Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring


Celebrating 20 years of the Cayenne – the car that saved Porsche

Despite its controversial introduction in 2002, the Porsche Cayenne was a bold pioneer in the SUV segment.


How times flies. It doesn’t feel that long ago when Porsche made headlines by announcing the addition of an SUV to its range of sports cars.

This year that car – the Cayenne – turned 20 already. And quite ironically, as much as the whole idea of an off-road ready, four-door sports utility vehicle irked purists, it is because of the Cayenne that Porsche is still able to build some of the world’s most desired sports cars today.

Back in the 1990s the books over at Zuffenhausen did not look all that healthy. To turn around its fortunes, the need for a “third Porsche” arose in order to supplement the two models ranges on offer at the time, the 911 and the Boxster.

With a people-mover also a segment under consideration, the eventual decision befell an off-road vehicle on recommendation of Porsche’s American operations. North America was the moniker’s largest market at the time and the SUV trend was in full flow on that side of the Atlantic.

‘It will sell’

Called the “Colorado” project, the Porsche Cayenne was developed alongside the Volkswagen Touareg from 1998, a move that would become a masterstroke in Zuffenhausen’s rich history.

Almost a decade before this project was rubber-stamped, former Porsche boss Ferry Porsche said: “If we build an off-road model according to our standards of quality, and it has a Porsche crest on the front, people will buy it”.

How true those words would turn out to be. When the first Cayenne rolled off the production line in 2002, Porsche modestly predicted to build 25 000 per year.

In 2020, the one millionth unit rolled of the assembly line, which means that the initial projections for annual production was more than doubled.

Porsche Cayenne
The three generations of the Porsche Cayenne.

The Cayenne’s immense success has seen Porsche enter new markets around the world and attract many new buyers to the brand. This in turn has enabled to Zuffenhausen to continue building and even expanding its range of sports cars, a fact the Cayenne’s harshest critics can’t turn a blind eye to.

On the back of the Cayenne’s reception not only did Porsche expand its own SUV range with the introduction of the compact Macan in 2014, but other manufacturers of exotic and luxury sports followed them into the SUV space. Think of the Maserati Levante, Aston Martin DBX, Lamborghini Urus and most recently the Ferrari Purosangue.

Porsche Cayenne best of both worlds

The definition of an SUV or sports utility vehicle is a vehicle that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles. Right from the get-go, the Porsche Cayenne showed its prowess in both departments.

The two 4.5-litre V8 engines offered in the first generation (E1) Cayenne S and Turbo, which also featured Porsche Traction Management, enabled these cars to reach very impressive speeds of 242 and 266km/h respectively.

The E1 was also the first Porsche equipped with Porsche Active Suspension Management was offered along with air suspension, while also featuring a low range transfer box. A host of these models where showed their worth with dominating performances in the gruelling Transsyberia Rally from 2006 to 2008.

Last year, the fastest Cayenne ever built, the third generation Turbo GT, became the fastest SUV around the Nürburgring Nordschleife. With test driver Lars Kern behind the wheel, it recorded a time of 7:38:925 to dethrone the Urus as the world’s fastest SUV.

Platinum status

Zuffenhausen did not introduce a special model to commemorate their star model’s birthday par se, but as things turned out, the Cayenne Platinum Edition’s arrival coincided with the celebrations.

This range of special edition model which is characterised by its exclusive design in a satin-finish Platinum colour and features extra standard equipment is now available locally.

On the outside, the Platinum Edition features 21-inch RS Spyder Design alloy wheels, Porsche lettering integrated in the LED rear lights strip and sport tailpipes.

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Distinctive features in the cabin include Crayon seat belts, brushed aluminium door entry sills featuring Platinum Edition inscription, panoramic roof system, Bose surround-sound system and eight-way leather sports seats.

The Porsche Cayenne Platinum Edition rides on 21-inch RS Spyder design alloys.

We got the opportunity to pilot the Platinum Edition in Cayenne S guise around the Western Cape recently.

Although nothing changed under the skin, its 324 kW/550 Nm 2.9-litre V6 turbo petrol engine mated to eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission served as a timely reminder of just how good this car is. Not only under acceleration, but its handling in general and roadholding too.

The Cayenne S feels so good, it’s hard to imagine the need for faster GTS and Turbo derivatives. But on second thought, why not? Because by now we know than when there’s a Porsche crest on it, we know it will sell.

Porsche Cayenne Platinum Edition pricing

  • Cayenne Platinum Edition – R1 740 000
  • Cayenne Coupe Platinum – Edition R1 760 000
  • Cayenne S Platinum Edition – R1 892 000
  • Cayenne S Coupe Platinum Edition – R1 912 000
  • Cayenne E-Hybrid Platinum Edition – R2 207 000
  • Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe Platinum Edition – R2 228 000

For more information on the Porsche Cayenne Platinum Edition, visit the manufacturer’s website.

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