When Porsche’s Cayenne first hit the scene, the company famous for building sports cars was criticized for selling out with the launch of an overweight SUV derived from mundane family haulers from sister-companies VW and Audi. Rumors soon emerged claiming Porsche would launch a smaller ultra-performance SUV to maintain its sporty image but CEO Wendelin Wiedeking quickly put those rumors to bed.

Instead, it appears Porsche’s next-generation Cayenne will be that ‘smaller’ SUV. Due to arrive in late 2009, the new Cayenne is tipped to be based on Audi’s upcoming Q5 architecture – relegating it to the midsize SUV segment. These latest renderings give us an early look at the new SUV, revealing it will be markedly smaller than the current model. It will feature shorter overhangs and will lose any pretensions of being a genuine off-road vehicle.

The 2010 Cayenne will be a hard-edged performance vehicle with superior handling and dynamics to the current car. Despite being smaller, most of the powertrains will carry over either unchanged or with a slight bump in power, once again including both V6 and V8 models: naturally aspirated and turbocharged.

There will also be a hybrid variant, which according to Porsche’s director of hybrid development Michael Leiters, will return a fuel economy figure 26.8mpg (8.9L/100km). This same hybrid architecture will also be available in the Panamera and includes electric-powered steering, air conditioning and vacuum pumps for the brakes to further save fuel.