Porsche Cayenne should have been a Mercedes ML SUV

While writing a Porsche Cayenne Buyers Guide for 911 & Porsche World magazine the other day, I came across an interesting story around the genesis of the Porsche Cayenne.

The Cayenne has long been marketed as a Porsche/VW partnership vehicle right from the start, similar to the 914, 924 and more, but the first Porsche SUV was apparently set to be based on the Mercedes ML. When Mercedes asked for shares in Porsche to cement its joint venture, the agreement between the two companies came to an abrupt end.

Porsche was already working on an SUV concept for Volkswagen, so chased the Volkswagen boss – Porsche family member and shareholder, Ferdinand Piëch – for a space alongside Wolfsburg on their posh 4×4 project. Rather than using all-Volkswagen sourced engines, Porsche’s drawing board already had Panamera sketches on it, so Stuttgart decided to build its own V8 to power the SUV plus one other. So much is down to the marketing.

Britain’s Steve Murkett led the Cayenne design team. Early reviewers felt that the reshaped front end on a van-like Touareg bodyshell didn’t communicate much style, but I disagree: I think it’s quite a stylish car nowadays and stands out from the crowd. If they didn’t know that the two were related, a casual observer would be unlikely to draw a line between Cayenne and Touareg.

As for comments that the X5 was more stylish, perhaps the market has the answer with slightly higher residuals for the Porsche. As for what we could have had – a Porsche/Mercedes ML – I am happy with things just as they are.

Porsche Cayenne Buyers Guide

Regarding the Cayenne Buyers Guide, the start points for a 2004 Porsche Cayenne S V8 like mine are quite simple.

  • Check no engine ticking noises: could be coils, a failing water pump or cylinder scoring
  • All gearshifts smooth and controlled: no bangs or rattles
  • Check plastic coolant pipes in the V have been changed for aluminium
  • Check no wandering steering – front control arms wear out fast
  • No tired brakes, no past-it tyres
  • No warning lights from the air suspension if fitted
  • Check for damp under carpets: leaky sunroof tubes or split rear washer pipe in A-pillar

As for the rest, you’ll have to buy Porsche World next month!

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