We're making this drive on high-performance tires that should be susceptible to damage on such roads, though the real test in that regard should come tomorrow at the special off-road venue used to train the rangers who patrol the Outback in high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles.

At one point, the road suddenly narrows to a single lane for several miles. Hass reminds everyone that if we meet a road train, we'll pull over until it passes. But even while stopped, testing continues.

"We are never resting. We test even in traffic jams," Kern says, explaining no one's happy when stuck bumper-to-bumper in traffic and in such situations customers have time to seek out anything they might criticize, including switchgear detail they hadn't noticed.

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

In testing, everything is checked and rechecked and checked again. Notes are made. Days in the cars are long, and even after the driving is done, the cars must be maintained and reports written, meetings held and assignments made, correspondence sent back and forth to Germany, and, finally, there's dinner and maybe a glass of one of Australia's remarkably good wines or a round of Redback, a beer named after a deadly Australian spider.

"We're proud," says Kern. "We want to tell people this is the perfect new Porsche. But we have to hide everything."

Soon, however, the team's work will be made public when the Cayenne is officially unveiled. But even then, "We keep on testing," says Kern. Development doesn't stop when production begins. There are new options and special features in the works. Already, a new generation of engine-management software has finished winter testing in Sweden and is on its way to Australia for hot-weather verification.

"I don't see any chance to retire," notes Kern. Why would he want to? TT