Porsche gets last laugh 20 years after introducing Cayenne SUV

Dave Kunz Image
Sunday, March 3, 2024
Porsche gets the last laugh 20 years after debuting Cayenne
Twenty years ago, some purists were offended when Porsche introduced a family-friendly SUV. But the Cayenne remains one of the company's biggest sellers.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Porsche Cayenne has been updated for 2024, and it's been a staple of the Porsche lineup for over 20 years now.

Some scratched their heads back in 2003 at the thought of a sports car brand like Porsche creating a family SUV that could go off-road.

I was one of the first to drive the new creation when it first debuted, and the company spokesman at the time summed things up pretty well: Research showed that over 40% of their customers also owned an SUV, so why not offer a Porsche SUV?

And the rest is history. Now in its third generation, the Cayenne has helped Porsche's bottom line in a big way, quickly becoming their best-selling vehicle. And that in turn has allowed them to continue to develop and refine the lower-volume sports cars, just as they've always done.

The Cayenne was supplemented by the smaller Macan starting in 2014, eclipsing the Cayenne as the best seller in the Porsche lineup essentially since it came out. If one SUV was good for business, two is even better in this era of SUV popularity.

The refinements to the Cayenne for 2024 are subtle, and include slight styling tweaks front and rear, new displays inside, and the option of distinctive LED headlights. There is a coupe version with a sloped rear hatch, in addition to the more conventional Cayenne. Over the years, you've been able to get eight cylinders, six cylinders, a manual transmission, a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, even a diesel at one point.

But all have had one thing in common: a true Porsche driving feel out on the road, mixed right in with the practicality. Prices for 2024 aren't cheap, of course, with a starting tab of about $80,000 before options.

Porsche took a little heat all those years ago when it launched that first Cayenne. Some purists thought that an iconic sports car company shouldn't be getting into the business of building family vehicles that could go offroad. Sales were strong pretty much from the get-go, and Porsche got the last laugh.

In recent years. SUV models have arrived from Jaguar, Maserati, Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, and yes, even Ferrari.

Porsche obviously had some kind of crystal ball at the dawn of the millennium. Perhaps a head-scratcher for some at the time, but a vehicle type that's downright in the mainstream today.