A rally-racing Cayenne? Porsche factory driver Carles Celma is making a convincing argument for it, a twenty-foot rooster tail of shredded earth spewing from the rear tires as he power-slides down a straightaway. There's a hard, fast left ahead; the Spaniard left-foot brakes and-magically-the SUV transfers its two-and-a-half tons, sliding just short of a precipice that drops 100 feet into a valley. Celma sends the Cayenne bucking through a dry, sandy wash and then aims the vehicle down a narrow dirt track, blurred tree branches slapping hard at the windows.
No question, this off-road-outfitted Cayenne is not your average Porsche-badged grocery-getter. Both the front and rear panels have been altered to improve approach and departure angles, and a hefty sump guard has been installed. Beefier rally dampers have replaced the standard versions, and the Cayenne's air suspension has been retuned, as has the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control. The Cayenne S's 4.8-liter engine, with 385 hp, is unchanged, but engineers swapped in the Cayenne GTS's shorter final-drive ratio. Porsche fit eighteen-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. Other modifications include plugged drain holes and an air-intake snorkel so the Cayenne can ford water up to 31 inches deep. The SUV also gained four roof-mounted lights and a removable winch. The cockpit has a full roll cage, racing seats with six-point harnesses, and a rally-friendly handbrake. Lastly, there's the really cool paint job-either a black or silver base with orange accents on the wheels, trim, and side mirrors. These Porsches have been purpose-prepped to tackle one of the racing world's toughest cross-country challenges: the Transsyberia Rally.
What's that, you ask? It's a 4300-mile trail-of-tears endurance race from Moscow to Mongolia, with a whole passel of car-killing country in between. It's also the answer to a prayer from Stuttgart.
Ever since its 2003 debut, the Cayenne has been lambasted by critics who see it as an unworthy Porsche that exists only to bolster the company's bottom line. One can only imagine the angst this has caused, especially since Porsche insists that all its vehicles are designed to be raced. So several years ago, the company went on a hunt to find a race in which the husky hauler might prove itself. Enter the Transsyberia Rally.