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Cayenne adds plenty of pepper

Off-roader: Artist Bernie Walsh's interpretation of how the Cayenne will look.

Porsche's first ever off-roader is triggering serious investment in the company's local dealer network

1 Oct 2001

PORSCHE Cars Australia will exploit a heavily re-invested national dealer network to cope with an expected doubling of sales volumes when Stuttgart's first off-roader, the Cayenne, goes on sale here in just over 12 months from now.

The first concrete pricing and volume projections for the top-secret Cayenne sports utility vehicle indicate that even in base V8 form Porsche's first five-door wagon will directly target the highest performing versions of both BMW's X5 and the Mercedes-Benz M-class.

"Cayenne will add a whole new dimension to our business," PCA sales and marketing manager Michael Bartsch said at the release of the MY2002 Porsche model range last Friday.

"So all our dealerships will undergo heavy re-investment in preparation for its arrival, which will be by Christmas next year.

"Cayenne will represent a considerable model expansion for Porsche, even just in terms of showroom floor capacity.

"In terms of sales, most dealerships will increase by 30 per cent and so floorspace and staffing levels will also need to increase - although we're still expecting labor and service times to reduce despite the extra volume." Mr Bartsch confirmed the first Cayenne to appear would be a naturally aspirated 4.5-litre V8 version with pricing exceeding that of the Boxster S.

Rumoured to produce around 254kW and with a pricetag of at least $135,000, the Cayenne V8 will compete directly with BMW's recently released X5 4.6is range-topper ($149,750) and the Mercedes-Benz ML55 ($139,900), both of which develop 255kW.

Despite the premium price and performance, PCA expects to sell about 800 Cayennes in the first year.

It hopes that within 12 months the addition of a $200,000, 335kW twin-turbo V8 flagship and then an entry level 172kW V6 model will bring Cayenne sales to an X5-rivalling 1500 units per annum - double the number of Boxsters and 911s currently sold.

Sales figures like that would eclipse even those forecast by Porsche internationally, where it is hoped annual production of up to 25,000 Cayennes at a new Leipzig plant will increase Porsche sales by 50 per cent.

"We don't want to be too aggressive, but we've been conservative before," said PCA chief Michael Winkler, who also confirmed a basic version of the six-cylinder Cayenne could still undercut BMW's $80,000 X5 3.0.

But he said that while the V6 Cayenne was now more likely to be luxuriously equipped and positioned closer to Porsche's $109,000 Boxster, it would remain the least expensive Porsche ever at under $100,000.

Porsche insiders say the range-topping GT3-style Cayenne has lapped the Nurburgring quicker than BMW's M5 sports sedan and has the ability to fry all four tyres on its way to 100km/h from standstill in just six seconds - bettering the class leading X5 4.6 by half a second.

It will ride on Z-rated tyres, employ greater rear-wheel torque bias and feature variable-travel active suspension.

Porsche continues to claim Cayenne will be "the best performing SUV on the road" and was quick to silence any suggestion the top-secret project had fallen behind schedule.

A date is yet to be fixed for Cayenne's international launch. Best estimates have it appearing by mid-2002 - too late for January's Detroit show in the US, its biggest potential market.

"We're watching the timing carefully but we don't want to have a premature launch," Mr Bartsch said.

Cayenne is seen as crucial to reducing Porsche's dependence on its core business, but it is not about to turn its back on sports coupes and convertibles.

Porsche promised its Boxster would never eclipse the trademark 911 in performance terms, but last week's release of a more powerful 911 opens the way for Porsche to launch a Boxster Turbo to combat the recent influx of red-hot convertible metal.

Using a turbocharged version of the base model's 2.7-litre flat six to produce 230kW, it is believed the blown Boxster could be positioned above the Boxster S by as early as next year, when a facelifted MY2003 Boxster range is due.

Cayenne at a glance:

Cayenne 4.5-litre V8
Power: 254kW
Price: $135,000 (estimated)
On sale: November, 2002 Cayenne twin-turbo V8
Power: 335kW
Price: $200,000 (estimated)
On sale: mid-2003 Cayenne 3.2-litre V6
Power: 172kW
Price: $90,000 (estimated)
On sale: late 2003

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