Fortunately, that is, because on the team's last visit to the United States, Kern saw a tow bar and thought it would be a good addition to the gear the test team hauls around the world. Making the best of a bad situation, the engineers turn this setback into an opportunity to test the Cayenne's capability as a tow vehicle in high heat.

Finally, we reach our hotel, but engineers and technicians face hours of work that resumes early in the morning. No one is optimistic. The car will have to be towed all the way to Alice Springs, the Outback's only real city, where the new parts will arrive and where Cayenne project managers will land for their evaluation drive.

As electrical engineer Arno Wunderlich points to possible sources of the problem (how five systems must talk to each other, how temperature might have had an effect, how it could be as simple as a bad solder), Sascha Kissner, a "comfort electronics" (heating/air-conditioning/ventilation) specialist and, at 29, the youngest engineer on the trip, tries the key. The Cayenne resuscitates. The team celebrates.

"That's why you test," Kern says calmly, explaining that potential problems must be discovered in the development process, not after the car is in customers' hands.

"What's important isn't the trouble, but what happens afterward," says noise/vibration/harshness engineer Jochamin Maunz.

The consensus is that high temperature caused two electrical contacts to separate, preventing the necessary communication. But the switch will be studied, and the problem will be solved. That's why Porsche does such extensive hot- and cold-weather testing, and does it under real-world road conditions, not just on test tracks.