Trucks & SUVs

The Cayenne Rally Racer: Why Porsche’s SUV Is Tougher Than You Think

Although the top-shelf trims are expensive, the Porsche Cayenne is more reliable and capable than many expect a luxury SUV would be. While the Range Rover may be popularly thought of as the quintessential swank off-roader, the Porsche’s covered its fair share of mud and rocks. In fact, like the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the Porsche Cayenne is a rally-winning SUV.

The Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia Rally SUV

2007 Porsche Cayenne S Transsyberia test-driven by Walter Rohl
2007 Porsche Cayenne S Transsyberia test-driven by Walter Rohl | Porsche

When the Porsche Cayenne was first introduced, not many Porsche fans liked the idea of the sports-car brand making an SUV. So, the German automaker wanted to prove how tough the Cayenne really was. The company chose to send it rally-racing. But unlike the Mitsubishi Montero, Porsche didn’t send the Cayenne to Dakar. Instead, in 2007, Porsche opted for the 4,400-mile Transsyberia Rally, running from Moscow across the Mongolian Steppe.

2008 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia
2008 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia | Porsche

As The Drive describes, Porsche engineers built the rally-racing Cayenne from some of the SUV’s best production bits. The rally-spec Cayenne got the 4.8-liter, 385-hp V8 from the GTS, linked to a six-speed Tiptronic S transmission. The transmission also received a shorter final drive ratio, which sent more torque to the wheels for better acceleration and off-roading.

For safety, the SUV was fitted with a racing cage, underbody protection, and the A- and B-pillars were reinforced. Off-road tires were installed, as well as a front-mounted winch, roof-mounted light bar, and a proper snorkel for water crossings. The front seats were replaced with racing bucket-style ones, complete with harnesses, and the steering wheel wrapped in grippy Alcantara. The flooring and carpets were replaced with diamond-plate steel. The Cayenne was also fitted with two reserve fuel tanks, two spare wheels, and some shovels.

But beyond these rally preparations, the Porsche Cayennes sent to the Transsyberia Rally were fairly stock. The SUVs were fitted with a multitude of Porsche features. Like the active air suspension, which could raise the Cayenne by almost 12”.

The Cayennes also came with Porsche’s traction- and chassis-control systems, complete with off-road modes. The SUVs could ford water up to 30” deep, and also came with Porsche’s Off-Road Technology package.

Was it successful?

Very.

A Porsche Cayenne rally SUV won the 2007 Transsyberia Rally outright. But the Cayenne’s biggest accomplishment would come in 2008. There, the first 6 vehicles to finish the Transsyberia Rally were all Porsche Cayennes.

Having proved to the nay-sayers that the SUV could conquer off-road, Porsche then decided to spread the celebration.

Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia Rally production edition

2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia production version
2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia production version | Porsche

In addition to the 26 total rally versions made, Porsche then made a production Cayenne Transsyberia Edition. Road & Track reported that 600 were sent to North America—and according to Autotrader, the 2010 model year was the sole year of production. And based on the Transsyberia Editions’ list of modifications, this wasn’t some lame marketing tie-in. This was a properly special limited-edition.

2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia
2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia | Porsche

In addition to the modified transmission, the Transsyberia Cayenne also received the GTS’ engine. However, in the time since the Rally, Porsche had boosted the 4.8-liter V8 from 385 to 405 hp. As a vehicle also meant for the road, the Transsyberia Cayenne didn’t get the roll cage or diamond-plate flooring. But the interior got a bunch of Alcantara. And many of the racing SUV’s modifications did carry over.

2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia interior
2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia interior | Porsche

There were front and rear skid plates made from stainless steel. If buyers opted not to get a moonroof, they could get the roof-mounted lights as a no-cost option. And then there were the off-road package’s goodies. The door sills got reinforced rock rails, the fuel tank, and rear axle also received additional protection—even the engine-bay got its own reinforced guard. The rear differential received variable locking, and in case the Transsyberia Cayenne still got stuck, the package included an extra towing lug.

2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia side
2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia side | Porsche

At $70,800 the Cayenne Transsyberia Edition was expensive. But examples do occasionally pop up. Autotrader reported one was for sale a few years ago for just under $40k, which according to The Drive is about average.