The Two-Door Porsche Cayenne Convertible Was for a World Too Good for Us
The SUV was considered weird enough back in 2003, but the unreleased convertible version is even crazier still.
Early in the development of the Porsche Cayenne, the German automaker actually considered building a convertible model. Even better, it went as far as building a one-of-one prototype to further explore the idea.
Of course, back then, it was considered a completely oddball idea for a diehard sports car manufacturer to develop a heavy, bulky SUV. Already well off the map, Porsche didn't take a cookie-cutter approach in the design stage. It explored a variety of body styles during development, including the left-field concept of a two-door convertible model. That's right. Not a four-door Cayenne, but a two-door Cayenne.
Porsche built a non-roadgoing "Package Function Model" of the convertible body style. It was intended to assess four criteria as to the model's suitability for production.
Designers used it to determine whether seating would be comfortable given the convertible's shorter windscreen and roofline, tapering towards the rear. The practicality of the two-door layout with longer doors was also investigated, along with ideas around the rear end's design. The team also hoped to discover whether it was possible to build a quality soft-top to suit the design.
The rear end was a primary focus for development as late as 2002. The left and right sides of the rear end on the Package Function Model actually feature two distinct designs. The left-hand side has a much lower rear taillight design, with the tail lamps set higher on the right.
As for the convertible top, the design mimicked that used on the 911 Targa since the 991 era. The soft top was intended to sit above the fixed roll-over bar when deployed. It would then fold up neatly into the rear luggage compartment. The mechanism was never fully built, having been developed in a computer simulation. As the Package Function Model sits in the museum today, its fabric top lives in the luggage compartment and can be manually installed if required.
Ultimately, Porsche ditched the convertible idea. Forecasts suggested the model would not sell well, and there were concerns about its aesthetic appeal. Porsche's current chief designer, Michael Mauer, notes that the idea of a convertible SUV presents significant challenges in this regard. "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," he says.
When it comes to fun in the sun, it's hard to deny the appeal of a convertible. Drop the roof on a capable SUV platform and hit the beach, and it's hard to imagine having more fun in an automobile.
Sadly, back in 2002, it was considered all too weird to pursue. However, since then, several other automakers have boldly gone where Porsche didn't. 2011 saw the release of the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Once roundly mocked for its odd shape and floppy handling, it's now become a fun cult much the same way as the Pontiac Aztec.
It wasn't long after that we got the Range Rover Evoque convertible. It brought top-down fun to the world of luxury SUVs, though it only remained in production from 2017 to 2018. These days, Fiat is set to have a go at the other end of the market with the 500X Cabrio.
Overall, convertible SUVs have never been a volume seller. Even regular convertibles seem to be a stretch nowadays. Outside of proper rugged options like the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler, they struggle to hang on in the market. Whether it's the weird aesthetics or the fact that SUV buyers simply fear the sun, it's hard to say.
Regardless, when the Cayenne first dropped in 2003, the idea of Porsche building an SUV was crazy enough, to begin with. It's probably for the best it didn't try to do a convertible as well.
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