First Gen (955 & 957) Porsche Cayenne Buyer’s Guide

When Porsche’s first generation Cayenne was released into the market in the early 2000s, many questioned why the maker of some of the world’s best sports cars would want to produce an SUV.

Two decades later it is clear that Porsche’s venture into the SUV market was the right call, with the Cayenne being their best-selling model. In fact, the Cayenne helped to “rescue” Porsche from financial difficulty, allowing them to continue making the great sports cars for which the brand is revered worldwide.

While there have been a few new generations of the Cayenne since 2003, the first generation model is still a great buy for those who need a practical Porsche and are on a bit of a budget. Unfortunately, many first gen Cayennes are in less than satisfactory condition and with repair bills being quite high, purchasing a bad one of these cars can quickly lead to a painful, wallet draining experience (don’t believe us? Go on YouTube and look at videos from people who have purchased cheap used Cayennes).

In this Porsche Cayenne buyer’s guide we hope to give you all the information you need to know about purchasing a used first generation Porsche Cayenne, from common problems to how to get yourself the best deal. We also have information on the history and the specifications of the first gen Cayenne to give you a bit of background info about the car.

How to Use This First Gen (9PA) Porsche Cayenne Buyer’s Guide

This guide is fairly long, so check out the table of contents below to skip to the section you want to read (or just read it all).

To start with we will be looking at the history and specifications of the first generation Porsche Cayenne.

Following those two sections we will get into the buyer’s guide section of the article and then we will finish off with some general car purchasing advice (how to get yourself the best deal, etc.).

History of the First Gen Porsche Cayenne

Credit: Porsche

In the mid-1980s, Porsche was starting to struggle economically. High production costs, the large drop in the dollar exchange rate, and the company’s model policy meant that things weren’t quite as rosy as in previous decades. This came to a head in 1992/1993 when Porsche only managed to shift just over 14,000 vehicles, down from 31,235 in the 1989/1990 fiscal year.

To get back in the green, Porsche needed to try something different. It was decided that the company needed to expand their product range and move away from just producing a narrow range of very specific cars. The first car to come out of this “reimagined” Porsche was the Boxster concept. It was unveiled at the 1993 Detroit Motor Show and proved to be an instant hit. By 1996, Porsche’s sales were back at the 32,000 mark, largely thanks to the new 2-door roadster.

The next step for the luxury German manufacturer was to decide what type of model could supplement the company’s then current range of cars. They needed something that would boost revenue and take the company into the 21st century. Porsche decided that an off-road capable vehicle was the right course of action, however, they didn’t want to do it alone. The company decided to team up with Volkswagen to create a car that not only performed well off-road, but also on-road as well.

Motoring journalists and enthusiasts received the first bit of news that Porsche was working on such a car in 1998, however, the project was still shrouded in secrecy.

A New Facility for a New Car

With no extra capacity at the Weissach Development Centre, Porsche needed new facilities for their first SUV. They rented a 3,800-square metre factory site in the industrial park “Nord” in Hemmingen and set about further development on what was now called the “Colorado” project.

Along with a new development site for the all-terrain performance SUV, Porsche also needed a new production facility as their Zuffenhausen site was at max capacity with the 911. They settled on Leipzig as the perfect place for the new production site, with the facility being completed roughly two years after ground was broken.

Porsche Reveals the Cayenne

Credit: Porsche

With the production facility open in August 2002, Porsche was ready to unveil their new car. The Cayenne made its debut at the Paris Motor Show a couple of weeks later, however, reception was mixed. Many in the motoring community felt that Porsche should stick to sports cars like the 911 and an SUV had no place in the company’s lineup.

Still, the design work had been finalised and with how much money had been poured into the project, Porsche needed the car to be a success. Thankfully, the Cayenne quickly proved to be a popular choice for those who needed a luxury SUV that was both capable on- and off-road.

Initially, Porsche offered the Cayenne in two forms, the “S” and the “Turbo”. Both cars featured a monstrous 4.5-litre V8 power unit with the later of course being turbocharged. The Cayenne S’s engine was rated at 340 hp (254 kW) and 420 Nm (310 lb-ft) of torque, while the twin-turbocharged car churned out a monstrous 444 hp (331 kW) and 620 Nm (457 lb-ft) of torque. With so much power on tap, the Cayenne Turbo could hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in around five and a half seconds, not bad for a 2.4 tonne (5,300 lb) SUV.

The Cayenne Turbo was also given a low-range case, locking differential, and height adjustable off-road suspension that made it an all-round more capable machine.

Production of a third model would begin soon after the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo started rolling off the production line. This new model would simply be called the Cayenne and would sit at the bottom of the range. It was fitted with the same 3.2-litre VR6 engine as in the Volkswagen Touareg, but with a different manifold that was unique to the Porsche. Power sat at around 247 hp (184 kW) and 310 Nm (229 lb-ft) of torque, slowing the acceleration to 100 km/h (62 mph) to a much more modest 9.3 seconds in manual form and 9.7 seconds when fitted with the Tiptronic S gearbox.

New Models for 2006

Credit: Porsche

By 2006, many of Porsche and Volkswagen’s competitors had jumped on the performance SUV train. The Cayenne had been a hit and they wanted a piece of the action. Mercedes-Benz launched their new ML 63 AMG performance SUV in the early part of 2005 and Porsche created a new turbocharged Cayenne in response.

The Turbo S featured the same twin-turbo 4.5-litre V8 engine as the standard Turbo, but this time power was bumped up to 513 hp (382 kW) and an earth moving 720 Nm (531 lb-ft) of torque at 2,750 rpm. With so much power on tap, the Turbo S can hit 100 km/h in just over 5.0 seconds and go on to a top speed of 275 km/h (171) mph.

Along with a new turbocharged model, Porsche also introduced a special edition Cayenne S known as the “Titanium Edition”. Limited to one model year, the Titanium Edition featured a special lightweight steel body and a lighter aluminium bonnet/hood. There were also titanium-painted exterior trim pieces and body parts, and a quad tip sports exhaust system. Special 19-inch titanium painted alloy wheels rounded off the exterior changes, while the interior received two-tone upholstery. The engine was the same as the standard Cayenne S, but the 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time dropped to the low six second mark.

2008 Model Year Updates

Credit: Porsche

More updates and additions to the Cayenne range would come for the 2008 model year. The biggest change was a new 4.8-litre engine that was introduced at the 2008 Beijing Auto Show. This new power unit bumped the Cayenne S’s output up to 380 hp (254 kW) and 420 Nm (310 lb-ft) of torque at 3.500 rpm.

Turbocharged models also received the increase in displacement up to 4.8-litres, with power increasing to 542 hp (405 kW) and torque to 750 Nm (553 lb-ft) at 2,250 rpm. This dropped the 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time below five seconds and the car also received ceramic composite brakes as an optional extra.

Along with updating the S and the Turbo, Porsche also introduced a new model, the GTS. The new car featured a 399 hp (298 kW) version of the 4.8-litre V8 engine and came with sport suspension and 21-inch wheels. It was also lighter than the S and also featured an aerodynamic body kit.

Cayenne Goes Diesel in 2009

Credit: Porsche

In 2009 Porsche announced the introduction of a new diesel Cayenne at the Geneva Motor Show. The car featured a 3.0-litre V6 VW TDI engine that produced 237 hp (177 kW) and 550 Nm (410 lb-ft) of torque.

Porsche’s new diesel Cayenne wasn’t the only addition to the 2009 range however. A limited edition street version of the Cayenne S Transsyberia was also introduced with production numbers being limited to 600 units. Power came courtesy of the same 4.8-litre unit as in the GTS, and the car was also fitted with air suspension and Porsche’s Active Suspension Management as standard. Standard front and rear skid plates, and unique paint graphics rounded off the updates.

The last special edition version of the first generation Cayenne to be introduced was the GTS Porsche Design Edition 3. Labelled as a 2010 model, the DE3 was based upon the sporty Cayenne GTS. It featured the same engine, but was given a sport exhaust with a bit more bark than the standard car.

Finished in Lava Grey Metallic paint and go-faster racing stripes, the DE3 was also given colour-matched 21-inch wheels, tinted windows, and blacked-out bi-xenon headlights. On the inside the dark theme continued, with black leather seating, Alcantara inserts, and a splash of red stitching. A numbered plaque indicates the production number out of the 1,000 DE3s produced.

Production Ends

With the second generation Cayenne on the horizon, it was time for the production of the first gen to end. While questions were raised about the Cayenne prior to launch, by 2010 it was clear that Porsche had made the right decision. The car had been a massive hit and showed the world that a sporty luxury SUV was what many wanted.

Porsche Cayenne Specifications (as standard)


ModelCayenne Pre-faceliftCayenne Facelift
Year of production2003 – 20062007 – 2010
Engine3.2-litre VR6 (BFD M02.2Y)3.6-litre VR6 (M5501)
Power247 hp (184 kW)290 hp (213 kW)
Torque310 Nm (229 lb-ft) at 2,500 rpm385 Nm (310 lb-ft) at 3,000 rpm
Brakes (front)330 mm330 mm
Brakes (rear)330 mm330 mm
Tyres235/65 R 17235/65 R 17
Weight (Kerb)2,160 kg (4,762 lbs)2,160 kg (4,762 lbs)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)9.1 seconds8.1 seconds
Top speed214 km/h (133 mph)214 km/h (133 mph)


Cayenne S

ModelCayenne Pre-faceliftCayenne S Titanium EditionCayenne Facelift
Year of production2002 – 200620062007 – 2010
Engine4.5-litre V8 (M48.00)4.5-litre V8 (M48.00)4.8-litre V8 (M4801)
Power335 hp (250 kW)340 hp (254 kW)380 hp (283 kW)
Torque420 Nm (310 lb-ft) at 2,500 rpm420 Nm (310 lb-ft) at 2,500 rpm500 Nm (369 lb-ft) at 3,500 rpm
Brakes (front)350 mm350 mm350 mm
Brakes (rear)330 mm330 mm330 mm
Tyres255/55 R 18275/45 R 19255/55 R 18
Weight (Kerb)2,320 kg (5,115 lbs)2,245 kg (4,950 lbs)2,225 kg (4,905 lbs)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)7.2 seconds6.2 seconds6.6 seconds
Top speed242 km/h (150 mph)242 km/h+ (150 mph+)252 km/h (157 mph)


Cayenne Turbo

ModelCayenne Turbo Pre-faceliftCayenne Turbo Facelift
Year of production2002 – 20062007 – 2010
Engine4.5-litre V8 (M48.50)4.8-litre V8 (M4851)
Power444 hp (331 kW)493 hp (368 kW)
Torque620 Nm (457 lb-ft) at 2,250 rpm700 Nm (516 lb-ft) at 4,500 rpm
Brakes (front)350 mm350 mm
Brakes (rear)330 mm330 mm
Tyres255/55 R 18255/55 R 18
Weight (Kerb)2,355 (5,192 lbs)2,355 (5,192 lbs)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)5.6 seconds5.1 seconds
Top speed254 km/h (158 mph)275 km/h (171 mph)


Cayenne Turbo S

ModelCayenne Turbo S Pre-faceliftCayenne Turbo S Facelift
Year of production20062007 – 2010
Engine4.5-litre V8 (M48.50)4.8-litre V8 (M4851)
Power542 hp (382 kW)542 hp (405 kW)
Torque720 Nm (531 lb-ft) at 2,750 rpm750 Nm (553 lb-ft) at 4,500 rpm
Brakes (front)380 mm380 mm
Brakes (rear)358 mm358 mm
Tyres275/40 R 20275/40 R 20
Weight (Kerb)2,355 (5,192 lbs)2,355 (5,192 lbs)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)5.2 seconds4.8 seconds
Top speed270 km/h (168 mph)280 km/h (174 mph)


Cayenne GTS and Diesel

Year of production2007 – 20102009 – 2010
Engine4.8-litre V8 (M4801)3.0-litre V6 VW TDI
Power399 hp (298 kW)237 hp (176 kW)
Torque500 Nm (369 lb-ft) at 3,500 rpm550 Nm (406 lb-ft) at 2,000 rpm
Brakes (front)350 mm330 mm
Brakes (rear)3330 mm330 mm
Tyres295/35 R 21235/65 R 17
Weight (Kerb)2,225 kg (4,905 lbs)2,240 (4,938 lbs)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)6.5 seconds8.3 seconds
Top speed251 km/h (156 mph)214 km/h (133 mph)

2003 – 2010 Porsche Cayenne Buyers Guide

Credit: Porsche

With the history and specifications of the first gen Porsche Cayenne covered, lets take a look at what you need to know about buying one of these sporty SUVs.

Setting Up and Inspection of a First Gen Cayenne

  • Look at the Cayenne in person or get a reliable friend or third party to do so for you – While buying a used car sight unseen can be okay, it is usually a lot riskier. The 9PA Cayenne was not a cheap car at launch and its still not cheap to fix when it goes wrong, so you want to give yourself the best chance of finding a good one. If you can’t physically inspect the car yourself, try to get a reliable friend or third party to do so for you.
  • Take along a friend or helper – Bringing somebody along with you to an inspection of a used Cayenne is a good idea as they may be able to spot something you missed. Additionally, they can give you their thoughts on whether or not they think the car is a good buy.
  • Try to view the Cayenne at the seller’s house or place of business – This is usually a good idea as you can see how and where the vehicle is stored. If it is garaged there are probably going to be less bodywork issues, worn rubber components, etc. Additionally, another reason we recommend this is so that you can get a bit of an idea of what sort of roads the Cayenne is regularly driven on. While the Cayenne is fairly rugged and robust, rough roads will lead to increased wear and other issues.
  • If possible, look at the First Gen Porsche Cayenne in the morning rather than later in the day – This is a good idea as it will give the seller less time to clean up any potential issues such as a big oil leak. When you arrange an inspection, tell the seller that you don’t want the car driven or warmed up prior to your arrival. Warm engines can hide a multitude of sins, so be cautious.
  • Try not to inspect a used car in the rain – Water can cover up a multitude of signs and can make the bodywork look better than it really is. If it does happen to be raining when you inspect the Cayenne, try to go back for a second viewing.
  • Be cautious of freshly washed cars – This is largely for the same reason as above and some less honest sellers will clean the engine bay and any other problem areas to hide an issue.
  • Get the seller to move their Porsche Cayenne outside if it is in a garage or showroom – Lighting in places such as garages and showrooms can cover up issues that direct sunlight may have revealed.

Where to Find a First Gen Porsche Cayenne for Sale?

First Generation Cayennes are still plentiful, so you can find them on many of your favourite auction/classified and dealer websites. However, while these places are often a great starting point, we do suggest that you see if there are any Porsche Cayenne owners clubs in your area. The people in these sorts of clubs tend to be very knowledgeable about their cars and often go the extra mile when it comes to maintenance and repairs. Here’s a few examples:

  • RennlistArguably the vest place to go for more info on Porsche Cayennes. Lots of extremely knowledgeable owners. Definitely sign up if you wind up purchasing a 955 or 957 Cayenne.
  • Cayenne ForumsForum dedicated to all version of the Cayenne and members are often selling parts, etc.
  • Porsche Club GBClub for all Porsches based in the United Kingdom.

Buying from a dealer who specialises in Porsches is probably the safest bet as they tend to get the best cars and know what to look for when sourcing a Cayenne. If the car you are looking at is just being sold at some trade-in centre, the chances of winding up with a lemon are much higher. Buying through a dealer will usually offer more protection than purchasing a Cayenne private, but you do tend to pay a bit more.

How Much Should I Spend on a 9PA Cayenne?

This depends on a number of factors from the model, condition, mileage, where the car is being sold and more. For example, a late model Turbo S in excellent condition is going to be worth a lot more than an early VR6 equipped Cayenne that has seen a lot of action.

We suggest that you jump on your local classifieds and dealer websites and see how much first gen Cayennes are going for in your specific location. You can then use these prices to work out roughly what you need to spend to get a specific model in a condition you are happy with. Remember to add around 5 to 10% of the purchase price to your budget for any unexpected expenses.

Which First Gen Cayenne is the Best?

Credit: Porsche

This is again a difficult question to answer as it really depends on what you are looking for. Do you just need a family runabout and don’t need all the extra bells, whistles and performance? Then a bog standard VR6 model will probably be more than adequate.

If you are looking for the cream of the crop and want performance that will make your mates go “wow”, then a Turbo S could be the answer for you. However, higher tier models will be more expensive to buy and tend to be more expensive to run (all things being equal of course).

For those looking for something with a bit of a classic potential (and we do think the 9PA Cayenne has some classic potential), you probably want to look at the higher end Turbo, Turbo S, GTS models, or alternatively some of the production limited models like the Design Edition 3.

A major benefit of the turbo models is that they came standard with air suspension, while S and VR6 cars came with steel springs that some find a little bit harsh. Later facelifted cars had revamped suspension, so if you want an S or VR6, but want a bit more comfort go for one of those.

Cayenne 955 vs 957

The pre-facelift Porsche Cayenne is known as the 955, while the later one goes under the code 957. Facelifted 957 Cayennes came with more powerful engines and have a number of improvements and refinements over the earlier cars. While the 957 Cayenne is arguably a better car, we would always take a “better condition” 955 over a facelifted car that has not been looked after properly.

Remember to Check the VIN

The Porsche Cayenne uses a 17-digit VIN, with each digit representing a different piece of information about the specific car you are looking at. The VIN should start with the characters WP1, with the “W” representing the country of origin (Germany), “P” representing the manufacturer (Porsche), and “1” representing the type of car (SUV). Here’s a full rundown of what the characters represent (note: this is for North American Cayennes and may change depending on the market the car was originally sold in):

  • 1 – Country of origin – W for Germany
  • 2 – Manufacturer – P for Porsche
  • 3 – Type of vehicle – 1 for Porsche SUVs
  • 4 – Body type – A for Cayenne (does not represent anything on European models)
  • 5 – Engine type – S for V6, B for V8, C for Turbo V8, D V8 GTS, Transsyberia models
  • 6 – Airbags – 0 for none, 2 for at least two (does not represent anything on European models)
  • 7 and 8 – Used to indicate the model line – 9P for first gen Cayenne
  • 9 – Check digit for North American cars and free sign for European cars (usually a Z)
  • 11 – Place of manufacturer – L for Leipzig, Germany
  • 12 – Third character used to identify the model line with digits 7 and 8 – should be an “A”, for 9PA.
  • 13 – 17 – Serial number

Where can I find the VIN on a First Gen Cayenne?

The VIN can usually be found on a sticker on the outside part of the driver’s door frame and at the base of the windscreen on the driver’s side. It can also be found in the rear cargo area/boot where the spare tyre is stored (you will have to lift up the floor). Check that these VINs match as if they don’t it may be a sign that the vehicle has been repaired or has some other sort of issue.

It is usually a good idea to check the VIN on a checkup website or service as sometimes you can find out a bit more about the vehicle (whether it has been in an accident, etc.).


Credit: Porsche

Problems with the engine can be seriously expensive to fix on these cars, so take your time here and don’t let the seller distract you from the task at hand. While the different versions of the first gen Cayenne are quite reliable if maintained properly, many of these cars have not been looked after properly because the servicing and parts are fairly expensive. If you can’t afford to properly service a Cayenne, do not buy one!

To start your inspection of the power unit in a Cayenne, move to the front of the vehicle and lift the bonnet/hood. Check that the bonnet struts have not failed and that the catch works correctly. A problem with the catch and/or bonnet hinges could be a sign of an accident.

Following this, give the engine bay a good general look over, keeping an eye out for any obvious issues such as leaking fluid or damaged components.

A completely spotless engine bay is usually a sign of a good owner, however, it may also be a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up (especially if it looks like the engine bay has just been washed.

Checking the Fluids

This is something that many people overlook when inspecting a used car, but we feel it is a very important thing to do. The fluids are the lifeblood of a car and if they are in poor condition it can lead to increased component wear and possibly even engine failure.

Check the engine oil/dipstick for any metallic particles or grit as that can be a sign of a serious issue. Additionally, watch out for any foam in the oil or on the dipstick. Foam can be a sign of a few different problems from condensation in the oil to a leaking head gasket (especially if it is very think and white), or an engine that has been overfilled with oil.

Another thing to check is whether or not the oil (or any other fluids for that matter) is overfilled or underfilled.

Talk to the seller about the service schedule for their first gen Porsche Cayenne and don’t forget to have a good look at the service history as well. If the seller won’t or can’t provide the service history, be very cautious of the Cayenne. While the car may have been looked after properly, the opposite is probably more likely. Additionally, the service history will only add value to the Cayenne if you decide to sell it in the future.

The engine oil should have been replaced at least every 16,000 km (10,000 miles) or every 12 months, so make sure this has been done. Many owners like to replace it early with some doing it as early as 8,000 km (5,000 miles). This is only a good thing in our books and is a sign that they probably care about their Cayenne.

Keep an Eye Out for Oil Leaks

There really shouldn’t be any oil leaks (although these cars are getting on a bit now, so bear that in mind). The oil filter housing seal is a common thing to go on VR6 equipped models, along with the crushable gasket/seal for the oil drain plug. The drain plug seal is often not changed during servicing which leads to this problem.

Another common leak point on VR6 models is the valve cover gasket. They eventually go brittle and hard, which will allow oil to seep past the gasket. The leaking oil can usually be seen around the valve cover and on the cylinder head. Additionally, oil can often be found in the spark plug holes, but this is usually only visible if you remove the plugs. This problem seems to occur more frequently from about 100,000 km (62,000 miles) onwards, but can happen earlier. Leaks from the valve cover gasket can occur on other models as well, but it seems to be more of an issue on the VR6 engine.

On turbocharged Cayennes, the seal from the intercooler to the turbocharger can often leak. This is due to oil pooling in this area and in some markets Porsche recommends draining the oil from this pipe at every oil change. Some owners even go as far as replacing the seal with every oil change.

It is also a good idea to check around the charge pipes on turbo cars as the seals a prone to leaking. The charge pipes are the ones that branch down from the Y pipe (throttle body) and go directly into the intercooler. If a leak is occurring here, you can replace the seals/pipes yourself, but it is a bit of a pain. We wouldn’t worry about a small leak here as it is pretty normal, but if the leak seems quite big you should be cautious.

Apart from the above, check all other areas of the engine bay for oil leaks. It is usually quite difficult to find the exact source of an oil leak, so proceed with caution if you find one. While it may be something simple, it could also be a sign of big trouble. If the 955 or 957 Cayenne you are looking at is leaving puddles of oil on the ground, walk away.

Don’t forget to check for oil leaks (or any leaks for that matter) both before and after a test drive. Park the car in a different spot and make note of any stains on the ground that may be from the Cayenne you are looking at.

Does the First Gen Cayenne Use a Timing Belt or Chain

Credit: Porsche

All the engines in the 955/957 Porsche Cayenne range use a timing chain and not a belt, so there is no need to worry about regular replacements at specified intervals. However, timing chain issues have been reported on a number of VR6 equipped Cayennes, especially if the car has seen a lot of miles (200,000 km/124,000 miles plus). Problems with the timing chain, tensioner, etc. can occur on other models as well, but it is far less common.

The main things to watch out for are any strange noises such as rattling or slapping from the timing chain area located on the right side of the engine. Some slight chain noise is to be expected, so keep that in mind. A loose timing chain can also lead to misfires and the illumination of the CEL (Check Engine Light) as well, however, these problems can also be caused by a range of other issues as well.

While the timing chain can wear to a point where it causes issues, the most likely cause of any problems is the plastic tensioner and/or U guide (on V8 models). Improper/infrequent servicing can dramatically reduce the life of the timing components, so keep this in mind if you suspect that the first gen Cayenne you are looking at has not been looked after properly.

Replacing the tensioner is not too expensive, but it is often recommended that you replace the other timing components as well (chain, etc.). Replacing all the timing components is a big job, largely thanks to the amount of time it takes to remove everything and put it back together. If you are looking at a first gen Cayenne with ‘suspected’ timing chain/tensioner issues, make sure you get a very good discount if you still want to purchase the car (we would personally move onto another Cayenne unless it was the deal of a century).

PCV Failure

The PCV valve (Air/oil separator diaphragm) can fail, leading to the following symptoms:

  • Rough idle
  • CEL
  • Fault codes if checked with an OBD2 scanner
  • Oil consumption issues (difficult to check during a short test drive)
  • Incorrect air/fuel mixture (too rich or lean)
  • Fuel consumption issues)
  • Visible smoke from the exhaust

If the PCV valve issue is not sorted it can lead to engine damage and oil leaks, so be cautious if you suspect the first gen Cayenne you are looking at has this problem. Both V6 and V8 engines can experience this problem. Check out the video below for a bit more info on PCV valve issues on the 955/957 Cayenne.

Ignition Coil Issues

Both the 4.5-litre and 4.8-litre V8 engines (NA and Turbo) fitted to the first gen Cayenne feature individual ignition coils on each spark plug. Overtime these coils can fail, with the main cause being the extreme heat from the engine. Here are some of the main symptoms to watch out for:

  • Rough idle and misfires
  • An unexplainably louder-than-usual engine
  • Lack of power
  • A significant drop in RPMs while accelerating for no apparent reason
  • A blinking or intermittently activating check engine light
  • An active fuel/gas warning light when the vehicle has plenty of fuel/gasoline
  • Smoke from the exhaust emitting intermittently, instead of in a steady stream

It is important to get on top of this issue as soon as possible and get it fixed, as if you leave it and continue running the vehicle it can lead to cylinder bore scoring (arguably one of the biggest issues with V8 Cayennes). If the CEL is flashing, stop the car immediately. While the ignition coils are generally more durable on VR6 equipped Cayennes, they can fail as well.

Porsche recommends replacing the spark plugs every 48,000 km (30,000 miles) or every 4 years, and many owners recommend that the ignition coils be replaced every 130,000 km (80,000 miles) as part of preventative maintenance. Check with the seller to see when the ignition coils have been replaced as if they are well over the 130,000 km mark you could be asking for trouble (especially on V8 models). Watch the video below for more info an changing the plugs and coils.

Cylinder Scoring on V8 955 Cayennes

We mentioned cylinder bore scoring above but here is a bit more information on the problem. The issue is most common on naturally aspirated 4.5-litre cars with the problem being a little bit less common on turbocharged versions. It is believed that the turbo version is less likely to suffer from the problem as the NA engine uses a less durable Lokasil aluminium cylinder wall coating (turbo uses an Alusil block). Additionally, the turbo engines have a better bore clearance, use different pistons with different thermal characteristics, and have oil squirters that increase oil lubrication. Here are some of the symptoms of cylinder scoring:

  • A noise that sounds like a hydraulic lifter issue
  • One tailpipe sootier than the other
  • Increased oil consumption (will be difficult to tell during a short test drive/inspection)
  • Engine oil that is extremely black in colour
  • Misfires and CEL
  • In very severe cases the excessive amounts of oil consumption can lead to cat failure, or aging of the O2 sensors
  • Aluminium debris in the oil filter and engine oil sump.

First gen Cayennes produced from 2008 onwards are less susceptible to this issue as Porsche made a number of refinements and improvements to the V8 engine’s design/manufacturing processes.

Cold weather and long periods of non-use are also believed to increase the chances of cylinder scoring issues, so bear that in mind as well. The best way to reduce the chances of this problem occurring is to regularly service the car with Porsche-approved A40 spec engine oil. Additionally, some owners like to use an anti-friction additive as well, but the servicing is the main thing to watch out for.

Cylinder bore scoring can often be misdiagnosed as another issue as the symptoms of oil consumption, misfires, lack of power and a CEL are shared with other problems. If you suspect the Cayenne you are looking at has this issue do not purchase the car. Fixing the issue could set you back anywhere from US$10,000 to $30,000, with experienced Porsche specialists being at the higher end of this range (Turbo rebuilds tend to be more expensive). A still expensive, but cheaper option is to replace the bad power unit with a used one, however, it will be nearly impossible to find the history of the used engine. Once again, we suggest that you do not purchase a Cayenne with this issue and keep on top of maintenance if you do buy one of these cars!

Fuel Pump Problems

Watch out for any loss in engine power, stalling, slow starts or not starting at all, and hesitation when accelerating. These symptoms can be a sign that one or both of the in-tank fuel pumps on the right and left sides of the engine have gone bad. When one goes, the other tends to fail as well so they should both be replaced at the same time. The pumps aren’t too expensive, but labour can be depending on who you take the car to. Check out this forum post for a bit more information on replacing the in-tank fuel pumps. Replacing the pumps is a difficult DIY job, but possible if you are fairly mechanically inclined.

The high pressure fuel pump (HPFP) on 4.8-litre 957 Cayennes can fail as well. Common symptoms include noticeable loss in power, extended cranking before start-up, a CEL, and fuel-pressure or fuel-trim related error codes. Replacing the pump isn’t too difficult but it does require the removal of the intake manifold. The pump itself is quite pricey, so expect to pay over US$1,000 to get this problem fixed.

Cooling System Issues

The cooling system on a first generation Cayenne is something you really need to go over with a fine-tooth comb. There are quite a few problems here and a failure of the cooling system can lead to the destruction of your car’s engine. Here are some things to watch out for:

Coolant Pipes on 4.5-litre V8 Cayenne (955)

The main problem really revolves around the coolant pipes. On the V8 Cayenne 955 Porsche used plastic cooling pipes that ran from the front of the engine to the back, travelling just under the intake manifold. While this seemed like a fairly reasonable design on paper, it actually proved to be a disaster (and in hindsight it is easy to see why).

The plastic pipes simply couldn’t deal with the extreme amount of heat in the area they were in and would quickly degrade, leading to nasty coolant leaks and a whole load of white smoke/steam from under the car and bonnet.

The problem with the coolant pipes on 4.5-litre 955 Cayennes was so bad that a class action lawsuit was run against Porsche. They had to eventually replace the problematic pipes with aluminium ones, so pretty much every 4.5-litre 955 you come across should have the updated parts. However, some 955s may have slipped through the net, so make sure you check that this work has been done.

If for whatever reason the V8 955 Cayenne you are looking at does not have these updated metal coolant pipes, do not purchase the car unless you can get a very, very good discount. Aluminium pipes were never fitted from the factory to the 955, so if the seller can’t produce evidence that they were installed be cautious.

Damage to Starter Motor from Leaking Coolant

The starter motor is located directly under the coolant pipes, which as you can probably guess, is not a good thing if they leak. Check to see if the starter motor has been replaced on the Cayenne you are looking at as it could be a sign that the car has suffered from leaking coolant issues in the past. Signs that the starter motor is on its last legs include the following:

  • Car will struggle to start
  • Very loud clicking noise when trying to start that sounds like the battery is nearly flat

Coolant Return ‘T’ Hose Fitting on 955 Turbo Models

The plastic coolant ‘T’ fitting on 955 turbo models can fail, leading to one all-mighty coolant leak, so it should be fairly obvious if this has happened (don’t drive the car). Repairs usually involve replacing the entire return hose itself as the ‘T’ fitting is not available from Porsche on its own. Some owners recommend that the return hose be replaced every 160,000 km (100,000 miles) or so just to be safe as a failure here could result in damage to the engine.

Coolant Valley Pipe & Thermostat Housing on 957s

Unfortunately, Porsche didn’t seem to learn their lesson on failing coolant pipes with the facelifted 957. While the 4.8-litre NA and turbocharged engines were given three redesigned pipes that were manufactured from aluminium, there was a fourth pipe that sat underneath the new ones that was still made from a plastic composite. This pipe can fail, so it is worth checking to see if it has been replaced with an aluminium one at some point. If not, it is a good upgrade to do as soon as possible if you do happen to purchase the Cayenne. It is important to note that it is often the thermostat housing that the pipe is fastened into that fails and not the pipe.

This problem doesn’t seem to be nearly as common as the issue with the pipes on the 955, but it is something to be aware of. Additionally, it is believed that 2009 models onwards came with some revisions to this area that helped reduce the chance of this problem occurring.

See if the Cayenne 957 you are looking at has had an updated version of the thermostat housing installed. Porsche redesigned the housing so that the coolant pipes were secured with bolts rather than glue, which largely fixed the issue.

Leaks From the Rear Cylinder Head Crossover Pipe (957 4.8-litre V8)

Once again, this leak isn’t nearly as common as the one caused by the plastic pipes on the 955, however, it is still important to be aware of it. There is a coolant crossover pipe at the back of the engine that runs between the two cylinder heads. The pipe has a glued hose barb that can loosen with time, causing a massive coolant leak and a whole load of damage if the car isn’t stopped immediately.

According to Porsche the issue was caused by inconsistent adhesive application at the factory, which means that not all 4.8-litre engines will be affected by the problem. Porsche offers an updated pipe with a threaded barb, so check to see if that has been installed. If it hasn’t, it may be worth factoring it into the cost as installing the new pipe is quite a labour intensive and expensive task.

Cracking Coolant Tank (All models)

Another cooling system related issue to watch out for is a cracked coolant expansion tank. This can occur on all models and will lead to leaks that may be minor or major. The problem area is usually where the two sections of the tank join. Check for any crusted coolant as well as that may be a sign of a past coolant leak. Some more durable aftermarket options are available, so check to see if the owners has installed one of those.

The coolant tank is located on the left side of the engine bay, just behind the washer bottle. Unfortunately, Porsche fitted a plastic cover over this part of the engine, so you won’t be able to see the coolant tank without removing it (if the cover is missing ask the seller if they still have it). It may be worth asking the seller if they can remove it for you so you can get a look at the coolant tank. If you want to remove it yourself you will need a flat head screwdriver and a T20 driver (fasteners for these are located around the washer bottle cap). Here is a bit more info about coolant leaks from V8 Porsche Cayennes

Water Pump to Thermostat Housing Pipe Failure (VR6)

The VR6 version of the Porsche Cayenne didn’t escape the coolant pipe horrors of its bigger brothers. There is a coolant pipe that runs between the water pump and the thermostat housing that will deteriorate with age and eventually fail around one of the barb fittings. If this pipe does fail it will cause a massive coolant leak, so it should be pretty obvious if the VR6 Cayenne you are looking at has this issue.

It is recommended that you replace this pipe every 130,000 – 160,000 km (80,000 – 100,000 miles) or so with the thermostat, thermostat housing, and the water pump. Aftermarket options are available for this pipe that will last much longer.

Checking for Coolant Leaks

A lot of the problems we’ve talked about above are pretty obvious, but here are some tips when it comes to checking for coolant leaks:

  • Check the coolant height both before and after a test drive if possible (Plastic cover will need to be removed)
  • Check the engine bay and ground underneath the car for leaks or puddles of coolant before a test drive
  • Following a test drive, let the Cayenne sit for around 10 to 15 minutes and recheck for any coolant leaks
  • Do a smell test – a sweet smell is a sign of leaking coolant even though you may not be able to see it
  • If the car is leaking a lot of coolant or you can’t find the source of the leak, walk away

Thermostat, Thermostat Housing and Water Pump

As we mentioned above, all these components should have been replaced every 130,000 km (80,000 mile) or so. The thermostat housing usually needs to be replaced after it is removed because even if it is in good condition, it probably won’t seal correctly again.  Symptoms of a bad thermostat are as follows:

  • Overheating due to a stuck thermostat
  • Engine is slow to warm up or may never reach operating temperature (thermostat is stuck open)
  • Fault light and code relating to the cooling system/thermostat

Water pump failure is more common on V8 versions of the Cayenne, but it does happen on other models as well. The first sign of a bad water pump is usually a small leak, however, a whining or groaning sound can be another indication that the pump is on its last legs.

Common Signs of Overheating and Other Issues

Here are some signs that indicate that the first gen Cayenne you are inspecting is overheating/suffering from something like a blown head gasket (doesn’t seem to be too common, but extremely expensive to fix):

  • Temperature gauge on that is on the high side
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
  • White and milky oil
  • Spark plugs that are fouled (if you can get a look at them)
  • Low cooling system integrity
  • Smell of coolant from the oil
  • Sweet smelling exhaust
  • Leaking or crusted coolant
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)

If you notice any of the issues above on the 955 or 957 Cayenne you are looking at it is probably better to move onto another car.

Worn Intake Manifold Plenum Bushings (VR6)

Listen out for a loud rattle, especially at lower RPMs, as this could be a sign of worn intake manifold plenum bushings. The rattle should go away as the engine speed increases. Unfortunately, other more serious issues such as rod knock can also produce a similar sound, so it can be hard to determine what exactly is the cause during a short test drive.

If you hear this sort of sound, we would probably pass on the vehicle. While it is probably something simple like the Plenum Bushings, you don’t want to purchase a Cayenne with a very serious problem (this is why it can be a good idea to get a competent Porsche specialist to inspect the vehicle before purchase).

Checking the Exhaust

Credit: Porsche

Have a look at as much of the exhaust system as possible, watch out for any damage, poor quality repairs, or parts that look like they need to be replaced (hangers, etc.). The flex pipe that goes between the cats is known at fail (often anywhere from 70 to 100,000 km/ 44 to 62,000 miles). Porsche’s version of the flex pipe is quite expensive, so a money saving tip is to use the one from the VW Touareg instead.

Signs that the flex pipe has failed/is failing include loud hissing, tapping or rattling sounds, that may get louder with an increase in engine speed. Another thing to watch out for is any exhaust gases blowing from the from around the flex pipe under throttle (can often be seen on a cold day).

Replacing the pipe can be a bit of a nightmare as some mechanics say you need to lower the engine. However, it can be done without dropping the power unit as a user on discusses here. Check the service history to see if/when the pipe was last replaced. If it is getting up there in terms of mileage make sure you factor that into the cost. If you take the car to Porsche and get them to install a new Porsche branded flex pipe you will be looking at well over $1,000 (they will probably want you to replace the catalytic converter assembly as well, even if it doesn’t actually need replacing).

When driving the Cayenne, listen out for any rumbling, scraping or rattling noises that may indicate a problem with the exhaust system. Additionally, if you smell fumes inside the cabin, it could be another sign of exhaust issues.

Catalytic Converter Issues

Replacing the catalytic converter assembly is expensive, so if the cats are bad on the Cayenne you are looking at, don’t purchase the car unless you can get at least a couple of thousand dollars off. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
  • Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance
  • Excessive heat under the first gen Cayenne
  • Dark smoke from the 955/957 Cayenne’s exhaust
  • CEL

Fitting a decat exhaust/bypassing the cats (usually the secondary) is a fairly popular modification. Some owners do this for performance/sound, while others do it simply as a cheaper alternative than replacing the cats when they go bad. If the first gen Cayenne you are looking at is fitted with a decat exhaust, it is important to note that it may not pass emissions regulations in your local area/country.

OEM Sports Exhaust

Porsche offered a sports exhaust as an optional extra (stock on some models), so check to see if one was fitted. There should be a dual mode button so make sure that works as well (basically more shouty, less shouty).

Turning on a First Gen Porsche Cayenne for the First Time

We usually recommend that you get the seller/owner to start the vehicle for you for the first time. Additionally, position yourself at the rear of the vehicle. We recommend these things for the following two reasons:

  • So you can see what comes out the back of the 955/957 Cayenne when it is first started
  • If the seller gives the car a load of throttle when it is cold you know that they probably haven’t treated it well

Later during the inspection/test drive make sure you start the Cayenne yourself and check for any warning lights on the dashboard. The ABS, CEL, etc. should illuminate during the start up process, but they should turn off after that. If they stay on it indicates a problem that needs to be investigated. Here is what the start up process looks like for a first generation Porsche Cayenne.

What Should the Idle Speed on a 955/957 Cayenne?

This does depend on the engine/model, with the idle speed on V6 versions of the Cayenne usually sitting around 700 rpm (+-50 rpm). Larger engined models should sit a bit lower at around 600 rpm. It is perfectly normal for the idle speed to be higher when the car is first started from cold, but it should drop as the engine warms. Idle speed should also increase when the air con/climate control is turned on.

Finding the cause of idle issues can be difficult as it could be anything from bad spark plugs, dirty intake components and much more. If the issue was a simple fix the owner probably would have got it sorted before putting their first gen Cayenne on the market. Alternatively, they may not care or may have not noticed.

Smoke From a First Gen Cayenne

Smoke or lots of steam from the tailpipes (or anywhere else for that matter) is never a good sign. As we mentioned early, it is a good idea to get the seller to start the vehicle for you, so you can see what comes out the exhaust.

Additionally, it can also be a good idea to hold up a white piece of paper/towel in front of the exhaust. Once the car has been started, check how much soot is on the towel/paper. A small amount is perfectly fine, but if you see loads it could be a sign that the engine is running rich. Lots of soot could be a sign that the Cayenne is burning oil, which may be due to the cylinder scoring issue we discussed earlier.

A small amount of whitish vapour from the exhaust on start up is perfectly fine, especially on a cold day. This is usually just condensation in the exhaust. If the vapour is very thick and white or you notice lots of smoke, walk away. Here are what the different colours of smoke indicate:

White smoke – Lots of thick white/grey smoke from a Cayenne indicates that a coolant pipe has failed or that water has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant. If the smoke is very thick and doesn’t dissipate quickly it could be sign that the block or cylinder head is cracked/broken.

Blue/Grey smoke – This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things including warn pistons rings, valve seals, turbo issues and more. The smoke occurs because oil gets into the cylinders and burns with the air/fuel mixture. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are in the Cayenne. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back.

Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing, problems with the fuel injectors, cylinder scoring issues and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.

Signs of a Failing Turbocharger

If you are looking at a turbocharged version of the first generation Porsche Cayenne, here are some things to watch out for.

  • Strange rumbling, whistling or high-pitched metallic sounds – when the turbocharger is at full boost (drive at a slow speed and then accelerate moderately up to high rpms).
  • Distinctive blue/grey smoke– This happens when the turbocharger housing cracks or if the internal seals become worn. The smoke will become more apparent when the turbocharger is in use, so get somebody to follow you and check while you are test driving a first gen Cayenne Turbo.
  • Burning lots of oil– It will be hard to get an accurate picture of this during a test drive, but try to glean some information from the owner.
  • Slow acceleration– If the Cayenne Turbo you are test driving feels particularly slow it may be a sign that the turbo has failed or is failing. This is why it is important to drive a few different Cayenne Turbos, so that you know how fast a particular model should go (be mindful of modified cars).
  • If the boost pressure comes on late– Boost pressure that comes at higher than normal rpms could indicate either a worn or unbalanced turbocharger.
  • Check Engine Warning Light– The check engine light (CEL) can be displayed for a number of reasons, from major to minor. One of these reasons may be due to a failing/failed turbocharger. If the light is on and you notice some of the other symptoms we have listed above, then it is a good sign that the turbo has failed.

Buying a 955/957 With a Rebuilt or Replaced Engine

There is nothing wrong with a car with a rebuilt or replaced engine, as long as the work was done by somebody who knew what they were doing. Try to find reviews of the place that carried out the work and see if the owner can give you a bit more information about what work was involved. Porsche themselves did carry out some engine rebuilds/replacements themselves under warranty, but these will have been done many years ago now.

There are a number of owners who have rebuilt the engines in their Cayennes themselves, however, this is no easy feat. If you are looking at a home mechanic job, be cautious as while there are plenty of extremely skilled ones (see here), there are also lots with more ambition than skill. Don’t be sold somebody else’s unfinished project and be left penniless!

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is better to avoid Cayennes with freshly rebuilt or replaced engines as they are a bit of an unknown. A 955 or 957 Cayenne with around 10,000 km (6,200 miles) is going to be a much safer bet than one that has only travelled a couple of hundred kilometres on a rebuilt or replaced engine.

Getting a Compression/Leakdown Test Done

If you are looking to find a really good example, it is often a good idea to get a leakdown/compression test done before purchase. These sorts of tests are handy tools to help you determine the condition of a particular Porsche Cayenne’s engine. If you plan to take the 955/957 Cayenne to a mechanic prior to purchase, we recommend that you get one of these tests done.

Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).

Transmission & Other Drivetrain Components

The Porsche Cayenne was fitted with a few different transmission options. The most common transmission was the 6-speed Aisin Warner automatic gearbox, with the 6-speed manual being limited to Base and GTS models only. Porsche didn’t manufacturer many of these manual versions, so if you do want one you are going to have to do a bit more hunting. As the automatic transmission is more common, lets start with that.

6-Speed Automatic Tiptronic Transmission

Credit: Porsche

The Aisin Warner TR 60SN/09D (usually referred to as simply the ‘09D’) transmission was fitted to all versions of the first generation Porsche Cayenne. Overall, this gearbox is pretty reliable. However, that is only true with correct maintenance. If the transmission is not looked after properly it can lead to quite a lot of expensive issues that we will discuss below.

Unfortunately, in the service manual Porsche recommends replacing the 09D’s fluids every 260,000 km/160,000 miles or every 16 years. Most owners seem to agree that this is way too long between changes, and that the transmission fluid and filter should be replaced at least every 130,000 km (80,000 miles) with many choosing to do it earlier.

If Porsche’s long service interval has been followed it is usually recommended that you just leave the transmission as it is and don’t change the fluid. This is because fresh oil can often displace the debris that builds up overtime. This debris can then block up the valve body in the transmission, causing a whole load of issues. If you do want to replace the transmission fluid, it is best to do an initial change and then a few more changes at shorter intervals. This should hopefully flush out the debris and then you can go back to the 100,000 – 130,000 km (60,000 – 80,000 mile) service interval that is recommended by most owners.

Issues With the Transmission Valve Body (955 and 957)

While test driving a first gen Cayenne, watch out for any clunking/banging noises or hard shifts during gear changes. The most common reason why these issues would be occurring is that the transmission valve body is worn. Contaminants and debris will eventually wear away at the tiny pathways of the valve body, leading to shifting issues.

The valve body controls the selection of gears and changes between gears. It is an electro mechanical device and is associated with mapping the engine performance and driver input relative to gear changes, so if

Luckily, replacing the transmission valve body isn’t too expensive as it is relatively easy to access. However, do be cautious if the Cayenne you are looking at has this issue as if it is not fixed it can lead to the failure of more expensive transmission components such as the clutch packs (at least a couple of thousand dollars to get these replaced, but does depend on the place you take the car to).

If the Cayenne you are looking at is suffering from bad shifts, do not purchase the car without taking it to a Porsche specialist who can diagnose the issue. While it may be something relatively simple like the valve body, it could be a much more serious issue, especially so if the car has done a lot of miles and hasn’t been serviced regularly.

Hard Shifting Due to Software Issues (955 Cayenne)

Both 955 and 957 models feature an adaptive DME control unit that optimises the shifts of the transmission depending on the driving style of the person behind the wheel and the conditions of the road. Early 955 Cayennes are known to have problems with hard shifts, however, this was fixed with a software update many years ago.

All of these affected cars should have received the update, but it is always worth checking if it was done (Porsche can check if you have the VIN). 957 Cayennes did not suffer from this problem If the 955 you are looking it is suffering from hard shifts it is probably another issue altogether (like the Valve Body issue above).

Torque Converter Seal Failure (955 and 957)

The torque converter seal can leak/fail. This is not due to a design fault with the seal itself, but coolant from the leaking pipes we mentioned early in the engine section. The coolant runs down the back of the engine and into the transmission bellhousing. It eventually pools and dries here, causing damage to the converter seal. A slow leak from the bellhousing area (visible in the middle of the car, just behind the front wheels) is the first sign of the issue, but it will eventually become a significant leak if not repaired. Additionally, you may also notice hard shifts and/or slipping shifts if enough fluid has been lost.

Unfortunately, replacing the seal does require the removal of the transmission, but only the seal itself should need to be replaced. If you continue to drive the car and it loses a significant amount of fluid, it can lead to other components being damaged as well and a much more expensive repair bill.

Try the Tiptronic Shifting

There aren’t really any known problems with the Tiptronic system, but just make sure that it works correctly and the car goes into gear. Some owners have found that while their Cayenne will shift fine in ‘Auto’ mode, it won’t go into certain gears when the Tipronic buttons are used. An oil and filter change will often fix this, and it is often recommended that you clean the valve body as well. However, while it may be a simple fix, this problem could be a sign of a more serious issue, so get it checked out before purchasing the Cayenne.

Other Automatic Things to Consider

Make sure you take the transmission through the rev range and all the gears. Check that reverse works correctly and be cautious of any clunking or jumping when shifting gears/positions. If the Cayenne doesn’t move in drive or reverse walk away.

Manual Porsche Cayennes

Credit: Porsche

Like we mentioned early, only a limited number of Base and GTS models were fitted with the manual transmission, so it is pretty rare to come across a first gen Cayenne with one. There isn’t too much to worry about with the manual gearbox in a Cayenne, apart from the usually manual related things.

Manual Cayennes feature a dual-mass flywheel that has a primary main flywheel and a secondary sprung component for the friction surface. This setup makes shifts significantly smoother and reduces transmission noise. However, over time the sprung centre section of the dual-mass flywheel can develop a bit of play and go out of balance. The main symptoms of this include light to heavy vibration at specific engine speeds, inconsistent shifting and clutch engagement. Stop driving the car immediately if you hear any clunking or metal-on-metal sounds.

If you notice the symptoms above, the dual-mass flywheel will almost certainly need to be replaced. It is also a good idea to replace many of the clutch components as well, so this can be quite an expensive job.

Apart from the above, check that gearshifts and smooth and that no gears ‘pop’ out of their position. Additionally, watch out for any grinding or graunching on both upshifts and downshifts. These issues could be a sign of synchro wear or some other sort of issue. Another thing to check is how the manual gearbox and clutch performs on a hill start if possible.

Once again, Porsche recommends a ridiculous service interval of 260,000 km (160,000 miles) for the manual transmission. Like with the automatic transmission, Porsche’s service schedule should be ignored and fluid changes should be around every 100,000 km (62,000 miles).

Checking the Clutch

The life of the clutch components can vary greatly depending on how the first gen Cayenne has been treated and driven. If the Cayenne has seen a lot of miles since the last clutch replacement (if ever), expect to cough up for a new one in the relatively near future (factor this into the overall price and use it to get a discount if you want to purchase the car). Here are some things to watch out for when checking the clutch:

Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the Porsche Cayenne you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.

Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.

Clutch Drag – Get the 955 or 957 Cayenne on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.

Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated.

Any gear shift related issue that happens on all gears is usually related to the clutch, while if it only occurs on one or two gears it is probably related to the transmission itself. Additionally, check how the gearbox shifts when the car is off and stationary. If there are shifting problems when the Cayenne is moving and on, but not when the car is off, it is probably related to the clutch.

Clutch Slave Cylinder Problems

Hard shifting, brake fluid leaks from around the transmission bell housing area, inconsistent pedal feel, and failure of the clutch to completely disengage could be a sign that the clutch slave cylinder needs replacing. This should have been done when the clutch itself was replaced, but this may not have occurred if the owner was trying to save a bit of coin.

Other Drivetrain Issues

Make sure that both the front and rear differential, and the transfer case fluid has been replaced every 96,000 km (60,000 miles) or so (basically with the transmission fluid). Once again, Porsche recommended a 260,000 km (160,000 mile) service interval for these parts, but it is simply way to long between changes. Here are some other things to watch out for:

Vibrations Under Acceleration (Transfer Case Actuator)

Watch out for any vibrations or nervous/lurching acceleration around the 50 km/h (31 mph) mark as this could be a sign of a faulty transfer case actuator. This issue is usually more noticeable with the wheels turned and is quite subtle to start with but will eventually get worse with time. Unfortunately, this is quite an expensive problem to fix. Other signs of this issue include error messages on the dashboard and a 4WD selector that won’t work.

The problem was bad enough that Porsche had to extend the warranty for the transfer case on the Cayenne. However, these warranty extensions will have expired by now. Porsche did introduce an updated version of the transfer case actuator, so it is worth checking if the first gen Cayenne you are looking at has one of those fitted.

Failing Driveshaft Flex Disc

Vibrations and noise at higher speeds can be a sign that the driveshaft flex disc has failed/is failing. The disc may also crack and should be checked every time an oil change is carried out. Not a massive issue, but something to use as a bargaining point.

Failing Cardan Shaft Carrier Bearing (Driveshaft Shaft Bearing)

Noise and heavy vibrations are also a sign that the driveshaft carrier bearing has failed. This is usually a louder, more clunking style noise than the other issues listed above. With time and mileage, the rubber that holds the carrier bearing will go bad, allowing the driveshaft to move. Replacing the bearing yourself is possible, but it is a bit of a PITA and getting a Porsche specialist to do it isn’t too expensive (usually). It is usually recommended that you replace the driveshaft flex disc at the same time as replacing the carrier bearing.

Alternatively, you can buy a new replacement driveshaft from Porsche, but expect to pay in excess of $1,000 for one. Aftermarket carbon fibre driveshafts are available, but at an extremely high price and they are not really worth it for regular road driving.

4WD Fault Warning

If you notice a message that says, “Four-wheel drive system fault” it is probably the stepper motor that controls the transfer case. Either the stepper motor has failed, or it has become stuck, or the battery is weak (the battery is the most likely culprit if this issue is intermittent). While replacing the stepper motor yourself is a fairly simply DIY project, the part itself is quite expensive to buy from Porsche. Some owners have installed the stepper motor from a Volkswagen Touareg, so that is an option if you have to deal with this problem and want a cheaper solution.

To lower the chances of stepper motor failure, it is a good idea to switch the Cayenne into low range mode periodically (every one month or so).

Steering and Suspension

Credit: Porsche

It is important to visually inspect as many of the steering and suspension components as possible, keeping an eye out for any worn, damaged, leaking or modified components. It can be a good idea to bring along a torch/flashlight and a mirror to get a better look at hard-to-see areas. Here are some of the main things to watch out for during a test drive/inspection:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration and rear end wobble over bumps
  • Tipping during cornering
  • High speed instability
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
  • Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive – usually the anti-roll bar bushes on these cars, but may be something else.
  • Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
  • Clicking sounds (especially at full lock) – usually a bad CV joint as this is a very common issue. However, clicking sounds may also indicate something like a bad wheel bearing as well

The shocks and struts on a first gen Cayenne tend to last around 160,000 km (100,000) miles, so check when they were last replaced. If you see an excessive amount of dirt and oil on the shock absorber housing it could be a sign that a replacement is needed in the near future. As we mentioned above, watch out for any dipping when the brakes are applied, instability, uneven tyre wear or shock noise.

If the Cayenne you are looking at is only fitted with the standard suspension there should be just one switch to control the four-wheel drive system. Cayennes fitted with Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM) will have controls for the ride height and shock absorber settings.

PASM Air Suspension

Credit: Porsche

Porsche’s PASM air suspension system was optional on all 955 and 957 Cayennes and standard on all Turbo models. While it is more complex and expensive to repair than the standard suspension, it does provide a number of ride and handling benefits.

Facelifted 957 Cayennes could also be equipped with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC). This system added hydraulic controlled sway bars that provides even more control and cornering performance when on the road. The PDCC system can then be automatically disabled when going off-road, allowing for more suspension travel. PDCC equipped 957 Cayennes have all-silver buttons and switches for 4WD, PASM, and air suspension controls, whereas non-PDCC models have a mixture of silver and black ones. The PDCC reservoir and fluid should have been replaced every 96,000 km (60,000 miles).

Air Compressor Failure

Remember to check the ride height of the car. If it is sitting too low or uneven left to right, it could be a sign that the air compressor has failed/is failing. Additionally, watch out for a chassis system failure fault warning as this is also a sign of this issue. These issues can also be caused by a power relay failure as well, so it is important to find the exact source of the issue.

A rebuild kit is available for the compressor at a fairly reasonable price, but you may be better off getting an aftermarket pump or one from a breakers yard. Sourcing a compressor from Porsche is quite expensive.

Air Shocks & Struts

There really isn’t too much to worry about here as the shocks and struts for the air suspension are fairly robust and reliable. However, the air hose connection and sometimes the airbag itself can fail, leading to uneven ride height. Another sign of air shock failure is if the air compressor is running more than it normally would to make up for a small leak in the system. Failure on more than one corner is very rare.

Chassis System Failure and Valve Block

A chassis system failure warning will also appear if the air suspension valve block fails. The valve block is the control hub for the air suspension system. If it fails you may also notice a loss of ride height control on one or more of the corners of the car.

Failure of the PASM Electric Connectors

If you find that the damping control/adjustment doesn’t work but there is no loss in ride height it could be a sign that the PASM connectors have gone bad. The reason for this is usually corrosion or physical damage to the connectors. Sometimes this can be misdiagnosed as a failure of an air strut or shock, leading to a much more expensive repair bill than it needs to be. Another sign of this issue is PASM and chassis system failure faults.

Ride Height Level Sensor Issues

Another possible culprit of ride height issues are the ride height level sensors. With age and mileage these tend to fail, especially if the car has been regularly driven in areas with salted roads and harsh winters. The chassis system fault warning doesn’t always appear if a failure of one of the ride height sensors has occurred, so bear that in mind.

Issues With the Steering Column

Watch out for a steering column fault combined with starting problems as this is a known issue with these cars. Getting Porsche to fix this problem will cost you thousands as they will want to replace the entire steering column and charge you handsomely for the labour.

There are some companies that rebuild the parts that break in the steering column for a significantly lower cost. Additionally, fitting these parts doesn’t require the removal of the steering column, so labour is significantly cheaper. However, we would probably avoid a Cayenne with this problem unless we could get a great discount and get the car checkout out first.

Checking the Wheel Alignment

Find yourself a nice flat and straight section of road to check the wheel alignment. Make sure the 955 or 957 Cayenne you are test driving runs straight with minimal wheel corrections. Uneven wheel alignment can lead to excessive/uneven tyre wear, resulting in more frequent tyre changes and expense to you. Additionally, bad wheel alignment can impact the driving dynamics of a car and even make the driving experience less safe.

Most of the time a simple realignment is all that is needed, however, in some cases bad wheel alignment can be a sign of serious suspension/steering issues or even accident damage.

Inspecting the Wheels and Tyres

Remember to have a good look at the wheels and tyres as they can give you a good indication of how a particular first gen Porsche Cayenne has been treated and driven. Lots of curb damage tends to suggest that the owner has been a bit careless with their Cayenne.

If the Porsche Cayenne you are looking at has been fitted with aftermarket wheels, ask the seller/owner if they have the originals. If they don’t, try to use that to get a little bit of a discount as owning the originals will only add value to the car if you decide to sell it in the future. Here are some things to watch out for when it comes to the tyres:

  • Amount of tread – If there is minimal tread left try to get a discount as you will need to get the tyres replaced in the near future. Good tyres are expensive for these cars, so make sure you do this.
  • Uneven wear – Wear should be even between the right and left tyres on the Cayenne. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself.
  • Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre – in terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance and may even be dangerous.


Credit: Porsche

The brakes should be more than adequate for the job, so if the ones on the 955/957 Cayenne you are inspecting feel weak or spongy there is an issue. If you notice any shuddering/shaking through the steering wheel when you push the brake pedal it could be a sign that the discs are warped. This usually becomes first apparent under high speed braking.

Seized/stuck brakes can occur, although it doesn’t seem to be that common on first gen Porsche Cayennes. Here are some signs of the problem if it has occurred:

  • Car pulls to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
  • Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on (could also be a sign of something else as well)
  • Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
  • You find that the 955/957 doesn’t want to move at all
  • Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time

Another thing to do is to listen out for any strange noises such as rumbling squealing or clunking sounds when the brakes are in use. These sorts of sounds could be caused by something simple like worn brake pads, to a more serious and expensive to repair brake issue.

Remember to check that the handbrake/parking brake works as intended. Find yourself a nice step incline if possible and make sure the car doesn’t roll back or forward.

It is important to visually inspect the brakes for any wear, damage, corrosion or modifications. If anything looks like it needs to be replace, make sure you get a good discount as brake components aren’t cheap to replace on these cars.

Leaking Brake Vacuum Pump (4.8-litre)

If you notice that the Cayenne you are driving has a stiff brake pedal and needs more force to get the car to slow down, it could be a sign of a bad brake vacuum pump line. This is really the only symptom as the leak is usually internal, so you won’t be able to see it. This isn’t a major issue and those with a bit of mechanical competence should be able to fix it.

Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB)

Porsche offered ceramic composite brakes as an option on the first generation Cayenne. These upgraded brakes offer incredible stopping power and are 50% lighter than the standard brake setup. They also have a considerably longer life than the standard ones. However, there is a catch. Replacing the ceramic composite brakes can easily drain your wallet of five figures, so get the brakes checked out to see how much life is still left in them. If you are unsure of how much life is left in the brakes, don’t purchase the Cayenne unless you can get a very significant discount (and we mean very significant).

Body and Exterior

Credit: Porsche

Fixing bodywork issues can be an absolute nightmare and you can quickly rack up thousands of dollars’ worth of expenditure, so take your time here and make sure you are happy with the exterior condition. Here are some things to watch out for.

Accident Damage

Crash damage is arguably going to be one of your biggest concerns when it comes to purchasing a used first generation Porsche Cayenne. Replacing and repairing body panels on these cars can be incredibly expensive, so watch out for the following signs of accident damage:

  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Additionally, check the bonnet catches as if they look new the car has probably been in an accident. You should also check the doors and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage. Porsche’s quality control on panels gaps and trim fitment was excellent on these cars, so panel gap issues are likely to be the result of an accident.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Porsche Cayenne you are inspecting may have been in an accident.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust. Again, the paintjob on Porsches tends to be excellent, so a problem here is almost certainly due to a respray.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the Cayenne you are inspecting has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
  • Lights that look different – If the headlights or taillights on one side look newer than the other, it could be a sign of an accident. This is especially so if it is combined with panel gap issues.
  • Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights – This is very difficult to fix if the car has been in an accident, so watch out for this.
  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the 955 or 957 Cayenne and watch out for any replaced parts or parts that are different from one side to the other. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage. Cayennes that have been regularly used for off roading are more likely to suffer damage to the underside components.
  • Rust in strange locations – Is often a sign of crash damage on a first gen Cayenne
  • Paint runs or overspray – Could be a factory issue, but more likely due to a respray
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).

It is not uncommon for owners to lie about the severity of an accident and the resultant repairs, and some may even claim their vehicle hasn’t been in a crash when it clearly has. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.

Accident damage shouldn’t necessarily put you off a 955 or 957 Cayenne, unless the damage was clearly very serious and/or the repairs are poor. If the damage was light to moderate and repairs were done by a skilled panel beater/body shop, the Cayenne is probably okay to buy. However, it is a good idea to use the repairs/accident as a way to get a bit of a discount and you may want to get the repairs checked out.

Is Rust a Problem on First Gen Cayennes?

Surprisingly, first generation Cayennes seem to be quite prone to rust in certain areas. While it is not nearly as bad as on older cars, it is something you definitely need to check for. Rust/corrosion can occur pretty much anywhere, but here are the main areas to watch out for:

  • Around the edges of the doors
  • Behind the front wheel cover and sills (this will be hard to see) – dirt and debris collects here and by the time you notice the corrosion can be quite bad. It is recommended that you take off the wheel covers and clean around these areas periodically to prevent rust formation.
  • License plate lamps

What Can Make Rust More Likely to Appear?

  • Cayenne has spent time in areas or countries with salted roads (United Kingdom or rust belt for example)
  • Car has spent time in areas with very harsh winters
  • Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
  • Always kept outside (never garaged)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
  • Parts or things rubbing on the bodywork
  • Old or no underseal

Looking for Rust Repairs

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Check the Panoramic Sunroof

If you are looking at a Cayenne with a panoramic sunroof, make sure that it works and is in good condition. Check that there are no leaks as problems with the panoramic roof can be very expensive to fix.


Credit: Porsche

The interior shouldn’t cause too many issues, but there are some things that you need to watch out for. Check all the seats for any wear, rip, stains, etc. Cracking leather on the seats is quite a common issue to come across as well (not a Porsche specific issue), but can be prevented with proper care Replacing the seats or seat material is possible, however, make sure you get a good discount as doing so can be quite expensive.

Another issue to watch out for on the seats is the backing shells. With time, these can separate from the clips that hold them to the seat. A strong adhesive can fix this issue, but it can be quite a messy job. Be careful of damaging the backing shell and clips when trying to fix this issue.

Make sure the seats are nice and firm and that they don’t move during acceleration and/or braking. If they, do it is incredibly dangerous and will be an MOT/WOF failure. Don’t forget to check that the seat adjustments work as well.

If you notice excessive amounts of wear on the seats, steering wheel, carpets, shifter and pedals for the mileage it may be a sign that the first gen Cayenne has had a particularly hard life.

The switches, knobs and dials wear quite quickly on these cars especially the ones around the gear selector (Suspension, 4WD control, etc.). Additionally, check that there are no missing switches, dials, or knobs as while they are replaceable, it is something to bring up when discussing the price of the Cayenne.

Porsche offered buyers the option of exotic interior trim pieces such as carbon fibre, light and dark wood materials, etc. If the 955 or 957 Cayenne you are looking at was fitted with these sorts of trim pieces, make sure that they are in good condition as they can be very expensive to replace.

Credit: Porsche

Another thing to be on the lookout for is any leaks or dampness in the cabin. If leaks are left unchecked it can lead to a nasty odour, electrical problems (more on that in the next section) and more. The main area to check is around the floor in the cabin, particularly the driver’s or passenger’s footwell. Additionally, check the underside of the floor mats as if they have water residue on them it could be a sign of a past or current leak. Here are the main culprit areas when it comes to interior leaks on 955/957 Cayennes:

  • Wiper/cowl drains – passenger and driver’s side
  • Sunroof drains – passenger and driver’s side
  • HVAC/AC drain – passenger side
  • door-to-body grommet/hoses

If you don’t notice any leaks or dampness immediately, don’t assume the Cayenne doesn’t have a problem. The only real way to properly check is to lift up a bit of the footwell carpeting and feel around. If you notice any dampness there is a leak that will get worse in wet weather or when the air conditioning is turned on. However, most owners will probably not be happy with you lifting up a piece of the carpet in their car (even if it is only a small piece), so feel around and talk to them about the issue.

Water leaks can largely be prevented if the drain holes/hoses are cleaned and tested on a regular basis. Talk to the owner about this and see if they carry out this preventative maintenance. If they do it is a sign that they care about their first gen Cayenne and know what maintenance is required on the car.

Make sure you have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the 955/957 Cayenne you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.

Electronics, Air Con, Etc.

Credit: Porsche

Be cautious if you notice dampness in the interior of the car as water can play havoc with the electronics and make the dashboard light up like a Christmas tree. This will eventually lead to corrosion in some of the wires under the carpets in the footwells (there is a great guide on the problem on Rennlist you should check out).

Make sure the infotainment/sat nav system works correctly and that the instrument cluster can be read. Problems here can be very expensive to fix, especially if the instrument cluster has to be replaced as the new one will have to be reprogrammed to the car’s immobiliser system.

All versions of the first generation Cayenne suffer from headlight wiring issues, so check that they work correctly. Early model 955s had an issue with the connector between the headlight housing and the body of the car, which didn’t fit that well. This would lead to failure of the insulation around the wiring, leading to a short circuit. The insulation can also fail on the inside of the headlight, leading to the same problem as well (not as common on 957s). A recall was carried out for this issue and Porsche sells a fairly cheap replacement part, so it is not too much of an issue.

Don’t forget to check that all of the other electronics and systems work as intended. Have a play with all the different knobs, dials and switches around the cabin. If you do come across an electrical issue it could be expensive to fix. Additionally, check that all the locks, windows and keys work properly as well (also check that the owner has the original keys the car came with).

Check what audio system the car has. Base Cayennes were fitted with a good but basic 12-speaker system, whereas S, Turbo, and Turbo S models were given an upgraded Bose one with more speakers. The upgraded Bose system was available as an optional extra on the Base Cayenne.

The last thing to check is the climate control/air conditioning. Base models do not have automatic climate control, whereas S, Turbo, Turbo S and GTS models all have it as standard. Check that everything works as intended and plenty of cool air comes out the vents. If the climate control system doesn’t work as intended, don’t let the seller convince you it just needs a re-gas as it could be something more serious like a compressor.

General Car Buying Advice for a First Gen Porsche Cayenne

Credit: Porsche

How to Get the Best Deal on a 955 or 957 Cayenne

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.

  1. Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for a first generation Cayenne, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage 957 Turbo version or do you not mind a base Cayenne that has travelled a bit further.
  2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. Porsche sold plenty of these cars (it was really the car that saved the company), so there are plenty out there in different levels of condition and mileage, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
  3. Go look at and test drive multiple Cayennes – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad 955/957 Cayenne.
  4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a first gen Porsche Cayenne for sale and only go for promising looking cars unless you are specifically looking for a project.
  5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
  6. Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
  7. Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple first gen Cayennes, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
  8. Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition 

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.

Service History and Other Documentation

Credit: Porsche

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Porsche specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). Home mechanic work is okay, but it is much harder to gauge the competence of a home mechanic than checking reviews for established businesses.

The service history will give you a good idea of how the 955/957 Cayenne you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner 

  • How often do you drive the car?
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
  • How much oil does it use?
  • What oil do you use in the car?
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed?
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
  • Is there any money owing on the car?
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
  • How are the speakers
  • Is there any rust?
  • Has rust been removed at any point?
  • Are there any leaks (water, oil, etc.)?
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
  • Where do you store/park the car usually?

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a First Gen Porsche Cayenne

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.

  • Overheating problems or blown head gasket
  • Significant Crash Damage or poorly repaired roof
  • Money owing on the car
  • Stanced (probably not likely with one of these, but you never know)
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression
  • Bad resprays
  • Significant rust problems
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines
  • Significant track use
  • Major engine or transmission issues
  • Big oil or coolant leaks
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)

Notes on the Owner 

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their first generation Porsche Cayenne (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
  • Do they know anything about the first gen Cayenne and the model they are selling (955 vs 957, Turbo vs GTS, etc.)
  • What can they tell you about previous owners?
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another 955 or 957 Porsche Cayenne.

First-Generation Porsche Cayenne Buyer’s Guide Conclusion

There is no doubt that the Porsche Cayenne is a superb automobile.

If you can score yourself a first-generation Cayenne in good condition, you are getting one of the nicest SUVs of its era (that still holds up remarkably well to this day) for a fraction of the original purchase price.

The big risk with a car like the Cayenne is the potential for massive repair bills and huge headaches.

Hopefully this Porsche Cayenne buying guide has made it easier for you to understand what to look for (and what to avoid) if you are considering buying one of these cars.

We would love to hear your experience with the Cayenne. Leave a comment below to get the discussion started!


  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

6 thoughts on “First Gen (955 & 957) Porsche Cayenne Buyer’s Guide”

  1. Thank you very much for this. Not only is this a great buyers guide, but its also a great resource for existing owners performing service or diagnosing issues. Thanks again!

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and for your kind comment – I’m glad you found the article helpful.


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