2004 Porsche Cayenne S
2004 Porsche Cayenne S. Click image to enlarge

Review by Chris Chase; photos by Grant Yoxon

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There’s no doubt that sport utilities have caused their share of controversy, mainly among those who value fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness above all else in a vehicle. The Porsche Cayenne, then, was a doubly-controversial vehicle when it was introduced in 2003: not only did the greenies dislike it simply because it was an SUV, but many Porschephiles were turned off by the fact that their favourite sports car builder had sold out to the masses by adding a “truck” to their lineup.

There’s no denying that the Cayenne wasn’t exactly thrifty in terms of fuel consumption, but it’s a vehicle that finally put some sport in the sport utility vehicle.

Developed alongside the Volkswagen Touareg, the first Cayennes were powered by V8s: a 4.5-litre motor making 340 horsepower in the Cayenne S, and a turbocharged version of the same powerplant that was good for 450 horses. The 2004 model year brought with it a V6-powered Cayenne, propelled by a 250-horsepower, 3.2-litre engine. The Cayenne haters could now whine about this base model being underpowered and that it brought down the tone of the rest of the Porsche lineup. For the record, the second-generation Cayenne gets a larger 3.6-litre V6; like the 3.2-litre, it’s shared with the Touareg. Perhaps the best thing about the V6 model was that in 2005 and 2006, it was available with a six-speed manual transmission, a rarity in an SUV. And believe it or not, Porsche apparently sold a few of these; there are a couple used examples for sale through Auto Trader in Ontario as I write this. V8-powered Cayennes used a six-speed automatic with Porsche’s TipTronic manual shift feature.

2004 Porsche Cayenne S
2004 Porsche Cayenne S. Click image to enlarge

Naturally, opting for the V6 meant a lower purchase price, but any fuel savings are limited to city driving, where a six-cylinder Cayenne gets a Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption rating of 15.6 L/100 km in automatic form, and 16.1 L/100 km with the stickshift. That’s a significant-enough difference compared to V8 models, which use 17.1 L/100 km (non-turbo) and 18.3 L/100 km (turbo versions). On the highway, though, the V6 model loses its advantage, with ratings of 10.8 L/100 km (manual transmission) and 11.2 L/100 km (automatic); both V8 models get identical 11.7 L/100 km fuel consumption ratings on the highway.

According to Consumer Reports, the Cayenne has a similar spotty reliability record as other recent Porsche models (apparently, an older 911 is a very safe bet, but that’s a story for another day); as with other high-end German cars, its electrical system components seem to let it down.

2004 Porsche Cayenne S
2004 Porsche Cayenne S. Click image to enlarge

According to posts in the Cayenne forum at Rennlist.com (forums.rennlist.com), ignition coils appear to be a frequent trouble spot (a potentially expensive fix, as there are as many as eight of them – one for each cylinder), as are transmission/powertrain control modules. Also, a couple of owners mention having to have the air compressor that keeps the air suspension aloft replaced, but it’s hard to say how common this issue actually is. A couple of minor problems include a rear hatch that won’t stay open on its own due to weak hydraulic struts, and wipers that chatter.

While Internet forums are hardly a scientific way to find out if a vehicle is reliable or not, I’d recommend spending some time in the Cayenne forums listed at the end of this article in order to get a good idea of what things to look out for. These threads – one at Roadfly.org and another at Rennlist.com – are good places to start.

2004 Porsche Cayenne S
2004 Porsche Cayenne S
2004 Porsche Cayenne S. Click image to enlarge

One thing that’s certain is that a Cayenne – like many high-end vehicles – will be expensive to maintain, and out-of-warranty repairs could come with frightening price-tags as well.

Safety-wise, all Cayennes came with anti-lock brakes, side airbags and traction/stability control; however, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash tested a Cayenne.

Despite the cachet of the Porsche brand, the Cayenne’s resale values aren’t that strong: a 2003 model is currently worth about half what it cost new, according to Canadian Red Book, a rate of depreciation similar to that of a Kia Sorento from the same year. That doesn’t make a used Cayenne particularly affordable, however. Values range from a little more than $41,000 for a base 2003 model to a high of $128,700 for a 2006 Cayenne Turbo S. Canadian Red Book’s $59,200 retail price for a 2005 non-turbo Cayenne S seems like a decent deal for a quick SUV; go back to 2004 and Red Book suggests you should be able to find the same model for about $48,000.

2004 Porsche Cayenne S
2004 Porsche Cayenne S. Click image to enlarge

Asking prices will depend, of course, on what options the vehicle in question has, and knowing Porsche’s penchant for expensive extras, expect real world prices to be higher than Red Book values.

The Cayenne is a capable vehicle and no doubt an attractive proposition for drivers looking for something with the practicality of an SUV with the performance of a Porsche. Purchasing one through Porsche’s certified pre-owned program would be wise, as would looking for a Cayenne with some of the original factory warranty left. In any event, a used Cayenne should be a rewarding vehicle to own if you shop wisely and go into the deal prepared for pricey maintenance and repair costs.

Online resources

I’d recommend spending time in the Cayenne forums at both Roadfly.org and Rennlist.com before buying a used one. These are both busy forums and have lots of information to offer. The Cayenne forum at TheAutobahn.com looks like it might have something to offer too, but it’s not as busy as the other two forums.

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Manufacturer’s Website


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004193; Units affected: 1,447

2004: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 114. The steering wheel does not lock when the key is removed from the ignition switch using the optionally provided override device that permits key removal in the event of electrical system failure or when the transmission is not in the PARK position. Correction: Since this does not pose any safety risk, no corrective action is required.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004063; Units affected: 151

2004: On certain vehicles, the transfer case could, due to changes in the housing casting, allow the oil pump to rotate. Should this occur, oil starvation of the internal gears could result. If this happens and the vehicle continues to be operated, fracture of the transfer case housing can occur. Correction: Dealer will inspect the housing casting number, and replace the transfer case if required.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004168; Units affected: 1,023

2004: On certain vehicles, the rear seat safety belt latch attachment bolt may be insufficiently riveted, which could result in a reduced capability of the belt latch to withstand the applied loads. During a crash, the occupant may not be restrained as intended, which could result in injuries. Correction: Dealer will inspect and, if necessary, replace the seat belt buckle.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004065; Units affected: 289

2004: On certain vehicles, the driver’s seat frame may have inadequate welds and could break in a crash. If this were to happen, the driver could be injured. Correction: Dealer will replace the driver’s seat frame.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004062; Units affected: 10

2003: On certain vehicles, the ground connection between the spiral ring of the fuel tank filler neck and the connecting pipe to the tank is not sound. If this ground connection is inadequate, the flow of fuel when refuelling can create and electrostatic charge and a spark which could ignite fuel vapours. Correction: Dealer will inspect the ground connection and, if necessary, correct it.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003231; Units affected: 33

2003-2004: On certain vehicles, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) were omitted from the certification label. Correction: Dealer will install a corrected compliance label.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004064; Units affected: 715

2003: On certain vehicles, the springs of the foot-operated parking brake mechanism can rub against the main wiring harness. Damage to the wiring harness can lead to the failure of various electrical systems and, in extreme cases, to a fire beneath the instrument panel. Correction: Dealer will reroute the main wiring harness.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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