If your just taking the initial steps to buying a Porsche Cayenne, this guide will highlight some of the technical issues to be aware of before you commit to buy this sporty SUV.
The Cayenne was launched back in 2003, and the early cars are now extremely affordable. The car is fun and exhilarating to drive yet, can be used as a practical SUV everyday. Don’t make the mistake of comparing it to some other SUVs – the Cayenne is absolutely a Porsche and likely has more expensive maintenance requirements. For that reason, some owners seriously neglected the car by trying to equate work on a domestic SUV to the more expensive requirements of the Cayenne.
Cayenne – The SUV Surprise
If your thinking of buying a used Porsche Cayenne, you might be surprised to know that when it was launched in 2003, it was met with somewhat distain by Porsche fans. Why would a manufacturer famed for small sports cars turn to the SUV?
Ironically, the Cayenne and the later Macan now out sell the 911, Boxster and Cayman combined. With hindsight, the Cayenne was a stroke of genius and set the trend for many other manufacturers to follow. The luxury SUV market now includes Bently, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Maserati and plenty of others.
Originally, Porsche launched a V8 S and Turbo models. Subsequently adding the V6 base model and the hybrid most recently. Kinda cool – you can pop the kids in the back of a 450HP twin turbo V8 Porsche and clock 60 mph in a mere 5.6 seconds on the way to soccer practice – who doesn’t want that?
The first generation Cayenne underwent a facelift in 2008 and changes to styling, new engines and various luxury enhancements were added until the end of production in 2010. The arrival of the second generation in 2011 heralded sleeker looks, lower ride profile and enhanced performance. The second generation was face-lifted in 2014 and continued in production until 2017 with most notably, the introduction of a plug-in hybrid version.
The Cayenne is not your standard SUV and requires more expensive maintenance. That definitely led to some being very neglected and servicing overlooked. In fact, we had one abandoned at our shop where just the basics to make it road worthy exceeded the value of the car. So, if you’re in the market for buying a used Porsche Cayenne, what should you be paying attention to before you commit to buy?
Potential Issues To Look For On A Used Cayenne
The first step, once you’ve identified a Cayenne candidate, is to get a thorough inspection by a local expert. The pre-purchase inspection is designed to identify mechanical problems that may not be clearly evident at first glance. In our buyer guide below we’ve extensively highlighted those potential issues to be on the look out for. Getting a repair history on the car, if available, is helpful and will instantly identify or eliminate potential problem areas.
The number of previous owners doesn’t necessarily matter, but it’s wise to consider this type of car is likely to be owned for the purposes of business use, long commutes and family weekends. Expect to see higher mileage from fewer owners and hopefully a regular maintenance pattern.
If a seller wont let you inspect the car, walk away.
Consider who is selling the car. If you’re buying from a used car dealer, do your research to learn where the dealer got the car. If it’s a dealer that specializes in Porsche, well and good. However, if the dealer’s normal trade is low cost mini vans, you need to do some serious thinking. The Cayenne can eat you out of house and home if you pick a bad one.
Driveshaft Support Bearing Failure
The driveshaft runs down the center of the car and connects the transmission to the rear differential. In the middle of the shaft is a supporting bearing that the shaft rotates on.
When the center support bearing fails, the shaft wobbles, vibrates and thumps during acceleration. You’d be hard pressed to find an early Cayenne that hasn’t experienced this problem or currently be somewhere close to experiencing it again. Porsche’s replacement for the bearing wasn’t much better than the original.
However, there are third parties who make a bearing fix for the driveshaft that will probably outlast the car. The aftermarket solution does not require the driveshaft to be removed to complete the job and usually will save you money on the repair. The aftermarket versions bolt to the car and clamp around the original bearing.
This was the recommended way to solve this problem, so don’t be surprised if the used Cayenne you plan to buy already has the aftermarket version installed.
Steam Power – Coolant Pipes Leak
The original V8 Cayenne engine featured a series of plastic cooling pipes that ran front to back through the valley of the engine below the intake manifold.
Running plastic coolant pipes underneath the intake manifold seems like a reasonable idea, until you realize these pipes are made from a plastic that can’t handle the hot environment they live in. Once they degrade and a leak starts it quickly speeds to a point where large clouds of steam can be seen billowing from under the hood when the engine is running – steam powered Cayenne!
A coolant leak can be deadly for any engine – overheating of the engine due to a loss of coolant very quickly does damage that could result in a total failure and an engine replacement being needed. The coolant pipe failure in the early Cayenne typically happened quickly and produced large amounts of steam. This usually resulted in the driver stopping quickly and minimizing any damage to the engine.
There is an update kit available to permanently fix this problem and change the plastic pipes to metal ones. The job is quite extensive and requires the removal of the intake manifold, so a competant Porsche repair shop should be enlisted to do the work.
The problem with the coolant pipes was so common that only on low mileage cars should it still be an issue. Definitely worth scoping underneath the intake manifold to find out if your prospective purchase has been updated. If your Cayenne has not been updated, it will need to be at some point in the future and this should be taken into account in the purchase price.
The early Porsche Cayenne commonly experienced a hard downshift from the transmission. In many circumstances this can be accompanied by much louder bang during gear changes and unpleasant hard shifts from the transmission. Make sure when you drive a Cayenne that the gear changes are smooth.
The problem was often miss-diagnosed as a physical failure in the transmission itself, when the more likely cause was in fact the valve body assembly within the transmission.
The valve body controls the selection of gears and changes between gears. This electromechanical device also contains all the intelligence for the transmission associated with mapping the engine performance and driver input to relevant gear changes.
The valve body actively controls the flow of pressurized fluid in the transmission enabling accurate, timely and smooth gear changes. Failure in the valve assembly causes heavy shifting and incorrectly timed gear changes. The results are loud unpleasant sounds from the transmission accompanied by neck jerking gear changes.
Despite the nasty behavior of the transmission, replacing the valve body typically returns normal smooth gear shifts and smooth driving. The valve body repair is considerably cheaper than replacing the whole transmission.
An older Cayenne with lots of miles could indeed have a worn transmission that may require replacement. We recommend you do not assume a valve body replacement will recover the transmission and seek advice from a Porsche repair shop before you buy a Cayenne that exhibits rough gear changes.
Steering Column Fault
Watch out for this indicator. The Cayenne steering column is integral to the vehicle safety systems and a fault in this system effectively disables the car.
Vehicles showing this fault typically require the replacement of the steering column, however, accurate diagnosis by a competent shop first would be the recommended course of action. Steering column replacement is not fun and can be quite expensive. The parts alone can be over $2000 and the work will take a full day to complete.
If service history is available for the Cayenne you are looking to buy, check to see if this item appears in the records. If not, certainly worth getting an estimate and budgeting for the problem to occur in the future.
While the early Cayenne had a significant problem with plastic coolant pipes, the later Cayenne has slightly different coolant leak issues. This is a critical area to be sure of before you commit to purchase. The range of coolant leak resolutions go from a small hose issue all the way to an engine removal. This is a critical area that requires careful examination of the engine for the tell tail signs of a coolant leak – we’d recommend you use a Porsche repair shop to evaluate this before you buy.
The later Cayenne has a series of coolant pipes that are glued into their housings – great idea! Like all glue, over time the seal begins to fail and coolant leaks out. There are two likely spots for this to occur – the front of the engine or the rear of the engine close to the transmission joint.
The leak at the front of the engine is from the upper front coolant pipe which slips out of its housing when the glue fails. Porsche revised the design of the replacement part to be bolt in so the problem should not return. This issue is common and typically runs about $500 in parts.
The leak at the rear is much more of an issue. The rubber hose is clamped to an aluminum insert in the housing that distributes coolant between the cylinder heads. The glue fails on the aluminum insert and coolant leaks out. The replacement part is updated with a screw in insert for the rubber hose to connect to.
The problem is getting this new assembly attached to the engine. Porsche recommends engine and transmission removal, which puts the cost for this minor leak into big money territory. Some repair shops have devised ways to get this job done without removing the engine assembly and can save their customers significant amounts of money.
Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake Option
If your considering a Cayenne with the PCCB option fitted, it’s absolutely essential to have a professional opinion of the mileage remaining on the brakes.
The PCCB or ceramic brake setup was a factory fitted option for the Cayenne and generally seen on the S, Turbo and GTS models. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) use cross-drilled, carbon fiber reinforced ceramic discs with special composite pads. They produce amazing stopping power and are 50% lighter than a standard brake a setup. They also have a considerably longer life than their standard counterparts. However, the expected life of the PCC brakes does not always play out in reality.
If you are buying a Porsche Cayenne that has the PCCB option, it’s worth being certain how much life remains on the brakes. Parts for the front brakes alone could run you more than $10,000. Sounds like a good reason for selling a car!
Before buying a Cayenne, it is essential to know when the last time the system fault codes were cleared and check the status of the emission monitors. It’s not difficult for a seller to clear the faults just before you arrive for a test drive. Clearing the engine faults also resets the emissions system to a state of “not ready.” Emission readiness tests often occur over multiple drive cycles. So, after a reset, emission faults may not return for a significant number of miles or drive cycles.
The V6 Cayenne will develop a vacuum leak and set a check engine light. There can be many causes, but one of the most common is the failure in the PCV system. A failed diaphragm in the oil separator on the valve cover allows unmetered air to enter the intake system and cause the engine to run lean. This fault may not return to be indicated on the dashboard as a CEL for a number of drive cycles.
The separator is built into the valve cover and cannot be replaced individually, so the repair requires the replacement of the whole valve cover assembly. Not an over expensive job as the engine and valve cover come from VW, but something to be aware of before you buy.
Again, this is easy for a competent repair shop to check or indeed the DIYer using a handheld scanner.
Camshaft Adjuster Failure
Generally, this affects vehicles produced between 2010 and 2012 model years. The problem lies in the aluminum bolts that secure the timing chain sprockets to the camshaft adjusters.
These engines have adjustable cam timing systems and timing chains that drive the adjuster to vary the position and rotation of the cam based on engine performance demands. Unfortunately, the bolts holding the adjuster to the camshaft break and cause a loss of timing on the camshaft and in some circumstances, significantly worse outcomes such as a catastrophic engine failure.
Porsche was required to recall 2010 through 2012 vehicles to correct this problem. If you are looking at a model in those production years, you should definitely check for evidence the recall work was completed. More information on the recall at http://www.camshaftadjusterrecall.com/
Practical Play Porsche
You could be living the dream of owning a Porsche and taking the kids to a fast food drive through in it! Whatever your plans are for a Porsche Cayenne, it’s a solid SUV that has great performance and a good degree of practicality. These days, there are some great bargains to be had provided you shop with caution.
The Cayenne does require care and likely more expensive attention than other comparably priced SUVs. However, there are a number of independent Porsche repair shops that can help to lower the costs of maintaining the car and we also have a list of the most common problems that could come up while you own it.