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Model Guide: First-generation Cayenne — 2003-2010

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Article by Damon Lowney
Sidebar by Peter Smith
Photos courtesy Porsche
Lead image: Cayenne fording a river.

It’s ironic that Porsche, a company best known for its sports cars, sold more than twice as many SUVs in North America last year. In fact, the automaker sold more Cayennes than 911s, Boxsters, and Caymans combined. The luxury SUV was Porsche’s most popular model for years — until the Macan showed up, that is.

Due to this popularity, there are plenty of first-generation Cayennes on the used-Porsche market, and they’ve depreciated quite a bit from new, arguably making them the best-value entry level Porsches, if not the least expensive. It’s possible to pick up a V6 base model or V8-powered Cayenne S for less than $10,000, while Turbo models may be had for less than $20,000. Of course, later models in better condition with lower miles will command a premium, and they seem to live in the $20,000–$30,000 range — sometimes more.

Later Cayennes from 2008-10 have styling and functionality updates that make them more desirable than models from 2003-06. Examples such as this GTS (above) or the Turbo S are at the top of the heap, but with those models you may opt for a manual transmission (GTS) or maximum power (Turbo S).

Some notable features all first-gen Cayennes were equipped with are permanent four-wheel drive with locking differentials and low-range gearing (subsequent generations did away with low-range gearing); front, side, and curtain airbags; Porsche Traction Management; and a maximum tow capacity of 7,716 pounds. Air suspension can be had on all Cayennes and is standard on Turbo models, and it allows height and ride adjustment with the flick of a switch.

Clockwise, from top: With a tow rating of 7,716 pounds, the Cayenne Turbo can tow a boat; safety features displayed in a cutaway illustration of the Cayenne; the Cayenne's full-time four-wheel-drive system normally sends 62% of engine power to the rear wheels and 38% to the front in normal operating conditions.

The first-gen Cayenne follows a peculiar life cycle, with pre-facelift models spanning model years 2003–2006, skipping 2007, and then continuing on with slight cosmetic changes and some mechanical upgrades from 2008-2010.

For 2003, Porsche launched the Cayenne S and Turbo but no base model. The S was equipped with a 340-horespower V8, while the Turbo received a 450-hp twin-turbo V8, both displacing 4.5 liters. They were equipped with a six-seed automatic transmission only. Performance was on par with many sports cars of the day — the Turbo could accelerate from 0-62 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds (100 kilometers per hour) and go on to a top speed of 165 mph, according to Porsche. The S was no slouch either, doing the sprint to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds and reaching a top speed of 150 mph.

A 2003 Cayenne S photographed in 2002 for Porsche's vast collection of press images.

For 2004, the base Cayenne was launched with a VW-derived narrow-angle V6 displacing 3.2 liters, which Porsche engineers tuned for use in their SUV. Producing 247 hp and 228 pound-feet of torque, the heavy V6 Cayenne was decidedly sluggish. 0-62 mph took 9.7 seconds with the six-speed auto

You may have noticed the absence of a manual transmission up to this point, and you’d be correct to assume Porsche didn’t offer one in 2003 and 2004. For 2005, that changed with the addition of a six-speed manual for the V6 Cayenne, but not the S or the Turbo. If you can find a rare-as-hens’-teeth manual Cayenne, it’ll do the 0-62-mph sprint in 9.1 seconds, a bit quicker than the automatic.

The V6 Cayenne could be optioned with a manual transmission starting in 2005.

The 2006 Cayenne model line received miniscule updates to the standard trim, including a new, three-button key; new airbag sensors; and “a switch on the B-pillar to (!) deactivate the interior surveillance system,” Porsche stated in its press release. An enhanced PCM (Porsche Communications Management) system was standard on the Turbo and optional on the S and V6 models. Other big news was the addition of the Cayenne Turbo S for 2006, which bumped output from 450 hp in the Turbo to 520 hp and came loaded with standard equipment

2006 Cayenne Turbo S

After taking a hiatus for model-year 2007, the Cayenne was back for 2008. That year the GTS variant was launched, which Porsche claimed — and auto journalists confirmed — was the most sporting SUV on the road at the time. It also was the only other Cayenne offered with a six-speed manual transmission.

Cayenne GTS shows of the post-facelift styling updates. Refer to the lead image to see the updated styling at the rear.

Also new for 2008 was a larger naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V8 with direct-fuel injection in the S and GTS. In S guise, the engine made 385 hp, up from 340, and 369 lb-ft of torque, up from 310 lb-ft. The GTS was rated at 405 hp. Zero-to-60 mph in the S was 6.4 seconds, while the GTS got there in 5.7 seconds when equipped with the manual. The Turbo also received direct injection and 4.8 liters, while power and torque jumped to 500 hp and 516 lb-ft, respectively. The Turbo could now dispatch 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

The Cayenne V6 continued with a six-speed manual as standard and six-speed automatic as an option, while the engine displaced 3.6 liters and also received direct injection. Power was up to 290 hp, and torque jumped to 273 lb-ft. Equipped with the manual, the base model could go from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, a massive improvement from the previous 3.2-liter model.

For 2009, Porsche added the Cayenne Turbo S, which raised output to 550 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, good to take it to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds. The optional PCM and navigation systems (standard on the Turbo and Turbo S) were much improved with PCM gaining a touchscreen and Bluetooth capability and navigation served with a 40-gigabite hard drive. Carbon ceramic brakes became an option on V8 Cayennes.

Cayenne S Transsyberia, with light bar, skidplates, and other off-road oriented equipment — some of it optional.

2010 saw no big changes, but two special-edition models were added to this final year of the first-gen Cayenne. The first is the Cayenne S Transsyberia, basically an S with the GTS V8, plus cool pieces like optional off-road roof lights (as long as there was no sunroof); skid plates; and an optional off-road package that beefs up the whole vehicle and provides a second tow hook. Only 600 Transsyberia’s were made. The second special edition is the Cayenne GTS Porsche Design Edition 3, which basically gave the SUV a really nice appearance package.

From left: Post-facelift Cayenne Turbo, Cayenne S, and Cayenne

That wraps up our basic overview of the first-generation Cayenne, so head below for buying tips and things to look out for when viewing a prospective addition to your garage, by PCA Tech Expert Peter Smith. Of course, always follow up your initial viewing with a pre-purchase inspection — Cayennes may not be expensive to buy, but maintaining one requires more money than your average Toyota 4Runner. You don’t want to be stuck with an unexpected repair bill.

By Peter Smith

2003-06 Porsche Cayenne Models

Driveshaft: center bearing support failure. All models.
If you experience vibration during acceleration, a thumping in the center of the vehicle, expect to pay $650 for the part.

Plastic coolant pipes under intake manifold. V8 models.
The symptoms can be a small coolant leak in the middle of the car, or it could be a huge gush of coolant if a pipe splits. Many parts are involved in the fix.

Steering column. All models.
If the steering column fails, you won’t be able to drive the vehicle. You’ll also see a steering column fault light on the dashboard. Expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $2,100 for parts, depending on column options.

Ignition coils (they have been updated many times). V8 models.
The check engine light will come on, possibly blinking. Do not drive the vehicle if the check engine light is blinking.
The engine will run rough. Each coil is $61, and all eight should be replaced at the same time.

Driver-side fuel pump. All models.
The SUV will start and then die. It will run on full throttle, when cold, and when there’s less than a quarter tank of fuel — the secondary pump is operational during those conditions. The fix requires the pump and filter housing above the pump to be replaced. Expect to pay about $500 for parts.

Suspension air pump on vehicles with air suspension.
An air suspension fault light will show on the dashboard, and the vehicle will not lower or raise.
Expect to pay $1,000 for parts.

Keyless entry systems: problems with control units and door handles. All models.
Keyless entry will not work and a “key not found” warning will show on the dashboard. There could be many parts required for the fix, depending on what is found. This problem is very hard to diagnose.

Water pump failure. Cayenne V6.
Coolant will leak at the front, and coolant residue will spray onto the hood from coolant slinging from the belt. Expect to pay $145 for the water pump.

Coolant reservoir leaks. All models.
You will experience a coolant leak on the passenger side near the front tire. Expect to pay $90 for a new reservoir.

Panoramic sunroof: pretty to look through, very expensive to fix. All models equipped with the sunroof.
The sunroof binds, creaks, and the glass cracks. Expect to pay $6,000 for parts.

2008-10 Cayenne Models

Upper front coolant pipe can slip out of housing due to a glue failure. V8 models.
Coolant will leak from the front. The replacement pipes are bolted in. Expect to pay about $450 for parts.

Driveshaft: center bearing support failure. All models.
If you experience vibration during acceleration, a thumping in the center of the vehicle, expect to pay $650 for the part.

Engine’s rear coolant crossmember to both left and right cylinder heads: The pipe slips out due to glue failure. V8 models. 
You will experience a coolant leak at the rear of the engine. To fix it, the engine must be removed in most cases. Expect to pay $250 for parts. Labor varies depending on whether the engine must be removed.

High-pressure fuel pump failure. V8 models.
 You will experience a longer crank time at startup and a loss of power when driving. Expect to pay $1,000 to $2,200 for parts, depending on the vehicle.

Vacuum pump failure: Oil from engine can make its way into vacuum lines and damage servos under intake. V8 models.
The check-engine light will display, and the evap system will fail. Expect to pay $180 for the pump, plus more items depending on how much oil has contaminated the system. Labor varies depending on the level of oil contamination.

Ignition coils (they have been updated many times). V8 models.
The check engine light will come on, possibly blinking. Do not drive the vehicle if the check engine light is blinking.
The engine will run rough. Each coil is $61, and all eight should be replaced at the same time.

I personally prefer 2009-2010 Cayennes with the optional PCM system, because it includes a touch screen that removes some button clutter from the dashboard and gives you modern features such as Bluetooth connectivity.


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