Cayenne: The first four-door Porsche

Porsche’s SUV successfully blends sport and utility.


The first-generation Cayenne SUV, developed by Porsche as the 955/9PA, was the company’s first four-door production automobile. Plans for it were announced in the summer of 1998. From the start, it was to have permanent four-wheel drive and be produced at Porsche’s then-yet-to-be-built Leipzig factory, where the Carrera GT supercar later would be made alongside it.

In early-2000s America, the premium SUV segment was both large and lucrative, with eager customers and an untapped market of Porsche owners who were also SUV buyers. Though many thought otherwise, the bean counters at Stuttgart decided that the Cayenne was the right car at the right time for both Porsche and its customers.

And it was. The Cayenne reached the market in 2003, sold initially as the normally-aspirated Cayenne S and the twin-turbocharged Cayenne Turbo. Magazine critics raved about the Cayenne’s nimble-for-an-SUV handling, the high-quality interior (including the “palatial” seats, as Car and Driver once described them), and the SUV’s capability on or off the pavement. By 2006, Porsche had sold over 150,000 Cayennes; it was the best-selling vehicle in the company’s lineup.

As a result, today’s buyer has a wide selection of early Cayennes to choose from, in a variety of styles and at much lower prices than when they were new. While these SUVs can’t deliver the driving pleasure of Porsche’s sports cars, they are nonetheless “real” Porsches, designed and developed by the same people with the same commitment to engineering excellence, sophistication, refinement, and speed.

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