Porsche has produced hundreds of different cars since the company was founded in 1931. But Porsche's road car history can be boiled down to a handful of vehicle platforms that have defined the brand, and led to its newest release – the Macan compact SUV.
Although company founder Ferdinand Porsche built other cars before this (including the VW Beetle, which was commissioned by Adolf Hitler), the 356 was the first car to carry the Porsche nameplate.
With a mechanical layout similar to the Beetle, the 356 series was produced from 1948 until 1965, and included multiple hardtop and convertible variants. The best-known 356 is the iconic Speedster convertible. (Actor James Dean owned a Speedster, which he later traded for a Porsche 550 Spyder – the car he died in.)
The 911 has become Porsche’s enduring brand symbol, with a shape as recognizable as the Eiffel Tower or the Nike swoosh. First shown 1963, the 911 is still being made, and is one of the most desirable and highly-developed sports cars in the world.
Like the original, the 2014 model has a rear-mounted, six-cylinder engine and a distinctive teardrop profile.
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924, 928, 944
Although driving enthusiasts have always loved the 911, Porsche management saw its rear-mounted, air-cooled motor as an engineering dead end. The 924, released in 1976, was the first in a series of Porsches that featured a water-cooled, front-mounted engine. (Other models included the 944 and the 928, pictured here.)
Although the new engines helped the company meet tough new emissions and fuel-economy standards, the front-engine Porsches failed to capture the hearts of enthusiasts.
Released 2002, the Cayenne was the most controversial Porsche ever made – driving enthusiasts saw a Porsche SUV as heresy. But the market loved it, and the Cayenne quickly became Porsche’s best-selling model, reaping record profits and saving the company from a brush with bankruptcy. The Cayenne is still Porsche’s top seller, and helps fund the development of its class-leading sports cars.
With a front engine, four seats and a full complement of luxury features, the Panamera was unveiled in 2009. Like the Cayenne SUV, the Panamera sparked a backlash from enthusiasts who decried it as an overweight, gadget-laden mockery of the great sports car brand. Also like the Cayenne, the Panamera became a best seller.
This is Porsche’s latest model, and makes it clear that the company is committed to the SUV market. Smaller and lighter than the Cayenne, the Macan is aimed at buyers who want a sporting vehicle that can carry five adults and luggage.