Porsche Once Built A Wild One-Off Convertible Cayenne With Two Rear-Ends. Yes, Two Rear-Ends

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Porsche is celebrating 20 years of its Cayenne super SUV. When it released, fans couldn’t believe their eyes, calling the Porsche SUV blasphemy. But the Cayenne has been a sales success, and is part of the reason that the brand remains as strong financially as it is today. As part of the company’s celebration, Porsche is reminding us that early on, it considered making a bunch of different versions of the SUV, including a wild convertible.

In the early-1990s, Porsche faced slow sales and dwindling cash reserves. With a 240 million Deutschmark loss in 1992 alone, the company wasn’t in great shape. A later analysis concluded that the 911 and the then new Boxster did not have the staying power to keep the brand afloat. Porsche believed that in the long run, it would be trending downward again. It needed a vehicle to pump much needed cash into the brand to help secure its future. And to do that, Porsche looked to build a vehicle that wasn’t a sports car.

The brand considered five concepts, but in the end it was between a minivan and a sporty SUV. Yep, Porsche really considered having something like a minivan in its future! The sporty SUV was chosen, and at first the company looked to join forces with Mercedes-Benz to build it. Porsche envisioned its SUV being the high-performance version of the then-new Mercedes M-Class. The Mercedes-Porsche relationship didn’t last long, and Porsche began looking for a new partner.

It landed back with old friend Volkswagen. As Porsche notes, the companies were not a part of the same group yet, but they did have a long history of collaborations. Chairman Ferdinand Piëch saw potential in Porsche’s plans and decided Volkswagen could also use a vehicle like it.

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Porsche

Riding on a platform co-developed between the two brands, the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg showed themselves to the world in 2002. Both are best described as super SUVs — I’m talking about a 7,700-lb tow rating, short overhangs, loads of ground clearance, adjustable suspensions, low-range gearboxes, and plenty of German luxury.

The Porsche Cayenne is positioned as the higher-performance version of the pair, getting its own engines and an even more loaded interior. But the Touareg is no slouch, either. It’s a bit of an off-road sleeper, and for a period of time you could even get it with a 5.0-liter V10 turbodiesel engine.

Touareg V10
Mercedes Streeter

In the same year as the Cayenne’s launch, Porsche was already thinking about how to expand the line, considering three different variants. One was a coupe, one was a lengthened three-row variant, and the last was a convertible. Of the three, Porsche was interested enough in the convertible to go forward with the idea.

Porsche built just one example, known as a Package Function Model. Designers started with a production Cayenne, then chopped off the roof and reshaped the rest of the body to fit their idea.

Hdi 68745 1 Cayenne Cabriolet
Porsche

And if you’re eyeballing it and wondering, yep, it’s the same length as the donor Cayenne.

The company explains that a PFM isn’t a roadgoing prototype. The designers didn’t add the chassis stiffening needed for a convertible, so the open-top Cayenne can’t provide a safe or stable drive. Instead, it gets trailered wherever it needs to go. Porsche says that this was built to answer four questions:

Is the seating comfortable throughout the vehicle when the roof tapers in a more coupé-like way towards the rear and when the windscreen and A-pillars are shortened? How practical is the Cayenne as a two-door model with doors which are 20 cm longer? Is it possible to accommodate an elegant, high-quality soft top that can also be folded quickly? And how should the rear end be designed?

That question about the rear end design resulted in the PFM having two rear ends at the same time!

Hdi 68746 1 Cayenne Cabriolet
Porsche

I like the one on the left; the taillights remind me of the Carrera GT, which is sort of hilarious on a SUV.

As for how the roof would have worked, Porsche says that it would have worked like a 911 Targa. The roof would slide over the rollbar and into the trunk, folding into a Z-pattern. Unfortunately, Porsche never got past the computer simulation stage with the one-off car. This Cayenne is a museum piece today, and if for whatever reason someone wants to put the roof on it has to be manually fitted.

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Porsche

Ultimately, the convertible idea was scrapped. But 17 years later, the coupe idea would get put into production as the four-door Cayenne Coupe. And that longer three-row Cayenne? Recent reports suggest that Porsche may be working on an electric three-row flagship SUV.

I love how Volkswagen Group brands are digging up old concepts this year. It was only last month when Volkswagen decided to reveal its one-off second-generation Phaeton. Porsche now has me thinking what could have happened if Porsche beat Nissan to putting a convertible SUV into production.

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36 Responses

  1. If I were a coach-kit company like Smyth Performance I’d be reverse-engineering this bodywork for mechanics to construct their own. Maybe there isn’t a mass market appeal to these for a production vehicle, but there’s got to be at least enough to justify a kit version. Just think of all the NBA and NCAA basketball players who need a sporty car with more legroom and headroom!

    1. I was going to write something funny about all of Australia trying to kill you, and then I found out that there is an Australian Paralysis Tick. Which does exactly what it says on the tin.

  2. How did Porsche decide in the early 90’s that the Boxster and 911 wouldn’t carry them? The Boxster was’t produced until 1996. Seems like a silly idea to finish Boxster development if they knew in the early 90’s they would need an SUV.

    1. It meant that the Boxster would give them a bump. It integrated a lot of the upcoming 996 parts for commonality, which meant cost spread and higher profit margins from two models. But, they realized that after the first few years of sales they’d been looking at a downturn (let’s say around the year 2000), so they needed something else to survive. Porsche had used the Ferrari business model since after the war, basically sell cars to finance racing. By the ’90s that had become very hard to maintain so they did a business analysis, tried to collaborate with Mercedes on a profit-hog , but ended up building the Cayenne with VW. The amount of synergy between VW and Porsche since the 1930s isn’t a story anyone could just make up, it’s both fascinating and ridiculous.

  3. In regards to VAG pulling out old concept cars, anyone else as stoked as I am that the a59 mk3 golf probably the greatest one off VW has built will be a L’oe show this year? No? Just me? Cool, I’ll be the bald ginger bearded fat guy drooling over it in a month.

    1. Just a fair warning there are, uh, people who might be interested in both Golfs and, er, ginger-bearded fat guys and, well, I mean, could be mildly curious just how much their interests, um, overlap.

      (I apologize to everyone for the above, especially Deuce.)

  4. I don’t think I can upload pictures in comments (just yet), so we’ll have to go without photographic proof. Porsche has been doing half-and-half full-scale clay models since the ’50s. The earliest I could find on a quick leafing through The Book (Excellence Was Expected, vol. I) is of Type 695 dated April 1957. The intent of these was to have the minor design differences presented side-by-side to execs for selection.

    Also, re: Cayenne – Porsche wanted to expand in geographies without smoothly paved roads. The minivan was not a serious option – just something they thought Americans would want (and the American importers quickly shut that down). Mercedes (the company) was very interested in a collaboration but wanted 10% of Porsche in exchange for funding the project; Porsche balked, and Piech/VW stepped in, gained a new model basically in exchange for the investment and had the rights to go to market first/ahead of Porsche.

    1. Thank you for that extra bit! 🙂

      I love how international automakers see America then consider (even if just briefly) that we just want something big and roomy. Which, I suppose they’re right.

      Smart even did it when the company was planning its U.S. launch, and I’m still puzzled that the new SUV still isn’t coming.

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