Alright, Porsche purists, you’ve had 14 years to get over the fact Porsche makes SUVs. Fortunately, Porsche’s SUVs have been dynamically excellent from day one and not flimsy badge-jobs like the Saab 9-7X and Acura SLX. But to those who criticized Porsche back in 2003, was it really justified? After all, Porsche had already broken their own formula and built the front-engined 928, one of which I spotted following a new Macan.
Ok, ok, so the 928 was a coupe like the 911 and not a hulking SUV. But it was a grand tourer with an engine up the front, two extra seats in the back, and generally fitted with an automatic transmission. By the time of the Cayenne, the shock of a front-engined Porsche had subsided as the German marque had sold the 928 for 17 years and also offered the 924/944/968. The real surprise was that the Cayenne added two extra doors and could go off-road. Well, I might add.
It was really quite progressive of Porsche to launch the Cayenne when they did, beating Aston Martin, Lotus, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. They saw where the market was, they saw how profitable a premium SUV could be, and yet still they didn’t half-ass it even though they desperately needed a return to profitability. And though the Cayenne’s launch was met with some skepticism, sales immediately took off and Porsche’s profitability instantly increased.
The Cayenne and Macan may use some VW Group mechanicals and offer diesels and hybrids and great off-road performance, but Porsche engineered them to be some of the best of their breed and to make the Porsche brand proud. And although the 928’s long production run likely helped Porsche amortize development costs, it didn’t electrify Porsche’s profitability like the SUVs did. We still have the classic 911, and that’s thanks in large part to the Cayenne and Macan.