Porsche Cayenne MK1 buying guide – Performance regardless of the terrain

Porsche Cayenne

The first-gen Porsche Cayenne is a hi-tech off-road missile that can now add value for money to its arsenal.

The addition of an SUV to the Porsche line up in 2002 may have had die-hard fans shaking their heads in disbelief, but it was an inevitable move considering these same fans had rival’s SUVs parked next to their 911s at home. Cynics may have dismissed the Cayenne as a badge-engineered Touareg, that is of course until they actually drove one.

Performance, handling and off-road ability were all at or near the best in class.  Looks may be subjective, but there is no denying that this new Porsche SUV, especially in V8 guise, was as close to a sports car as the laws of physics would allow.

Porsche fans could now remain faithful while sacrificing very little in performance. Contemporary tests show that the Cayenne is more than just a little competent on the rough stuff too. The first-gen cars can offer some serious value to those looking for a Porsche in a family-friendly body style. From the efficient diesels to the stonking Turbo V8s, there is wide range to choose from, but maintenance costs can be high, especially on abused examples.

The first cars in the UK were the 340bhp 4.5-litre V8s, while undoubtedly powerful, some did have engine bore issues so approach with caution. The turbocharged versions followed soon after, providing 165mph performance from a class leading 444bhp. The base 247bhp 3.2-litre V6 was introduced to round off the range; this became a 286bhp 3.6-litre V6 from 2007 onwards.

Porsche’s Cayenne customers were treated to another first when they produced a diesel engine in 2007 (the 1957 Porsche tractor doesn’t count). Both petrol and diesel V6 models provide adequate performance and are relatively fuel efficient, but for those who want to get their kids to school first, only the Turbo models will do. Starting off with 444bhp with the first 4.5-litre cars, the final Turbo S had 542bhp and acceleration to match all but the fastest 911s of the time.

2007 saw the majority of the range receiving upgraded engines as well as interior and exterior trim. We would recommend this year as a starting point, especially considering the low values of these cars in general. The sporty GTS released in 2008 filled the middle ground, and comes with the upgraded 4.8-litre V8, producing 399bhp and possibly the best exhaust note of the entire Cayenne range.

Porsche Cayenne Engine

4.8-litre V8s, Turbos and V6 models tend to generally be trouble free although some owners have experienced individual coil pack failures. The early 4.5-litre V8s in the Cayenne S can be a bit more problematic, the Lokasil coating on the cylinder walls can fail, leading to a destroyed engine. Heavy oil consumption and engine knocking are early warning signs. Cooling leaks are relatively common across all engines, check underneath the radiator for any signs of corrosion around the pipes.

Porsche Cayenne Gearbox

The majority of cars will have been optioned with the six-speed auto ‘boxes and these are generally reliable units. One thing to watch out for is intermittent loss of power under acceleration which could indicate a blocked valve in the transmission.

The propshaft centre bearing has been known to fail and if your potential purchase has covered more than 80,000 miles, check whether it has been replaced yet.

Porsche Cayenne Suspension and Brakes

These cars weigh well over two tonnes and with the performance at hand the suspension bushes, brakes and tyres can take a real pounding. Budget for replacing tyres and brakes at least every 15,000 miles. Air suspension systems can develop leaks and pumps tend to get weaker over time.

Porsche Cayenne Bodywork and interior

At this stage rust should not be an issue; if any bubbling or peeling is evident it may be a sign of a botched repair job. Check for blocked drainage holes as overflowing water can damage the fuse box, ECU and ABS control unit. This can lead to costly electrical issues.

The leather seats will inevitably be showing signs of wear and tear by now, check that the myriad switches and instrument dials are all working as they should. The electrics are generally reliable, but replacement parts can be pricey.

Model History of the Porsche Cayenne

2002:     340bhp 4.5-litre V8 Porsche Cayenne S launched in UK

Cayenne Turbo introduced with 444bhp

2003:     247bhp 3.2-litre V6 Cayenne introduced

2005:     Six-speed manual transmission introduced for V6 models

2006:     Cayenne Turbo S with 513bhp becomes available

2007:     Cayenne S gets new 4.8-litre V8 now with 380bhp

Cayenne engine upgraded to 286bhp 3.6-litre V6

Cayenne Diesel introduced with 237bhp diesel engine

2008:     Turbo S receives 4.8-litre V8 and power is up to 542bhp

Cayenne GTS introduced with Turbo style body kit and 399bhp

2009:     399bhp 4.8-litre V8 Transsyberia limited edition model built – 600 units worldwide

2010:     GTS Design Edition 3 built – 1000 units worldwide

First-generation Cayenne production comes to an end

Which Porsche Cayenne to buy

Prices for the earliest Cayennes have arguably reached their nadir, and while you may notice high-mileage V8s and V6s for similar outlay, be wary of the bigger engined variants unless they have had replacement engines (with the upgraded bore lining). Turbos offer serious pace for not much more outlay but beware that running costs can be a lot higher than on the entry-level models.

For a great all-rounder look to the GTS models, they are quick, sound great and have the updated V8 engines. The Tiptronic gearbox works well and the majority of Cayennes were fitted with it. Six-speed manuals were available on the V6 models from 2005-on, finding one might take a bit of time, though.

If the looks have you sitting on the fence, the mid-life facelift helped matters somewhat while the wild aftermarket body kits from specialists such as Techart can really transform the look of the Cayenne. Specification levels are high throughout although try to avoid large diameter aftermarket rims as they can spoil the ride quality.

Choose wisely and a first-generation Cayenne can be a great family-friendly Porsche with the kind of handling that most modern SUVs still struggle to emulate.


Porsche Cayenne Specifications

3.2-litre V6

Power:                 250bhp

Top speed:         140mph

0-60mph:             9.5sec

Economy:            25mpg est.


3.6-litre V6

Power:                 286bhp

Top speed:         145mph

0-60mph:             7.5sec

Economy:            25mpg est.


4.5-litre V8

Power:                 340bhp

Top speed:         150mph

0-60mph:             7.0sec

Economy:            19mpg


4.5-litre V8 Turbo

Power:                 444-513bhp

Top speed:         165mph

0-60mph:             5.2-5.5sec

Economy:            17mpg es


4.8-litre V8

Power:                 380-399bhp

Top speed:         155mph

0-60mph:             6.5sec

Economy:            19mpg est.


4.8-litre V8 Turbo

Power:                 493-542bhp

Top speed:         170mph

0-60mph:             4.7-4.9sec

Economy:            17mpg est.

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Text John Tallodi  Photos Newspress

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