When we first heard that Porsche was going to build a sport utility, the biggest question that came to mind was the same that many other people had: Why? Why would a company with such an impressive heritage in racing and high-performance street machines turn its focus to the SUV market? There are many answers to that question, most of which are also rooted in Porsche's history. In addition, after spending some time behind the wheel of both Cayenne variants, we had no doubts about the quality and capability of the new vehicle Porsche is producing.

Porsche is known for high- and ultra-high-performance cars, and has spent the last 50 years or so entering stock, modified, and custom-bodied cars into numerous races, thoroughly establishing Porsche as a company that strives for maximum horsepower and excellent handling. Porsche's history also includes a long lineage of vehicles equipped with all-wheel-drive, many of which were raced off-road. That, combined with a desire to enter the white-hot SUV market, made building a sport utility the next logical step for this manufacturer.

The Cayenne is available in two models: the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. Both are equipped with a 4.5L V-8, with the addition of an intercooled twin turbo setup for the Turbo. The normally aspirated Cayenne engine puts out 340 hp at 6,000 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 to 5,500 rpm, while the turbocharged version offers an impressive 450 hp at 6,000 rpm and 457 lb-ft of torque at 2,250-4,750 rpm. The last time we checked, those numbers put Porsche in the lead for most horsepower available in an SUV. The V-8 powerplant comes with four valves per cylinder and four overhead camshafts with VarioCam, a system that ensures the ideal cam and intake valve settings as the driving conditions demand. VarioCam receives its data from the Cayenne's Motronic ME 7.1.1 engine management system, which compares driver input to system data to determine any adjustments VarioCam should make. Motronic bases its system on factors that include engine speed, throttle position, the gear the vehicle is in, and oil and coolant temperatures. Both versions of the Cayenne receive a six-speed automatic transmission, the Tiptronic S. This transmission gives the driver the option of manually selecting gears and adjusts to the owner's driving style. Thanks to the efficient exhaust system and the use of dual oxygen sensors, the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo meet LEV (Low Emission Vehicle) standards.

The Cayenne comes with a choice of two suspension setups. Both are sold with fully independent front and rear suspensions, but the Cayenne S has a steel spring/control arm front suspension, and a steel spring strut and coil spring/multi-arm rear suspension, while the Cayenne Turbo comes with control arms and air spring struts in front, with a multi-arm configuration and air spring struts in the rear. The air suspension is self-leveling and has six adjustable ride height positions. The air suspension allows for 4.56 inches of adjustability, with a maximum ground clearance of 10.75 inches. At high speeds, the air suspension will bring the Cayenne closer to the ground, giving the vehicle the feel and handling characteristics of a vehicle equipped with a firm sport suspension. The Cayenne Turbo's suspension also uses Porsche's Active Suspension Management damping system, which controls the suspension's response to changes in road conditions.