From a risky first offering, the Porsche Cayenne has turned into one of the industry’s most loved models

14 years isn’t a long time in the industry, but it does feel like it with the Porsche Cayenne. I know it’s only just gotten to its third-generation, but for a car that made a polarizing debut in 2003, it sure seems like it’s been around a lot longer than that. Most of you probably know that the third-gen Cayenne was just unveiled during a spectacular launch in Stuttgart, Germany, and as far as new model unveilings are concerned, this is as big as it’s going to get. More than any other model, the Cayenne is considered the model that really ushered in premium SUVs in the market. It was the first SUV from a regarded premium automaker to make that plunge into the SUV market, and while it had its ups and downs in the early years, it’s ended up arguably being Porsche’s most important model.

I saw what the third-gen Cayenne looks like and it looks positively tasty. Hard to imagine that it looks the way it does now when the first-gen model, at least with the benefit of hindsight, wasn’t all that attractive. It did pack a punch though, and a pretty potent one that. Taking the good with the bad, Porsche nevertheless deserves a ton of credit for investing heavily on the Cayenne when the first impulse back then was to gag at the thought of a Porsche SUV. 14 years and three generations later, the Porsche Cayenne is still standing at the top of the premium SUV market. It’s come a long way, that’s for sure.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

The first-generation Porsche Cayenne (2003 - 2010)

2004 Porsche 911 Cayenne (996)
- image 18861
It’s hard to blame Porsche for its design of the first-generation Cayenne when we know so much more than what it did back in 2003

I’ve been around the industry long enough to know that first impressions aren’t the most important indicators of a car’s success. Take the Porsche Cayenne for example. I still remember the public outcry 14 years ago when Porsche decided to launch an SUV. People feared that the company had become desperate when it bucked its own heritage by offering a car that clearly didn’t fit into its history of sports cars. but Porsche was undaunted; it gambled that the Cayenne would not only be a commercial success, but it would redefine a segment that was still in its embryonic stage at that time.

Though it did carry Porsche’s design language at that time, the first-generation Cayenne was also different in a lot of ways. It stood higher, stretched longer, and offered a completely different ride experience than anything the company had in its portfolio. It did share the same headlights as the first-generation Boxster, which in hindsight wasn’t really the greatest of designs. It also featured a massive front grille that dominated the SUV’s front profile, an upright rear section, and what now looks like very pedestrian looking taillights. The SUV’s exhaust tips were also integrated into the rear bumper, a design feature that also happened to find its way into the second-generation model.

It’s hard to blame Porsche for its design of the first-generation Cayenne when we know so much more than what it did back in 2003. I’m not even going to mock those who still like the first-gen Cayenne’s looks. I may not be a fan of it now, but like everybody else, I was more interested about what the Cayenne could do back then. And on that front, it everything Porsche expected it to be, and then some.

2006 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
- image 33560

Believe it or not, but as early as 2006, the range-topping Cayenne Turbo S was already capable of over 500 horsepower and 530 pound-feet of torque, numbers that were difficult to process at that time. How can his big, hulking SUV be able to get those power numbers up and translate it to an acceleration time of 4.9 seconds to 60 mph and hit a top speed of over 170 mph.

The first-gen Cayenne not only breathed new life to Porsche, but it’s success can be tied into the emergence of SUVs as the biggest segment in the industry today. It also helped that Porsche stayed committed to the Cayenne, running the first generation for seven years - with a few mid-year cycles thrown in - until 2010 when it prepared what would turn into the second-gen successor.

The second-generation Porsche Cayenne (2011 - 2017)

2011 Porsche Cayenne
- image 350051
Porsche took the success of the first-gen Cayenne and built on it, as opposed to cutting corners, which it could’ve done if it really wanted to

When Porsche introduced the second-generation Cayenne in 2010, all the skepticism that came with the launch of its predecessor melted way, replaced with excitement and optimism the likes of which the segment hadn’t experienced at that time. With apologies to BMW and Mercedes’ SUV offerings, but the Cayenne really laid the groundwork for premium automakers to start believing in the potential of the market.

To its credit, Porsche took the success of the first-gen Cayenne and built on it, as opposed to cutting corners, which it could’ve done if it really wanted to. It showed on the surface too as the second-gen SUV looked far and away better than its predecessor. The overall tone of its design was sleek and sporty, exactly the way a Porsche should be. The design issues from the first-gen model - the boxiness and upright nature, chief among them - were addressed and overhauled, giving way to an SUV that featured a well-balanced front-end that brought back the unmistakable Porsche look, to go with a more sloping roofline, a less upright rear-section, a curvy body shape that captured the look of what a high-riding sports SUV should look like.

More than just the vastly improved design, the second-gen Cayenne also weighed less than its predecessor, up to 550 pounds in weight savings. It may not sound as much, but the process by which Porsche made the Cayenne lighter also brought about improvements in handling and fuel efficiency, the latter of which was a common cause for concern with the first-gen model.

2011 Porsche Cayenne
- image 350053

The second-generation Cayenne also ushered in a new era of engine diversity for Porsche. Sure, it still featured traditional gas and diesel engines, but it also started embracing hybrid technology on a significant level. It’s true that the first hybrid Cayenne - the 2010 Cayenne S Hybrid - was developed on the first-gen model, but it really wasn’t until the arrival of its successor that hybrid technology became a major player in the world of the Cayenne.

The second-generation Cayenne also ushered in a new era of engine diversity for Porsche

Seven years. That’s how long the second-generation Porsche Cayenne lasted. In that span, it’s gone through numerous iterations, modifications, and mid-life facelifts. All told, Porsche had eight different versions of the Cayenne, including a range-topping Cayenne Turbo S that produced 570 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, good enough to get it to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds on its way to hitting a top speed of 176 mph.

Beyond its credentials and impressive numbers, the second-generation Porsche Cayenne will probably be best remembered as the model that convinced premium brands of the lucrative potential of the segment. Do you think that the likes of Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, Lamborghini, and Rolls-Royce would’ve considered building their own SUVs if the Cayenne didn’t lay the groundwork for them? They might have still done it, but rest assured, the success of the Cayenne played as big of a role as anything on why these other automakers bucked their own heritage and join in on the fun.

The third-generation Porsche Cayenne( 2018-)

2018 Porsche Cayenne High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 728779
The third-generation Cayenne is lighter than its direct predecessor by 143 pounds

Well, we just saw it make its long-awaited debut in Germany yesterday so at this point, it’s too early to tell if it leave up to the name it’s carrying. Let it be said though that while there doesn’t appear to be too many visual differences between the third-generation Cayenne and the second-gen, post mid-life cycle Cayenne, there are some pretty important items to remember, one of which is its weight.

Yes, the third-generation Cayenne is lighter than its direct predecessor by 143 pounds. Do the math and you’ll realize that the latest model is actually over 600 pounds lighter than its forefather. That’s significant, and it’s largely due to a new lighter aluminum chassis that Porsche developed specially to bring out improved handling and drivability. Oh, and the model also backs plenty of new-age technology, including items like a new air suspension and a new eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission, the latte of which will come standard across the model’s entire range.

2018 Porsche Cayenne Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
- image 728880

It would be interesting though how the new Cayenne will be able to navigate around the premium SUV landscape, now that it has competition from all corners of the world. It’s a far different position to be in compared to the two previous generations, but if there’s anything that Porsche and its Cayenne SUV as taught us, it’s that betting against it probably wouldn’t be in our best interests.

The third-generation Porsche Cayenne is here, folks. It’ll first arrive under the guises of the standard Cayenne and the Cayenne S, but rest assured, more variants will come sooner than later. For now though, take heed and remember. The standard model starts at $65,700 while the Cayenne S retails for $82,700.

Model Engine Horsepower Torque 0 to 60 MPH Top Speed Price
2018 Porsche Cayenne 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 340 horsepower 332 pound-feet 5.9 seconds 155 mph* $65,700
2018 Porsche Cayenne S 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 440 horsepower 406 pound-feet 4.9 seconds 155 mph* $82,700


2003 Porsche Cayenne

2004 Porsche 911 Cayenne (996)
- image 18858

Read our full review on the 2003 Porsche 911.

2010 Porsche Cayenne

2011 Porsche Cayenne
- image 350058

Read our full review on the 2010 Porsche Cayenne.

2018 Porsche Cayenne

2018 Porsche Cayenne Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
- image 728878

Read our full review on the 2018 Porsche Cayenne.

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: