Sport-utility vehicles typically provoke a strong reaction amongst the automobile-buying public. There is a lot to like about these extremely useful vehicles: huge amounts of cargo space and passenger room, a commanding view of the road and amazing sure-footedness in even the toughest of weather conditions. These are the qualities which have attracted hundreds of thousands of SUV fans to dealerships, and which have helped to give these types of automobiles tremendous staying power on the market.
However, there are a number of driving enthusiasts who are turned off by some of the less flattering characteristics associated with larger trucks. These include ponderous acceleration and sluggish handling due to their heavy weight, and a rougher ride than most sedans stemming from their stiffer, heavy-duty suspension systems. Sports car lovers in particular point to the less than stellar driving dynamics of most sport-utility vehicles as the reason why they prefer to avoid this segment when choosing to buy a vehicle.
It was thus surprising when Porsche decided to forge ahead and release the Porsche Cayenne, a full-size sport-utility vehicle that was in direct contrast to their tradition of building small, lightweight sports cars. Risking the wrath of their hardcore fans was necessary, according to Porsche, as they required the extra cash infusion that SUV sales could bring them in order to remain competitive with larger automakers. While diehard brand fanatics might have gnashed their teeth at Porsche's seeming betrayal of its motorsport roots, a closer look at the vehicle causing all of the uproar revealed that the Cayenne was far from the typical SUV.
Porsche spent a significant amount of engineering resources and development money to ensure that not only would the Cayenne eat every other sport-utility vehicle on the planet alive in terms of performance, but that it would also contain the same racing DNA that made each vehicle produced by the company something special. The Cayenne, while a huge departure from the standard Porsche mold, was capable of not only eviscerating competitor's trucks but also outperforming many of their sports sedans as well. In addition, it provided a healthy dollop of 4x4 capability that made it almost as usable off the pavement as on. Those who had once chided the company for trying something different soon found themselves parking a Cayenne in their driveway as the practical compliment to their 911 coupe. This article focuses on the Cayenne as the best used full-size SUV available from Porsche.
2003 - 2006 Porsche Cayenne
When approached head-on, the 2003 - 2006 Porsche Cayenne is clearly related to the smaller and more traditional cousins it shares the German automaker's stable with. The classic headlight placement and horizontal front air dam are familiar, if rendered across a grander dimension than most drivers are used to. From the front fenders back, however, the Cayenne carves out new styling ground for Porsche, with a tall, flat roof and a diagonally sloping hatch bringing up the rear.
Underneath the SUV's expansive hood are a range of engines with power outputs that are well in line with what buyers expect from the sports car company. For the first 2 years of production, the base Cayenne S was outfitted with a 340 horsepower V8 engine displacing 4.5-liters. This was bumped up to mid-tier in 2005 when a 3.2-liter V-6 engine making 250 horsepower bowed onto the scene in a model named simple the Cayenne. The Cayenne Turbo straps twin turbochargers to the 8-cylinder mill found in the S and extracts a stunning 450 horsepower, trumped only by the 520 horsepower Turbo S which appeared in 2006. All editions of the vehicle feature full-time all-wheel drive and either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Cayenne's tall ride height pays more than lip service to the promise of off-road adventure, as its available adjustable air suspension and excellent strong chassis are more than capable of adjusting to a wide variety of difficult trail conditions.
The 2003 - 2006 Porsche Cayenne's interior accommodations are also up to the high standard set by modern Porsche design. Designed to seat 5 passengers, the Cayenne makes excellent use of upscale materials and the platform's spaciousness to create and environment which feels exclusive. Instead of overwhelming occupants with luxury trappings, the interior has a sports-oriented feel which favors streamlined accents instead of over the top trim. All Cayenne's come standard with leather seats, automatic climate control and a trip computer. Options include HID headlights, parking assistance, heated rear seats and a host of other gadgets designed to appeal to the technophiles in the Porsche audience.
The 2003 - 2006 Porsche Cayenne is a superior used full-size SUV that can outrun some of the best sedans and trucks to emerge from any European, Japanese or North American car company.