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The Porsche 944 Turbo Is No Longer the Cheapest Turbocharged Porsche

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author photo by Tyler Hoover February 2017

We now live in a crazy world where a 20-year-old Porsche 911 Turbo is worth more than a new one. Air-cooled 911 prices have risen to such stratospheric levels that we're starting to see Porsche's own version of trickle-down economics -- to its other models. And this Porsche price bonanza looks to have even made its way down to the everyman's Porsche, the 944 Turbo.

According to one classic-car price guide, 944 Turbo values have risen 50 percent in less than a year, which has created a shocking new reality: This boosted and perfectly balanced little hatchback is no longer the cheapest turbocharged Porsche on Autotrader. According to pricing statistics, that torch has been passed to the Cayenne Turbo.

The Cayenne has followed a depreciation path similar to vehicles from other German luxury brands. Currently on Autotrader, there are 20 different 2003-2004 Cayenne Turbo models offered for sale with an average asking price of $15,088 -- a far cry from its original MSRP of $89,000 before options. In comparison, there are currently 18 different 944 Turbo models advertised for sale, with an average asking price of $17,896.

The new King of the Cheap Turbos is certainly the strangest. While Porsche engineers didn't give this Turbo a whale tail, they did give it a whale's body. This Cayenne Turbo weighs almost as much as a pair of 944s or about the same as a 2004 Cadillac Escalade. And yet, despite the titanic mass, it clobbers the 944 Turbo in straight-line acceleration figures.

At 450 horsepower, the turbocharged 4.5-liter V8 in the Cayenne has more power than a 2004 Corvette Z06, launching this porker Porsche to 60 mph in 5 seconds and delivering a quarter-mile time of 13.5 seconds. This made the Cayenne Turbo the fastest production SUV on the planet at the time.

With those numbers, this 5,200-lb SUV bests not only the 944 Turbo but also a Boxster and a Cayman of the same era -- and it can almost keep up with a base-model 911. With an equally impressive towing capacity of 7,716 pounds, the Cayenne Turbo can also tow a normal Porsche (or two) home after beating it at the drag strip.

The engineers at Porsche were also determined to make the excellent performance extend off-road as well. Matching the Range Rover with features like adjustable air suspension, locking diffs and hill-descent control, the Cayenne Turbo seems like the full package -- but there were a few problems.

For example, the styling of the early Cayenne was an attempt at brand conformity, with similar design cues from the sports-car lineup integrated with the bloated SUV body. The result looked like a 911 that had really let itself go over the years. This was tough to get past, especially when compared to more visually attractive offerings like the Range Rover and the BMW X5.

Porsche enthusiasts are also sensitive to their cars being compared to a Volkswagen, so developing Porsche's first SUV on a shared platform with VW was greeted with some sneers. Although virtually every detail was different, a shared platform likely helped with the quality of the Cayenne.

Unlike other European makes, Porsche has always been near the top of quality and reliability ratings. It's not uncommon to see an old X5 billowing smoke out of the exhaust from failed valve seals or a Range Rover with collapsed air suspension, for example. Meanwhile, the Cayenne seems to be holding up better.

It's likely the price gap between the 944 and the Cayenne Turbo will continue to widen, and the new King of Cheap Turbos will never be dethroned. The real question is whether the Cayenne -- or any of the other modern-era water-cooled cars -- will ever appreciate in the same way of Porsches past.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Porsche 944 Turbo Is No Longer the Cheapest Turbocharged Porsche - Autotrader