-selling models.
In 2010, Porsche unveiled the second generation of the Cayenne. Lighter, more efficient and better equipped, it received an even warmer reception than its predecessor. It is also one of the first SUVs to offer a plug-in hybrid model from the second generation of 2010.
The third generation was unveiled in 2018. With its new look and numerous innovations, the Porsche Cayenne is more than ever a flagship model of the German manufacturer. Two years later, Porsche celebrates the millionth Cayenne sold.
A reference SUV
On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the Porsche Cayenne can therefore be considered a real success story. What was once considered an odd idea has now become one of the brand’s go-to models.
The Cayenne also made Porsche one of the most profitable automakers in the world. In 2018, the Cayenne was once again the best-selling Porsche model with 156,503 units sold worldwide.
It is now considered a reference SUV, both in terms of design and performance. The Cayenne has truly become an integral part of the Porsche vehicle range and its success does not seem to want to be denied. It also paved the way for its little brother, the Porsche Macan, which followed suit in 2014 and also enjoyed significant success.