Why the Porsche Cayenne Convertible Was Squashed Before It Even Started

The Porsche Cayenne SUV has been extremely popular since it first hit the market in 2002. But there might be a variant you aren’t so familiar with that never went mainstream. The Porsche Cayenne convertible was part of the first-generation design considerations, but it didn’t make it into the customer’s hands. Why didn’t this luxury convertible sport utility vehicle see the light of day?

The Porsche Cayenne Convertible only made it to the Package Function Model stage

The Porsche Cayenne Convertible
The only Porsche Cayenne Convertible to ever see the light of day | Porsche

The first-generation Porsche Cayenne hit the market in December 2002 and was pretty popular right off the bat. The automaker considered a few variants to capitalize on that popularity, a coupé, a stretched version with an extra row of seats, and a Cayenne convertible. The satisfying Porsche SUV was ready for a transformation.

So, Porsche decided to remove the roof. Once the automaker did that, much of the critical “body-stiffening measures necessary for a convertible” were also removed. Thus, the Porsche Cayenne Convertible cannot offer customers a safe and sustainable environment.

The Cayenne convertible was almost 16 feet long and made it far enough to see production. Porsche made one single version, which now lives in storage at the Porsche Museum. While it wasn’t road-ready, this prototype is called a Package Function Model (PFM). Sometimes, the automaker shuttles the Cayenne convertible to other destinations, but it doesn’t drive.

Porsche couldn’t decide on the Cayenne Convertible rear-end design

The Porsche Cayenne Convertible in silved
The Porsche Cayenne convertible rear end | Porsche

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When the automaker produced the single Porsche Cayenne convertible, the developers hadn’t settled on a final design. Porsche built this PFM with different rear-end options, since it wouldn’t make it onto the open road. The left tail light was lowed on the car, while the right side had a noticeably higher light. Plus, there was disagreement about how the soft top convertible would be folded and stored. Could it even be done?

Someone would have chosen a single rear design if the Cayenne convertible had made it past the PFM stage. Engineers envisioned the soft-top convertible working similarly to one in a Porsche 911 Targa model, but the design never passed the computer simulation stage. Someone at the Porsche museum must manually remove the top and store it in the luggage compartment.

The world wasn’t ready for this sporty luxury SUV convertible

The forecast didn’t look good when Porsche ran the numbers on the Cayenne convertible. Plus, the design did not convince higher-ups of its potential success. Michael Mauer responded politely when asked about the design. Mauer did not work for Porsche back then but currently works for the company. “An SUV as a convertible is a challenge both aesthetically and formally. An SUV always has a large and heavy body. You combine this with a small top half and then cut off the roof – you get very strange shapes emerging from that.”

The Porsche Cayenne convertible had very strange shapes, and the technology wasn’t there at the time. Perhaps the world will need this type of vehicle in the future as a convertible luxury electric SUV. Maybe that’s not in the books either.

Either way, the Porsche Cayenne SUV is celebrating 20 years on the market. Happy birthday, Cayenne.

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