Torture Testing a Porsche Cayenne S on the Rebelle Rally

Any technology’s killer app is to make your life easier and more pleasant; your car’s GPS helps you locate the best route to a restaurant when traffic is congested, and if you have cruise control, you can set a speed on the highway to avoid getting a penalty. 

These car characteristics are modern must-haves, but because these sophisticated systems are so important to our everyday lives, we only think about them when they are not working or, in the instance of the Rebelle Rally, when they not allowed competing.

The Rebelle Rally, an annual off-road navigational tournament for women, gave competitors the opportunity to playtest engineers for eight days, giving them a thorough grasp of what automotive grade truly means, all while trying to discover hidden checkpoints in the desert for points.

One way automakers test automobiles during pre-production is to push a high-tech product to its limits in a tech-averse atmosphere. Automobile manufacturers test automobiles in adverse weather and temperatures all over the world to verify that the vehicle in your driveway can resist anything from subzero temperatures, snow, mud, and rain to extreme heat, sand, and wind, all while operating at or near the limit.

Yet, until you are in the middle of a sandstorm or navigating through a desert, as I experienced while driving a 2020 Porsche Cayenne S, it a portion of the process that few people think. That encounter demonstrated the durability of automotive-grade materials and offered me a taste of the rigorous testing that these cars undergo before being released to the public.

Every October, the Rebelle Rally is a geocaching and off-roading competition that takes place in a number of locations in the western desert of the United States. Emily Miller, a seasoned rally driver, and navigator developed it, and it will be in its sixth year in 2021. 

Miller has stated that the rally created exclusively for stock vehicles–those that have not been modified to handle severe off-road terrain–as a method for women to truly test the limitations of the car in their driveway.

Each day of the tournament, 52 teams used nothing more than paper maps, portable compasses, and map rulers to identify concealed geofenced checkpoints strewn over the terrain. Some checkpoints have visible flags, while others have no visible markers at all, and each checkpoint has an open and close time.

Competitors check-in at each checkpoint with a hand-held GPS locator, such as an Iridium Yellow Brick tracking device, and gain points depending on a range of parameters, such as location level of off-road driving difficulties, and accuracy, or near they come to the proper geofenced site. The team with the most points at the end of the tournament takes the top spot on the podium.

This year’s tournament included more than 1,500 miles of off-road tracks in California, Arizona, and Nevada, and companies like Porsche, Rivian, Volkswagen, Jeep, Nissan, and Toyota frequently send teams of women to demonstrate the capabilities of their crossovers, SUVs, and trucks. Eleven manufacturer-sponsored teams contested this year.

For both Porsche North America and me, this was a first. The rally is “intended as a testing ground,” according to Miller. Some [businesses] participate so that engineers may really live and compete in the vehicles they create, while others view it as an authentic, hard-core test drive for journalists, staff development, and consumer chances and incentives. And the information is gathered from some of the most beautiful settings on the planet.”