By on August 5, 2010

Well, this feels kind of like kicking a dog, doesn’t it? It’s not exactly opening up a new journalistic frontier to say “OMG THE CAYENNE SUX”. Rarely has a vehicle been as reviled as Porsche’s platform-promiscuous porky-pig of an SUV seems to universally be. Still, as Pope once said,

Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings,
This painted child of dirt that stinks and stings;
Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys,
Yet wit ne’er tastes, and beauty ne’r enjoys…

And of all the vile variations on the Cayenne (at least two of which, it must be disclosed, your humble author operated as occasional-use vehicles) this “V6” is the worst, the lowest, the most base, the most loathsome.

What is a Cayenne? Once again, as with the 914, it is the offspring of a contested project shared between Porsche and Volkswagen. The official line is that the vehicles were developed together to a point and then the Porsche and VW teams were separated to complete their variants. At the very least, the Cayenne and Touareg share the same chassis, transmission, AWD system, suspension, windshield, and doors. Floormats from a Cayenne fit a Touareg. The “hard points” under the dashboards seem to be the same. The driving experience is similar, at least in the first-generation vehicles. The primary differences were the interior panels and the powertrain: the VW made do with the corporate 4.2V8 while the Cayenne had first the characterful 4.5 Porsche V8 followed by a 4.8 direct-injection evolution. I used to drive a six-speed Cayenne GTS with the 4.8 and it had some nontrivial scoot to it. You could make serious time in traffic. It was even vaguely useful as a road-course tour bus:

At the base end of the lineup, however, both trucks shared Volkswagen’s VR6. Any sporting pretensions the Cayenne had were utterly undone by using the 247-horsepower mill. Sure, when inserted into a Golf or Jetta, the VR6 was a rapid enough conveyance, but matched against two and a half tons of Leipzig iron, it wasn’t nearly enough. A manual transmission was available, but the vast majority of owners burdened the already overwhelmed “six” further with a torque converter.

Oh, look! Another penalty-box Porsche interior! The scary part is that, to the experienced Cayenne driver, a lot of big-money options are evident in that dreary center stack. We’ve got the PCM nav screen, air suspension, heated seats… The V6 Cayenne based at $42,900, but most went out the door at well over fifty grand. You had to put some options in them or the cockpit ambiance wouldn’t match that of a first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe.

No matter how many options you selected, the interior never matched that of the much cheaper, but substantially similar, VW Touareg. Of the two, it was the Volkswagen that had metal interior appointments, sexy blue lighting, and sturdy-feeling door cards. Did I mention that the 2004 Touareg V8 started at $42,640 and had a much longer standard-feature list? Now you know. To put things a little further in perspective, buyers who weren’t so choosy about build quality could also pick the Mercedes ML500 at $46400, and buyers who had never been to Africa and seen a “Land Cruiser Colorado” could enjoy some nouveau-friendly prestige from the Lexus GX460 at $45375.

Assuming that you skipped all the obvious better choices and forged ahead with the purchase of a fifty-thousand-dollar six-cylinder truck, the adventure was just beginning. Not the off-road adventure, but the electrical-problems adventure. Early Cayennes had absolutely abysmal service records. Radios, PCM systems, headlights, mirrors… the list went on and on. As is usual, the Zuffenhausen crew blamed the problems on the owners, many of whom were experiencing Porsche dealer “service” for the first time. The Touraegs weren’t much better, but they had the advantage of being priced in line with the rest of the market. Did I mention the air suspension’s tendency to simply pack up and drop the truck to the bump stops? If you’d owned one, I wouldn’t need to mention it.

Like abused spouses, we Porschephiles continued to alternately cower before and flirt with our corporate overlords. They told us that the massive profits from the Cayenne would go towards solving the problems with the 911 and Boxster that they swore no longer existed. We all know now that the profits actually went into a complicated system of currency hedging and speculative stock purchase.

If you’re interested in purchasing a Cayenne of this era, prices range from $15K for the loaded V6 models ($55K new) to $35K for Turbos (which often rang the register for $120K or more). Don’t do it. As with the 928, the purchase price is really more of a transfer tax. If you want a V-8 Porsche, go ahead and buy a 928. It will make you utterly miserable, but when it runs there’s incandescent brilliance in the big coupe. The Cayenne, on the other hand, was never anything special, and for a Porsche, that’s unforgivable.

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43 Comments on “Porsche’s Deadly Sin #3: 2004 Cayenne “V6”...”

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Carmela Soprano

    • 0 avatar

      I had that same thought about halfway through… pretty sure she had a V8, but still, it was the absolute perfect “gift car” for the boss’s wife. Perfect nouveau riche car casting at it’s finest.

  • avatar

    Several months ago someone came in to the dealership with an early Cayenne Turbo as a trade. While the owner was inside negotiating the deal, some of us ventured out to see what exactly a $100K SUV looked like. We where all aghast at how cheap the interior was. The plastics and switchgear felt a grade or two below the standard fare for the current Focus, the leather was nothing special, and the overall ambiance seemed fitting for something coming out of Korea rather than Germany.

    We all pretty much came to the conclusion that the thing must have one hell of an engine if it commanded the price it once had. In the end, the customer didn’t buy anything due to completely unrealistic ideas about what their Cayenne was worth, which is just as well, as it would have been a hard sell on the used lot against late model Ford, Toyota, and GM SUVs for similar money.

    • 0 avatar


      I rented a Porsche Cayenne for a weekend when they first came out. THE INTERIOR WAS BY NO MEANS CHEAP compared to the Navigator, Escalade, Range Rover (2003) or pretty much anything you can name from the 2002 – 2004 period.

      Ford has YET to make a product as high in quality as a Porsche Cayenne and YOU KNOW IT.

      The best interior from FORD is in the MKS and that thing feels so cheap and plain that its BLOWN AWAY by the Infiniti M37. and the E350.

    • 0 avatar

      Uh, no. The GEN I Cayenne was certainly rubbish for the price, but its no Focus in terms of material selection. But it’s no MKS, for that matter.

    • 0 avatar

      The trade in had some years and miles on it, and it had been driven plenty, smoked in, and showed wear, so I’m sure that effected my impressions of it, but just touching certain places on the car, like the plastic surrounding the gear selector, left me with the impression that it was made from the absolute cheapest stuff Porsche could find on the market.

      Granted, approaching the car and knowing it originally retailed for over $100K, I probably went in with my sights way too high. I was expecting to find no plastic, see every inch covered in soft leather, wood, real chrome or real carbon fiber, and touch seats made from a quality of leather so high that they would put a thousand dollar leather jacket to shame. I expected plush wool carpets, no panel gaps of any kind, with gauges and sculpted and bespoke, styled to make the whole IP look like something incredibly special.

      For a car that costs as much as a pretty nice house, I don’t think that was unreasonable. Cresting that $100K barrier leaves no room for error IMO, and the first gen Cayenne was full of error.

      BigTruck – You may be right about the Cayenne vs the competition in 2003/2004. It’s been a while since I’ve been in an Expedition or Navigator of that vintage, but they weren’t anything particularly special, nor were the other vehicles you mention. My comment was comparing it to the newer ones were we to have bought this car for our used lot. When you compare a 2007 Navigator next to a 2003 Cayenne Turbo for the same price, the Navigator has the nicer interior.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Ford has YET to make a product as high in quality as a Porsche Cayenne and YOU KNOW IT.

      The Range Rover, then built by Ford, pretty much kicks the Cayenne’s ass in all sorts of ways.

      That is all.

  • avatar

    Well, the 2004 Cayenne V6 does have a US tow rating of 7716 pounds. For a V6 vehicle, that is insanely high.

    Also, is the first gen Cayenne actually good offroad or is that just an urban legend? I’m talking about in comparison to a Land Rover Discovery/LR3.

  • avatar

    All that said, they do look rather nice from the outside.

    And all -that- said, I’d opt for the Touraeg due to the Dakar history (to support factory racing, not because I think I’m buying the rally version) and for the novelty of owning a vehicle whose name I can’t pronounce. My 9-5 certainly can’t claim -that- distinction.

  • avatar

    yeah the Cayenne V6 sucks, surprise friggin surprise. On the other hand, my father bought a new Cayenne Turbo in 2005. Sticker price: $117,000. He sold it in 2009 with 40,000 miles, looking for an Audi S5. The dealer offered him $20,500. On private sale, I was only able to get about $28k, far better than the dealer offered, but still less than 30% of the truck’s original purchase price. I know I’m somewhat stating the obvious here, but I have never, ever seen depreciation so terrible in 4 years of cared-for ownership except in the case of the ridiculously overpriced Mercedes SL/CL/S 65 series. That alone is the best argument possible for never purchasing a brand new Cayenne.

    • 0 avatar

      Ken Rockwell revealed that he bought his then new 2006 Cayenne Turbo S for close to $30,000 off sticker.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmm – my 9-5 listed for 42k in 2005 and I bought it in early 2010 for $9k, with 58,000 miles and two years bumper-to-bumper left on the CPO.

      So, as a function of MSRP, the Saab fared worse. Then again, Porsche hasn’t spent the last three years on the brink of oblivion, its vehicles hammered by GM beancounting.

    • 0 avatar

      A friend of mine bought a 2000 9-3 Viggen with 7500 miles, 3 years old and never titled for 22k. That car was like 40k new. They couldn’t even send him to the “Viggen flight school” that was supposed to come with the car since the program was over.

      The guys at the 9-5 driving school they did send him to thought it was one of the old flight school cars that he bought.

      It was still junk at half the price, but looked damn cool in Yellow.

      I think the Cayenne almost matches the Viggen for “overpriced crap car”

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      @perisoft: I doubt seriously that your Saab’s original purchaser paid anything close to $41K. I bought a new 2002 9-5 aero wagon, with autotmatic, fully optioned for $32k out the door including taxes, etc.

      I think KBB values my car (with $80K miles, at something like $7K “trade-in”).
      By contrast, in 2003, I bought a CPO ’01 Z3 3.0 for $25K; and that car is worth, IIRC $12K today (KBB “trade-in” value) with 58K miles.

    • 0 avatar

      True enough, but Matt listed MSRP too. I’m guessing the real price was lower in that case, too – though I’m obviously not sure by how much.

  • avatar

    I drove a 2004 V8 Cayenne in 2009. Laziest SUV I’ve driven… by far. And for the price – fuggetaboutit.

    At 35k, it was still overpriced. I’d pick the Toureg V10 Diesel anyday over the Porker.

  • avatar

    Even at $15K, one should consider the dismal reliability record before buying one of these used. Cayennes and Touaregs are at the bottom of the heap. The Touareg gets the distinction of having the lowest rated reliability of any VW…by a substantial amount.

  • avatar

    No wonder I see these languishing on the used Audi lot, priced just below a five-year old Odyssey. D’oh!

  • avatar

    Actually Lincoln Mark VIIIs suffered worse depreciation. Typically they lost 80% of their value after only 3 years. I bought mine, a beautifully cared for 95 model, in 98 for 25% of the sticker price. Put another way, the previous owner lost over a dollar mile in depreciation.


  • avatar

    “Carmela Soprano”
    Boy, that put a smile on my face…
    Nostalgia? Already??

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    If one takes the NJTransit commuter trains into Penn Station, one can gaze out the window, and onto McCarter Highway in Newark, where one can see acres of Cayennes and X5s awaiting new homes on the Buy-Here-Pay-Here lots…

  • avatar

    My sister has desperately wanted one of these since the day the came out (not necessarily the Porker six cylinder), but I think she’s better served keeping her 2003 Highlander 4 banger with 170k on the clock.

    I do have to admit to kind of liking the new Cayenne though…especially in turbo trim. But way too expensive and the depreciation makes my stomach feel worse than a day at Six Flags…

  • avatar

    Porsche truck? anybody who buys one of these pigs has it comin’

  • avatar

    Has the 247-horse VR6 seen duty in a Jetta or Golf? I think they stopped installing the VR6 with the 5th-gen Golf/Jetta, at least in the US. The Passat and Touareg got the larger displacement VR6.

  • avatar

    On top of all those other issues, the thing is ugly. Porsche is strangled with that identity crisis of trying to incorporate the “911ish” look into everything they make. Doesn’t work on sedans or SUV’s

  • avatar

    The talk on here of the hyper-depreciation of the Cayenne, 9-5, and Mark VIII is interesting. If you got one of these cars at under 5 years old, they’re really a used-car bargain. The top 10 fastest depreciating nice cars might make a nice feature.

    • 0 avatar

      I logged in to cosign this. It seems that the bigger they are, the harder they fall when it comes to depreciation. The highbrow German car buyer seems to have an almost masochistic fever for watching their cars’ values tank. I’m still reeling from this:

      4 years, car cost ~200K out the door new now being shamelessly peddled for 31K!!! What’s the story? Was it a lease? Can you imagine being a dealer and having to take these things + try to sell them? I find it astonishing.

    • 0 avatar

      The story, sportyaccordy, is that it has a salvage title.

      This S65 is being sold with a California Salvage Titile [sic] and if you believe the seller’s “Damage is minimal and can be quickly and cheaply repaired,” I have a bridge for sale.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Mark VIII – these are cars for ‘older’ road warriors. Folks who have to drive 25k+ a year and distanced enough from conventional vehicles to not realize how cheap the plastics and vinyls are in this luxury car.

    The have their audience. I’ve had a dozen of them over the years… and even had one fellow pay over $9 grand to buy and ship one I Ebayed which had 41k original miles. But they are also electric nightmares and the interiors don’t age well in the South.

    9-5 : They are just for folks with exceptionally unique tastes. Parts are expensive and you really should be a DIY type of owner to make them work.

    However if you buy one of the ‘new’ models at a price that’s akin to an Accord or Camry… you are getting a deal. Make sure the warranty is long and a stickshift goes a very long way towards enjoying these models.

    Cayenne: Expensive as hell for the money. The interior of the base model is more dismal than a base Grand Cherokee, and the turbo models are just damned expensive to keep up.

    I have a friend of mine who bought a Turbo S from an impound auction a couple of years ago for $35k. An outstanding deal at the time. Within 5k the engine blew. Even though he owns a junkyard, it was hell to buy a used one. Never again.

  • avatar
    John R

    I’ll also add an interior related anecdote. My boss owns a 2004 Boxster (or was it 2005…). We went out to lunch and I was taken aback by the “meh” quality of it. The way it went down the road was impressive, but I considered the interior a par to my ’07 Sonata. How that speaks of Hyundai or Porsche is up to you.

    Knowing this I am amazed how much power branding has over people. The amount of maltreatment by dealers and constant problems are enough for me to never go back after owning a Porsche once, but some of these suckers just keep going back.

    Incidentally, on the way to getting lunch I asked if he bought the car new.

    “oh, no. NO.”

  • avatar

    You know that low thrumming sounds you’re feeling just below the audible range of your hearing? Those are the rotation harmonies coming from Dr. Porche’s grave. I hear he’s almost up to relativistic velocities now.

  • avatar

    Porsche are about engines (sometimes they get that right)
    then about brakes and suspension (they get them right)
    then about everything else (distant, distant 3rd)
    for the Cayenne maybe first was off road capabilities.

    Remember that one of the iconic Porsches is a smallish farm tractor from the 50’s. Remember also that they took first and second in the Paris Dakar race with 959s. Their service vehicle, another 959, finished 5th. Non-roadgoing capabilities aren’t completely foreign to them.

    Still, I wouldn’t own a Cayenne. I’d rather have a 50’s flat fender Power Wagon that somebody else fixed up. A lot cheaper, makes most people who see it smile, gets crappy gas mileage like most biggish trucks and SUVs and would be tolerable for the 1k miles I’d put on it annually. And about as complicated as an anvil to maintain.

  • avatar

    Funny, I was part of a program that did some testing on the Cayenne in the US. Also, on the Touareg. Separate contracts, of course! I also complained about the interior, especially compared to the Touareg, though it had the best interior in any SUV at the time. I hated the silver-painted surfaces. The base V8 was my favorite to drive, and yes, they were incredible off-road.

  • avatar

    I got a ride on an ’08 (or thereabouts) Turbo and was really underwhelmed by the quality of the interior considering its price. Oddly, anyone I mentioned it to disagreed with me. The power of branding, indeed.

  • avatar

    Maybe you are refering to the Land Cruiser Prado(It is not Colorado) The Prado is the slightly decontented version of the GX470. It is sold all around the world, well except for North America, not only in Africa.

  • avatar

    Just doubling up to say a feature on the cars with the worst depreciation rates would be a great read. You guys should definitely do that.

  • avatar

    Had the opportunity to use a new Cayenne GTS of this generation for 6 weeks in Vietnam, where cars are SUPER expensive due to VAT. The materials were a cut below the first gen X5 (also on hand), though it had lots of HVAC vents, and the power was AMAZING (top speed I went was around 15 mph since Hanoi traffic is horrible). The feel of the doors weren’t quite vault-like as a Mercedes, either. Overall, disappointment.

  • avatar

    Dammit Monty, you took “my” line!

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