Is the Tiptronic 911 Turbo Really Just a Cayenne?


Since it first arrived in January of 2015, the SCM 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo has seen almost nonstop action.

Alexandra confiscated the car as soon as it was unloaded from the trailer that brought it up from Los Angeles, and I didn’t see it for a month. Then Bradley and I took it on a 400-mile trip to central Oregon. Following that, SCM contributors B. Mitchell Carlson and Paul Hardiman drove it on the Northwest Passage tour.

If I were to characterize the driving experience in one word, it would be “easy.” The Mercedes-sourced Tiptronic 5-speed automatic, reviled in some Porsche circles and hailed in others, takes the edge off the car’s performance, while at the same time making it consummately easy to live with.

In stop-and-go traffic, the Turbo is docile. It doesn’t overheat or act out.

In fact, while I was driving it the other day I wondered if I really had a Cayenne with a 911 body on it.

I reviewed the 2004 Cayenne Turbo for the New York Times when it was first released. The vehicle confused me, as I didn’t understand why someone would pay a sports-car premium for a four-door SUV. Why not just get a cheap-but-competent crossover and spend the leftover cash on a real-deal 911? Let each vehicle do what it does best, and minimize the compromises inherent in having one car for all purposes.

But my doubts proved irrelevant, and robust Cayenne sales helped Porsche weather turbulent market times.

The Turbo has its place in the SCM garage — it’s a terrific GT car, perfectly suited for covering long distances with ease, and Bradley can ride in it, in either the front or rear seat. And when I look at the car in the garage, especially with its outrageous GT3 wing, I’m always moved. It’s fast. It’s an icon. And at the end of the day, it’s a 911 — a car that’s part of Porsche racing heritage, and which has been on our roads since 1964.

But due to the Tiptronic, I’ll probably rarely drive this car in anger. It would just prefer to be used in a relaxed fashion.

Which brings me back to the Cayenne question. Maybe I’d be better off with a Cayenne as a daily driver. It would have more room and be more comfortable. I assume most Cayenne buyers use their cars for similar utilitarian purposes — not because they really intend to drive the SUV at its limits like a sports car. Have you ever heard a group of Cayenne owners talk about the twisty two-lane roads they were on last weekend?

Perhaps you can tell I’m conflicted. Should I trade in the comfortable Turbo for an even-more-comfortable Cayenne and then shop for something like a Lotus Elise to serve as my serious modern sports car weapon? Or should I just be glad I have a Porsche supercar in the garage that I enjoy on weekend trips as well as my daily commute?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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  1. I am assuming by the building style you’re somewhere by the old Jantzen mills buildings. With that central locale and the Irving on-ramp to the freeway you have the flexibility to be out of stop and go post haste. You’re still young enough to appreciate it, so a sports car should probably be in your fleet while keeping the Tiptronic for the better half. The best of all worlds, before time dictates comfort and access over a 1.0g slalom.

  2. You have to ask yourself how much self control you have when driving. In the 50+ years I have been in the Porsche business stories about how fast their Porsche’s will go is continually present. I believe that most if not all these drivers have no concept about the damage their vehicle can inflict on themselves and whatever they hit! If it goes fast the owner is going to drive it fast. This begs the question how much horsepower do you need to drive 85 MPH. Keith, did you really tour with your wife and son at 100+++ Miles per hour?

  3. Say you make the change: what problem will you be solving?

    There’s a story of a study involving family portraits.The group had the opportunity after a week, to change the picture .. to return it and opt for a different pose. A significant percentage did, but they found that 6 months later, that group was less happy with their picture than the ones that kept the original.

    I think the same may be true with the 911 vs the Cayenne.

    Keep the 911.

  4. I agree with your thoughts…let each car do what it does best.
    That may take up more room in your garage, plus two license fees, two insurance bills…but since you can only drive one at once, you’re “saving” the other car for when it’s needed.

    That’s what I do, so I have a low miles Ford SUV and a low miles Mercedes coupe.

  5. Don’t even think of getting rid of the 911TT (even if it has a slushbox that’s a cousin to the AutoStick in my ’99 Chrysler 300M Winter Beater). The Cayenne is a compromise on every level – want more room, use your Land Rover. The only thing lacking on your 996 is a third pedal, but at that, it impressed me as a Gentleman’s Express. Sprightly yet unruffled performance when called upon. Besides, I’ll be P.O.’ed the next time I fly into Portland and have to pack all my Metric tools because all you have available are needy Alfa’s or the Mehari 🙂

  6. Keep that beautiful car. I wouldn’t recommend selling it. I personally would prefer a dct version released later on…but I’d wait a bit until prices of the 996 start to go up.

    I’ve been drive g manual sports cars for almost 40 years so take my opinion for what it’s worth. Your car looks great….

    Driving an automatic equipped sports car often times allows for better concentration and control of the vehicle. Kinda like point and shoot.

    My vote goes to enjoy what you have….it’s a beauty.

  7. My first turbo was a 1976 in 77. Just sold my 1989 turbo targa with 21,000 miles. Probably had 10-15 turbos in between. I now have a 2004 turbo cab AUTOMATIC !!!!!! Never thought I would have anything but a stick Porsche but I can’t say enough good things about that car. In time it will go down as one of the greats 😎

  8. It’s mostly a personal choice. If you only want one Porsche in the garage, keep the turbo you have. A long distance GT car is nice to have. I use an E500 4matic wagon for GT type drives in winter or hot summer weather. I take the 87 Carrera
    on shorter, weekend trips in more moderate weather.

  9. I have the three types, but on a much smaller and cheaper scale: Honda Beat 656cc 5 speed sports car, Citroën C3 1.4 five speed sedan, Ford 1.6 B-Max SUV dual-clutch automatic. Each is right for its job in $8 a gallon world.

  10. Hi Keith – A Cayenne is great for utilitarian and sport – get a GTS version. I’ve had both a S and now own a 2008 GTS and am very satisfied. The “sport” function can satisfy much of the desire for quick response… lower maintenance than a turbo…..

  11. Keith have following these 996 Turbos for a few months now and have watched them gather steam as a great dollar value and as a very comfortable GT car. I have owned many Porsches and needed to move on to something more comfortable with a reasonable price, style and still some great performance punch. I think this is the car.