I must be crazy

Why on earth would someone sell a perfect color combination 911 Turbo with manual transmission and buy a Cayenne instead?

Porsche Cayenne 957
A Cayenne really does work well both on and off road.© Margus Holland / Stuttcars.com

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. When I originally bought the 911, I was certain that I would keep it forever. But considering that my kids are growing up and a 911 (especially the turbo) is not cheap to maintain, I had to either buy something really boring as a second car or sell the 911 and still get a Porsche. As a Porsche fanatic, I really couldn’t bear the thought of driving something else, so I made the really hard decision to part ways with the 996 and get something practical for a change.

Years before, when I was trying to sell my 951, it took a really long time to find a buyer, but with the 911, it was pretty much instant – just a few weeks after I put the car up for sale, the money was in my account and I watched my baby drive away (selling the car was of course a lot easier, as my good friend James did all the hard work). I utterly loved this car, even though it had its quirks and it left me stranded on the road a few times. I vowed to get a 911 again some day and I’ll definitely keep working towards that in the future.

With the 996 gone and the money in my pocket, it was time to go shopping. Having a car at your beck and call is really convenient when driving the kids to school or kindergarden and picking up groceries and so forth, and if you dont have one available, you have to re-think a lot of things you’ve taken for granted.
At first I was looking at the 958 generation cars, but I knew I didn’t want to spend all the money I got from the sale on a Cayenne, as the depreciation rate for them compared to a 911 is quite astonishing. And not in a good way. I didn’t also want one with a very high mileage for obvious reasons. Narrowed it down to 957 generation facelift models and gasoline engines. The diesel is more economical, but all the cars I found had 250 0000+ km on the clock and I personally find diesel a truly disgusting alternative to gasoline. The S and Turbo models have more power, yet the V8 engines are much more prone to problems, so V6 it had to be.

No guts, no glory

James was again more than helpful tagging along when I chose to go see a few cars I picked out. The first one was a white Cayenne with a GTS look. And with a beige interior which I really liked – it makes the car look much more luxurious. Mileage was stated to be 159 000 km and it looked very promising. But all that glitters is not gold. I had the local dealer check the VIN for any service history and turned out, the actual mileage was already 280 000+ km when the car came to Estonia in 2013. There’s one thing that still baffles me about this though: why on earth would you cheat with the mileage if the history can be checked from the dealer with a simple phonecall? I understand if there’s no history and you can get away with it, but this just seems dumb. And the price of car wasn’t anything that amazing that one would just go blind with greed and ignore common sense. Walked away from that one even before had a chance to take it for a test drive.

Next up was a grey one, again with a the V6 engine. With 144 000 km on the clock it showed promise and it also looked great on the photos. On the test drive I was pleasantly surprised as well – things worked fine, no weird noises or anything. James helped me measure the paint thickess too: the passenger front door had been repainted at some point and there was something done to the left wing, right above the taillight. Fortunately everything seemed to have been fixed correctly and there were no signs of problems in either location. The only thing really wrong with the car was the fact that it was missing the original service book. The owner did say the car was originally from the Netherlands and came to Estonia via Belgium, but nothing more. It was decision time – should I ignore the mantra I’m always telling all potential Porsche buyers – walk away from cars that don’t have any service history or just take a chance and go with it.

I kind of liked this car and really needed transportation already, so money did change hands and I was now the owner of my first ever SUV. I did however get it checked out at my friendly independent workshop beforehand and as they didn’t find anything really wrong with the car, I wasn’t too worried. Though Porsche is not the cheapest car in the market, its price had already depreciated so much, that I could have bought four Cayennes for the money I got from the sale of the 911, so not a really bad deal. The car came with a black interior, which wasn’t what I really wanted, but I could live with it. One little let-down was that for some reason the car was ordered without cruise control from the factory. Retrofitting is luckily a simple and affordable job. As a bonus the owner parted with two sets of wheels: 20-inch wheels for summer and 19-inch Cayenne Design wheels for winter, the former having brand new tyres as well.

Some other nice additions were the touchscreen PCM, heated steering wheel and no-sunroof option (I find sunroofs useless at best and really annoying when they squeak and/or rattle). No multifunctional steering wheel, but I can easily live without it, especially when looking at some of the used steering wheels, where the buttons look really worn and scratched.

Problems? But of course

No used car ever comes without its problems and first issues started to creep out of their hiding places a few days after I took ownership.

The first red exclamation mark on the dashboard light referred to something being wrong with the air suspension. I had taken the car to a near-by tyre shop just to change the wheels and as a first time owner (and having a user’s manual in Dutch, which I do not speak, even if I share my name with the country) I had no idea that the automatic levelling must be turned off, if the car is lifted off the ground. Everything seemed well for a few days, but after logging around a bunch of stuff, suddenly the air suspension compressor wouldn’t shut off anymore. I was able to pull the fuse, but not before the pump blew a seal somewhere in the system. A day in the workshop later, the guys tried to rebuild the pump, but the damage was too big and new pump was in order. The actual reason for the compressor failure was a relay that didn’t switch it off. The relay had burned in because of a non-maintained levelling sensor – it kept on trying to adjust the level and thus kept the relay way too busy. Fortunately the Cayenne is a really common car and shares a lot with a VW Touareg and so the parts are much easier to come by. One new compressor and a maintained suspenion later, I was one happy motorist again.

Didn’t last too long tough and the check engine light came on. That this might happen, was mentioned by the seller before the sale, but unfortunately this also might have been when he left out the ”minor” detail that the catalytic converters were shot. I still like to believe that people are decent at heart and would like to think he had no idea. There is no sensible price fix for this, but I was lucky enough to get away with a repair bill half of what it would have cost to go with original Porsche parts. And as I was able to haggle a bit off the price when I bought the car, the damage wasn’t overwhelming to my wallet.

Not that bad…

I’ve now owned the Cayenne for a few months and have had no other major issues. There are some things still that I need to take care of, but none are really important (one of the rear door locks acts up at times, the cruise control needs retrofitting, the plastic trim pieces under the seats need some adjusting etc). All in all, I feel at least at this point in time, I made a pretty decent deal.

Switching from a really low supercar into a big monster can be jarring and the first few times I drove the car, I didn’t feel at home at all. It is big and clumsy and when you put your foot down, it takes a century to switch gears and get going. Yet, it has started to grow on me. It’s slow when compared to a 911 Turbo, but not bad when compared to that fleet of soulless boxes filling the streets. I can put the luggage of the whole family in the back and still have room for all the jars full of pickles and jam my mother-in-law insists we take along when we leave after a long weekend in the country. The gas mileage is pretty much the same, if not a little lower compared to the 996 (I drive mostly in the city).
Getting in and out is a breeze and if the kids make a mess on the back seat eating or the carpets get muddy, I hardly care. If I can get away with driving this monster without any big issues for lets say 3 years, I’d be a pretty happy camper – for the price I paid, there’s a lot of car to be had. In the future I should be able to upgrade to a 958 without breaking the bank, as I do believe they depreciate at the same rate as the earlier cars. If I get tired of the Cayenne, there’s always the Macan and Panamera to consider.

It’s still a Porsche

The Cayenne doesn’t have the soul of the 911 of course, but looking at the Porsche badge on the steering wheel every day, I still feel part of the Porsche crowd, even if there’s no point in taking the car to the track. That’s the fun part of that group, there are a lot of different people there – some like the racing part, others are into tuning or customizing. I personally just like all Porsches and to me, the Cayenne is still a Porsche through and through. I know I’ll buy a Porsche sports car one day again and there’s no harm in driving something else for a while. If nothing else it makes you appreciate the sports cars even more.

Author: Margus Holland / Stuttcars.com

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