Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Porsche Cayenne Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Porsche Cayenne Overview

Body
Four-Wheeling at the Speed of Sound

What do you get when you cross the world's foremost sports car authority with the burning desire of Americans to go off-road whenever it tickles their fancy? You get a very fast, very capable SUV named the Porsche Cayenne.

You may not think Porsche knows much about off-road adventuring, but that would be a misconception. The German automaker is renowned worldwide for its engineering excellence in all facets of the automotive world, from the professional racing venues of Le Mans to the Dakar desert rally. A challenge? Yes, but one well within the parameters of the house Dr. Porsche built. And the Cayenne is not alone in its upbringing as it shares much of its body and all-wheel-drive technology with the Volkswagen Touareg. VW is another powerhouse of German engineering and one that does have a long history of building reliable all-wheel-drive vehicles.

To keep the two vehicles as far removed from one another as possible, Porsche gives the Cayenne its own very distinctive look. Though most thought it impossible, the designers at Porsche have found a way to graft the low-slung front end of the 911 and Boxster onto a vehicle that sits considerably higher in the air than either of them. The illusion is perpetrated upon the eye by stretching the enormous lower grille opening across the fascia and bumper and then mimicking the trademark headlight and sloping hood just above. The Cayenne's body sits up extremely high with huge reserves of space between the tire and fender well, but somehow the look works, leaving one the impression that the Cayenne is as ready to rip through the slalom as it is to tackle a muddy back road.

Porsche cars don't come cheap; one reason being the extreme engineering that goes into the design and construction of their engines. In the case of the Cayenne, Porsche has made two models available, each with its own distinct flavor. The Cayenne S carries on the long tradition of S cars within the Porsche line; it is powered by a normally-aspirated 4.5-liter V8 that churns out a robust 340-horsepower. You needn't think twice about whether or not you'll have enough power to accelerate nor will you have to worry about towing, as the Cayenne S is rated to pull up to 7700-lbs. All that power requires a hefty bit of hardware to manage it, so Porsche has outfitted the Cayenne with an all-new six-speed Tiptronic transmission (it allows you to shift gears for yourself without the use of a clutch pedal) and an intensely thorough all-wheel drive technology known as Porsche Traction Management or PTM for short. This spicy little number will set you back a mere $55,900 and that's only if you order it without any additional toppings.

If the Cayenne S doesn't set your soul on fire, then its pricey turbo cousin surely will. For an additional $33K, the Cayenne Turbo adds a host of impressive standard features, the most notable of which are a set of twin-turbochargers that increase the engine's output to an insane 450 horsepower. Don't ask us why, but if you need to move yourself, your family and the Sunday picnic basket from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, the Cayenne Turbo can easily accommodate your request.

Though it may look fearsome on the outside, the Cayenne really is quite civilized inside. Here you'll find a sumptuous set of leather sport seats, a spacious rear bench for two (three in a pinch) and a neatly penned instrument cluster that mimics much of the roadster's styling cues, right down to the dash-mounted ignition module placed to the left of the steering wheel. Speaking of steering wheel, this one does more than just direct the tires; its triangular center section is lined with buttons that control the cruise, audio and transmission functions, allowing you to keep both hands around the thickly-padded leather-wrapped wheel at all times. There are a number of audio upgrades including one unit that integrates the GPS navigation screen into the center dash. Beyond the luxurious amenities, the Cayenne offers superior safety features such as front side-airbag, a side-curtain airbag and liberal use of strengthened steel in the roof and side door beams.

It is ironic that the most impressive feature the Cayenne possesses cannot be shown in your driveway or pointed out in a brochure: it's the amazingly capable all-wheel-drive system. The Cayenne's permanent all-wheel-drive system not only moves power from front to rear but also side-to-side, giving it the ability to power along even if only one wheel has traction. A toggle switch on the center console electronically activates the reduction gearbox that lowers the driver ratios and allows the Cayenne to crawl over almost anything in its path; hit the switch a second time and the Cayenne activates a 100 percent front-to-rear differential lock.

The Cayenne's off-road mechanicals share their space with a sophisticated steel-spring suspension on the S and a self-leveling air suspension on the Turbo; the later actually lowers the vehicle as it accelerates to certain speeds that stabilizes the otherwise tall Cayenne and allows it to perform maneuvers unfathomable in other SUVs. Porsche also took great pains to seal the lower doors and elevate the air intake and transmission purge valve; the result is a near watertight vehicle that can safely motor through up to 21 inches of water. Just try that in a 911.

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