The 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo is a luxurious SUV, built in the Porsche tradition of high performance. It is available in a naturally-aspirated V-8 version, and as a powerful Turbo V-8. All-wheel-drive is standard. 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo prices: US $88,900. Canada: $125,100. Warranty US: 4 years/50,000 miles. Warranty Canada: 4-years/80,000 km.
In 1998, with sales soaring, Porsche realized it was in trouble. Which is kind of strange, because it was arguably the world's most profitable carmaker. Porsche was planning a long overdue, major upgrade of its North American dealerships. The problem was that its core demographic wasn't buying sports cars in the numbers required to justify the expenditure. What was needed was more traffic in the showrooms. The answer? Well, the answer to just about any automotive question these days is, "SUV." It couldn't be any SUV, however, it had to be a Porsche. Developing and building an SUV from the ground up is an expensive proposition. And though Porsche was flush with cash, its pockets weren't anywhere near deep enough for the kind of vehicle the brand demanded. Porsche means cutting-edge performance, right? So the Porsche SUV had to be a top performer. Fortunately, Porsche's good buddies at Volkswagen had also been thinking about developing an SUV. VW had been moving its product line upmarket and wanted its SUV to be a halo. It was, in other words, to be state-of-the-art. A business arrangement between the two German firms was struck and Porsche was able to piggyback on the Touareg platform.
2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Interior© Porsche
The 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo is real head turner. It exudes presence. It also bespeaks serious money in the way of a Bentley or a Rolls. I think it challenges the new Range Rover in this respect. In other words, climb into the 2004 Porsche Cayenne (any Cayenne but especially the Turbo) and you'll get all the attention your fragile ego can cope with. Not just from the folks in the cheap seats either but also from guys in Escalades and 500SLs. Funny thing about the 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo is that the shape grows on you. At first glance, it looks pretty much like every other SUV in the world fat, sloppy and a bit top-heavy. Until, that is, you look at it with a lover's eye. Then it appears quite different from the other brute-utes on the road. For one thing, it's not boxy. It's actually got a few sensuous curves. The interior, not unexpectedly, features truly exquisite leather. Almost every time my wife rode in the Cayenne she'd rub her hands lustfully over the seat and the leather-covered dash.
On the Road
What's it like to drive? Well... owning and driving any high performance vehicle involves compromise. The 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo is like the elite athlete who will not, or cannot, turn it down so the recreational athlete can handle the ball a bit too. If you're prepared to drive it the way it insists on being driven, you've got one of the best handling, best performing automobiles in the world. If, on the other hand, you're not you probably won't enjoy it very much. You'll like the attention it gets but you probably won't like the about-town ride. Even on "comfort" which is the softest of the ride settings with the Turbo's standard air suspension, you're going to be cuffed around a bit. Not so much that you'll hurt, but enough so you'll wonder sometimes what ever possessed you to trade your Lexus RX330. As far as performance goes, this puppy is engineered to keep up with virtually anything on the road in almost any road or non-road conditions. It easily handled the fabled Slippery Rocks section in Moab for example, but not with the 20-inch Michelins.
2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo at Sunset© Porsche
The Cayenne has been a huge success. Where some Porsche dealerships had counted themselves lucky to sell two or three sports cars a month, they're selling 35 and 40 Cayennes. Believe it or not, most of these Cayennes are the loaded Turbo version. Which is what we had for a week-long test. Tony Morris, Porsche media rep and a Canadian racing instructor, told me he had the 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo up to 135 mph on a track when he decided to do an impromptu elk test. There were three other guys on board, all journalists. Scared them shirtless. But the Cayenne didn't miss a beat. That's enough performance for me. The major problem is, with the 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo's 450 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque in its 4.5 liter V8, you don't dare stray too far from a gas station. The EPA says 13 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway. In the real world you'll get less. So, can Porsche build a world-beating SUV? Absolutely. Should Porsche build an SUV? That's for you to decide.