Porsche celebrates 20 years of Cayenne

Once upon a time a Porsche SUV was a risk; a million Cayennes later, the gamble has paid off handsomely…

By Matt Bird / Saturday, 11 June 2022 / Loading comments

Here’s something you might not know about the Porsche Cayenne: it was nearly an MPV. Whatever your opinion on the Porsche SUV, it can probably be agreed, given how things have turned out, that a fast 4×4 was probably the better option than a weirdly lusty people carrier. Furthermore, while we all know the Cayenne is widely credited with being the car that saved Porsche (the Boxster having helped kick things off), it’s worth remembering just how drastic the turnaround was. Porsche’s nadir was the financial year 1991/92, with just 23,060 cars delivered. Once Project Colorado (as the Touareg and Cayenne were known in development) were on stream, there was no holding it back: the first gen car sold 276,652 units in eight years, or a little less than 35,000 for each year. Then it just kept going and going… 

There have been more than a few milestones since the Cayenne’s reveal at the Paris show in 2002. It reintroduced the GTS badge (the first since the 928, in fact), with the 406hp V8 model in 2007, there were two factory-backed Transsyberia Rally wins (with an awesome special edition to mark them), Porsche first production hybrid in 2010 was a Cayenne, and the fastest SUV around the Nordschleife is still one as well – the Turbo GT’s 7:38.925 is yet to be beaten.  

So the Cayenne hasn’t been without achievement, and all of that is to say nothing about how accomplished the car has been across three generations. Some derivatives have undoubtedly been rather more appealing than others, but that’s true of many cars. In any guise since 2002, the Cayenne has been one of the most complete and desirable SUVs out there, with plenty more following in its wake. Remember this came even before a Range Rover Sport; 2002 was early days for the luxury SUV, and Porsche’s variant showed what was possible. 

Understandably, Porsche is pretty pleased with the Cayenne’s success. “Our sports car in the SUV segment has proven to be a bestseller and growth engine since 2002. And that’s not all. The Cayenne has opened the door to many new markets for Porsche and made a significant contribution to the internationalisation of our sales network” said Oliver Blume, Porsche Chairman, back at the launch of the third generation in 2017.

Certainly it shows no signs of letting up now. But before this becomes a full PH This is your Life, it’s worth remembering that early Cayennes haven’t been without issue – you don’t make it to Brave Pill territory without some well-known pitfalls. And depreciation. Where once a 928 was the cheap and risky V8 Porsche, now it’s the Cayenne. Which leads us, rather conveniently, to the classifieds… 

Quite amazingly, it’s possible to buy an E1-generation Cayenne S – so with the 4.5 V8 – for just £3,449. As it goes, this 2006 car with almost 120,000 miles looks more than okay, but it’s certainly not without some mild peril. Still, it’s £3,000 for a Porsche. Up the budget even to £7,000 and there are presentable, seemingly very usable Cayennes out there; the truly courageous will be pleased to know that there are 450hp Turbos still available for £10,000, too. 

£15k for a decent gen-one GTS also gets the earliest of the E2 cars, which will probably be a diesel because that’s what everybody wanted back then. Nice cars they are as well, but don’t forget – as Porsche did in its enormous press release – that the mega Cayenne diesel was the V8 one. It had almost 400hp, more than 600lb ft and the ability to shrink distances like nothing else. While doing reasonable mpg, too, even if £2-a-litre offsets that a tad. It’s possible to pay £20k for one of those 4.1-litre monsters; up that to a little less than £30k and this very smart – small wheels, clear glass, nice leather – 2014 example is on offer.  

Then, of course, there’s the current generation, the all-singing, all-dancing E3 with more variants than we could possibly cover on a Friday afternoon. Handily for a prospective buyer they’re all very good; the V6s can now get out of their own way, and the demise of diesel from 2017 has allowed the PHEV Cayennes their time in the limelight. Which, at their peak, means 680hp in the Turbo S E-Hybrid, in either conventional SUV or Coupe guise, which is some leap from the 250hp 3.2 V6 available back in the early 2000s. Once again, however, even with a Turbo and everything else available, a GTS is probably the best a Cayenne can get. The spec of this is unimaginative (and that’s being kind), but £100k SUVs don’t get much better. Porsche will be hoping the same remains true come 2042…

  • Porsche Cayenne | PH Used Buying Guide
  • Porsche Cayenne GT Turbo | PH Review

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