If that’s truly the case, then the arrival last year of the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne comprises the perfect one-two combination. To keep costs down, the companies shared development costs, engineering resources and production efficiencies. While neither automaker would call the SUVs the same, they are certainly kissing cousins.
The new vehicles are big and risky bets by both carmakers. The Cayenne moves Porsche beyond its revered status as a premier maker of two-seat sports cars into the hottest auto segment, providing the added financial safety of a broader product line. As former Porsche Cars North America CEO Fred Schwab says, the Cayenne is a “bet-the-company SUV.” Working in Porsche’s favor: 40 percent of its customer base also owns SUVs. The Touareg, along with the upcoming Phaeton sedan, marks VW’s foray into the luxury car segment under its own badge (it owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce). Maker of the world’s top-selling car the decidedly unluxurious Golf VW wants a piece of car buyers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for luxury.
For anyone who hasn’t taken the SUV plunge, the Cayenne and Touareg offer amazing performance along a remarkably broad range of price points. An entry-level 2004 Touareg starts at about $35,000 while the heartier and recommended V8 starts at $41,000. The 2004 Cayenne S starts at $55,000 while the ’04 Turbo can easily add up to $95,000 with options. Below we take a look at the Touareg, which has made just about every Top 10 list (including being named Motor Trend’s’ 2004 SUV of the Year) and the Cayenne Turbo, which is, well, a Porsche and the fastest SUV on the planet.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
The Turbo a $33,000 price bump from the base S model boasts a twin-turbo, 4.5-liter V8 delivering 450 hp at 6000 rpm, enough to get the Cayenne’s 5,100-plus pounds from 0 to 60 in slightly more than 5 seconds, just a step behind a nonturbo 911 Carrera. Top speed: 165 mph.
While the Cayenne may lack a Porsche’s classic looks, from the front, the family resemblance is obvious. Ride height has a range from 4.56 inches up to a maximum ground clearance of 10.75 inches and automatically lowers as the vehicle’s speed increases (1.5 inches lower at 130 mph).
The exterior may be unfamiliar, but the inside is pure Porsche. Copious amounts of leather and suede are accented by aluminum trim and the familiar Porsche instrumentation. Five people fit snugly with room behind the rear seats for a modest amount of luggage.
The entry-level model’s V6 delivers only 220 hp but is surprisingly responsive thanks to a sharp six-speed automatic transmission. Wisely stepping up to the V8 gets you the same 310 hp engine that powers the Audi A8. VW plans to offer a version with the Phaeton’s 414 hp W12 engine.
The name may be silly (say TOO-regg), but the look is refined, taking cues from the Passat. Overall size is on par with far pricier offerings from BMW, Lexus and Range Rover. Underneath, you get 11.8 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford 22.8 inches of water for really rainy days.
Once inside, you are treated to a pleasing mix of real wood, aluminum, leather trim and sensible instrumentation. Don’t expect to haul the soccer team around: the Touareg seats only five. But it is still spacious, thanks to unibody construction, which allows for a lower floor.