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2003 Porsche Cayenne S

Passenger Front Side View
Craig Perronne
| Brand Manager, Dirt Sports & Off Road
Posted August 4, 2004

A sports car in a 4x4 disguise


Check It Out If:
You are looking for one of the most highway-capable SUVs ever.

Avoid It If:
You plan to tackle the trail.






Porsche's decision to go into the 4x4 SUV business with a vehicle it calls Cayenne has generated controversy and interest. Die-hard Porsche enthusiasts scoffed at the idea of the German company, which produces some of the finest sports cars in the world, jumping on the SUV bandwagon. That concept seemed about as strange as Rolls Royce making an entry-level compact to compete against the Kia Rio. It has happened, however, and now roaming across the U.S. is an SUV from the German supercar maker.

Besides a bit of controversy, the introduction of the Cayenne in its S and Turbo forms has also created lots of curiosity. This was evident as we drove our Cayenne S tester through the SUV-rich environment of Los Angeles. Those not familiar with the Cayenne would slow and stare, trying to figure out what it was. One bold onlooker flagged us down and asked, "Hey, what is that thing?" When we told him it was a Porsche (pronounced Por-sha, by the way, a two-cylinder word), his very-California response was, "No way, dude!" Well, yes way, dude.

All of the curious would ask the same question. "How is that thing?" Luckily, we were able to get plenty of seat time in the Cayenne, so we could answer that question.The words "slow," and "Porsche," aren't usually used in the same sentence; so it is no surprise that when you step on the Cayenne's gas pedal, it rips. At the track the Porsche tore through the quarter-mile in 15.92 seconds at 87.65 mph, and achieved 60 mph from 0 in 7.9 seconds, making it the fastest SUV Four Wheeler has tested.

Lying in wait under the hood of the Cayenne is a 4.5L DOHC V-8 that produces 340 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque comes on at 2,500 rpm and doesn't fall off until 5,500 rpm.

This is especially impressive, considering that the Cayenne tips the scales at 4,949 pounds. Making all of this possible is a 4.5L DOHC V-8 that is a technological marvel capable of 340 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Even better is that in the S, torque peaks-indeed, plateaus-from 2,500 rpm all the way to 5,500 rpm, making the 4.5L a very strong-pulling engine. If that is not enough power for you, a twin-turbo version is available in the Cayenne Turbo. That one develops 450 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. That ought to be enough.

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The engine is not the only star, however. Mated to it is the best transmission we have ever come across, the six-speed Tiptronic automatic. This wonderbox can be taken through all of its gears manually through the use of buttons located on the steering wheel, or by using the shifter itself. Doing so was rarely necessary, though, as the transmission is a smart thinker and even when we ignored the shifter, the Porsche always seemed to be in the right gear.

Pushing on the brake pedal of the Porsche produced a religious experience. Long have we suffered with over-boosted and over-ABS'ed spongy brake pedals with little feel. Not here. Touching the Cayenne's brake pedal resulted in an immediate response, engaging the six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear. While the brakes did not produce the shortest stopping times we have seen in our 60-0 mph testing, they were the best feeling brakes we have ever tested, allowing for easy modulation.

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