Justify: Porsche Cayenne (9PA)
A great used buy or a warning to put your sprinting trainers on and turn on your heels?
In late 2010 the task dropped to me to retrieve a used 2006 Porsche Cayenne Turbo from one of our sister dealerships for a customer traveling to see us that afternoon. If I felt he’d the car, I got the prospect. So a forty-mile jaunt, and the chance to close a sale on a car with thick margins. Was it Christmas?
The 9PA, better known as the first generation Cayenne ran from 2003-2010 and was offered in several flavours, from dismal base spec 3.2 V6 petrol all the way up to 4.8 Turbo. The latter gained pace as though it constantly had a chili stuck up its bottom. A quick distinction, up to 2006 the Turbo had a 4.6 good for 444bhp, upon a midlife refresh, this was pumped up to 4.8 and just shy of 500 horses.
The pick of the bunch from experience was neither, the GTS model, 2008 to 10 would be my pick of this generation. It’s naturally aspirated, but with 400 horsepower is hardly lacking pace, but will encourage a more spirited style of driving as it needs a bit more revs to unlock its potential. For a keen driver that is likely to tire of the easy thrust momentum of the Turbo, the GTS is a fabulous refresh, and it’s naturally aspirated motor keeps things somewhat simple reducing the chance of mega bills, but go into either purchase with your ears and eyes open, neither is cheap if things go wrong.
Upon arrival at our Aston Martin dealer, I stood in awe of a brand new V12 Vantage proudly gleaming by the front door. Another salesman spotted me out from a customer immediately. I’m not sure if it was my decidedly middle range suit or the ‘pack’ I was holding (motor trade lingo for a brown envelope with all the paperwork for the car I intended to leave with them for their next auction collection).
After signing over the responsibility of the Porsche to me I was off to the petrol station with the company fuel card. Immediately a warning light illuminated, triggered by a fault with the air suspension being stuck. Fortunately, it was stuck in the normal mode, fixing it was going to cost several thousand and so the sales manager hadn’t signed off on the work, waiting to see if it would sell. Not use ordering expensive parts and taking up valuable service centre hours if it ends up at the block, aka an auction.
My manager had no clue of the issue, he was in for a shock when I arrived back at base, but that was an argument for them and not me. Upon finally being released from the traffic I reached junction 9 of the M1 and started my short journey north. To this day I still remember the feeling of road dominance, high up, with the thrusting power known to those that earn their bacon taking to the skies in a Boeing 737. Any lane, any gear, any speed, it was possible to monster by. This is at a time when the hot SUV market was fledgeling. Supercharged Range Rovers and hot BMW X5’s existed by were still a rare choice. Being so high up added to the feeling of superior power on the road, anything that moved this fast would usually be a saloon or sports car, unable to see past the traffic ahead. The Cayenne allowed you to see all the gaps and blast off.
Once the power had been established and traffic began to build the big porker showed its softer side. There was some carryover feel from a 911, not in the ride or seating position, but the familiarity of interior quality and dials. This was clever by Porsche, those that owned a 911, but had a growing family or desire for size could get in a Cayenne and immediately drive it without having to spend time adjusting to anything apart from the bigger footprint. Sat at inside lane speed it cruised quite happily, leaving you sound in the knowledge that should you want to jump past all the lorries and slow-moving traffic, your request could be carried out faster than your home internet connection.
“400 horsepower is a minimum on the road for me”
Away from the motorways, it was smooth but not composed enough to ever be confused for a sports sedan. Straight-line speed was it’s calling, but it wasn’t wayward enough to scare you around a hairpin as long as you got on the anchors early. An L222 Range Rover with a supercharger wouldn’t see which way the Cayenne went on a country lane, and couldn’t hold a candle to it on a straight either, then again the Range Rover didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t. A criticism that was valid of the Cayenne that would no doubt lose the Range Rover if they departed the tarmac to discover the unpaved wilderness together.
A short chat with the prospective customer later that afternoon, left me with a quote I’ve never forgotten “400 horsepower is a minimum on the road for me”. He had a long-standing rivalry with a friend that had seen them go from Cosworth’s to M5’s to big power SUV’s. He had every intention of taking the car to a tuning shop that promised 550 horsepower with a few hardware upgrades and a remapped ECU.
That's the thing when you can access such power, in a sports car you would have more power on the road than many could tame. The big heavy SUV is an antidote to buyers that want to brag about power, and try and keep hold of their license.
After agreeing to get the suspension fixed, much to the dismay of my sales manager we shook hands on a deal.
Since then I’ve driven almost every variant of this generation Cayenne, including a very dodgy Turbo that had been badly modified (different person to the one in the story). The owner was very upset with the trade price we offered, but reluctantly came back a week later when he realised that I wasn’t joking when I said the car needed its value in mechanical repairs.
Sadly, many of these were bought cheaply by people who were naive to the running costs. A good one is worth paying for, and may one day become collectible as the genesis of fast off-roaders. Mercedes ML’s may have been around earlier in AMG form but didn’t move the game along like the Cayenne. This sn’t a rare Porsche, but a well-kept turbo model is only going to get harder to find as many suffer the fate of dodgy repairs and catastrophic failures as important jobs are ignored by shallow pocketed owners. If you want one, there are specialists that can do top quality work, and keep it standard, modified ones are almost always worth passing. Porsche build quality means these are still holding together well, but a bad one can easily cost more than it’s value in a single ascent up a mechanics ramp.