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Porsche Cayenne 955 – The Story

The Moneymaker SUV That Saved Porsche

1st Generation Porsche Cayenne (955) Story & History

Cayenne (2002 – 2006)

Unveil of official photos: 2002 March 4 / Premiere: 2002 September 25 at Paris motor show press day / Market launch: 2002 December

Performance Summary

Modification Engine Gearbox kW lb-ft Nm 60 mph 100 km/h 100 mph 1 km mph km/h kg lb W/lb W/kg
3.2 3.2VR6 Volkswagen Tiptronic 6-speed 184 228 310 sec. 9.7 sec. 25.0 sec. 30.8 sec. 133 214 2,170 4,784 38.50 84.80
3.2 3.2VR6 Volkswagen manual 6-speed 8.5 sec. 9.1 sec. 23.8 sec. 30.1 sec. 133 214 2,160 4,762 38.60 85.20
S 4.5V8 Porsche Tiptronic 6-speed 250 309 420 6.8 sec. 7.2 sec. 16.8 sec. 27.3 sec. 150 242 2,245 4,949 50.50 111.00
S 4.5V8 Porsche manual 6-speed sec. 6.8 sec. 16.4 sec. 27.1 sec. 150 242 2,225 4,905 51.00 112.00
Turbo 4.5V8 Porsche Tiptronic 6-speed 331 457 620 5.3 sec. 5.6 sec. 12.9 sec. 25.2 sec. 165 266 2,355 5,192 63.80 141.00
Turbo WLS 4.5V8 Porsche Tiptronic 6-speed 368 516 700 4.9 sec. 5.3 sec. 168 270
Turbo S 4.5V8 Porsche Tiptronic 6-speed 383 531 720 4.8 sec. 5.2 sec. 168 270

Weight here is DIN weight (90% of fuel, no driver, no cargo). Weight of German versions with standard equipment.

The Story

Porsche car company founder Ferry Porsche died on March 27, 1998. This opened the possibility for CEO Wendelin Wiedeking to proceed with his plans to shift Porsche from dream maker to money maker. A few months later, Wiedeking signed the contract with Volkswagen to jointly create an SUV to compete with the Mercedes-Benz ML which was launched in 1997 and the BMW X5 which was to be launched in 1999. Porsche would contribute more with the research and development tasks and Volkswagen with the production. The plan was to build two cars on the same chassis, one sold as a Porsche and the other as a Volkswagen (Audi SUV was added three years later).

All the bodies were to be made at the Volkswagen factory in Bratislava, Slovakia. In order to give Porsche SUV a German touch, it’s fully assembled bodies would be sent by train to Germany where the engine and the drivetrain would be installed. There was no suitable space at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, so a new location for the SUV’s final assembly plant was searched for in Germany. Considering the initiatives from the local municipality and the more affordable workforce in eastern Germany compared to Stuttgart where the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche factories are, Leipzig was chosen as the place to put the foot down. The construction of the plant started on February 7, 2000.

On June 7, 2000, the Porsche SUV was named after a hot chili pepper: Cayenne.

Drawing from 2000 created by Stephen Murkett, the main exterior designer of the Cayenne

The core construction of the Porsche Cayenne and the Volkswagen Touareg was the same, but the D-pillar angle was different – for the Cayenne to look sportier at the back and for the Touareg to have more cargo space.

Porsche Cayenne 955
One of the internal codes of the first Cayenne was “E1” © Porsche

While the 4-wheel-drive system in the VW Touareg has a 50/50 torque split front/rear, this makes any car understeer when driven enthusiastically, so the Cayenne got the 4WD with the bias at the back: 62% of the engine torque is sent to the rear wheels and 38% to the front wheels.

4-wheel-drive system
4-wheel-drive system © Porsche
© Porsche

The production of the V8 engines started at the Porsche’s main plant in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen on December 17, 2001. Porsche’s internal project number for the Cayenne V8 engine was 948. The idle speed of the 4.5-litre V8 is just 580 rpm. The V8 has integral dry-sump lubrication and water-cooled generator. The turbocharged V8 has oil spray cooling of pistons, but not the cheaper V8 S resulting in many damaged normally aspirated 4.5-litre engines.

The turbochargers were manufactured by IHI. They were designed for continuous 160,000 rpm operation! In order not to exceed the maximum rpm speed, the DME control module reduces boost pressure as needed above an altitude of 2200 meters. Oil supply and oil scavenging from the turbochargers was designed to work even when driving on a 45° slope. To minimize turbo lag, the maximum boost pressure is reached at 2500 rpm. Only the Turbo version of the Cayenne can provide acceleration that matches the Porsche badge on its nose.

Porsche Cayenne 955 Turbo prototype engine logo
Cover of the prototype Turbo engine
One of the early prototypes used for testing the chassis © Porsche

The Cayenne is equipped with the reduction gear – it is the equipment that makes the car a real off-roader. For example, the Mercedes ML and BMW X5 didn’t have it. The gear reduction ratio in the Cayenne is 2.7, which means that at the same engine speed (rpm), the vehicle speed is reduced by 2.7 times in all gears. The reduction gear is designed for off-road use, but it doesn’t give any benefits if the car is equipped with normal tyres. Using reduction gear with street tyres on loose soil even makes the situation worse – the car will dig in as it has enormous wheel torque, but no grip. If you don’t have off-road tyres, better don’t use the reduction gear on slippery surface (sand, for example). On the contrary, to wiggle out, use the raw power and speed in normal transmission mode. The reduction gear can be used also when pulling a boat with the trailer our from the water – with the reduction gear engaged, the car moves very slowly, so the process is better controlled.

Porsche Cayenne 955 prototype crossing a river
Prototype crossing the river. Cayenne’s wading depth is at least half a meter. To protect the interior, the Cayenne has its door seals doubled – the seals are on the doors as well as on the body. © Porsche

To shorten the off-road braking distance, the off-road ABS briefly blocks the front wheels. The resultant wedge effect in front of the wheels assists the braking. The off-road ABS operates only when the car is in reduction gear and drives straight with a speed below 31 mph/50 km/h. If the steering wheel is turned, the off-road ABS is automatically switched off to maintain steering capability. With low range selected and at speeds below 21 mph/35 km/h, braking is performed with a delay. The advantage of this is that when driving downhill on loose ground with turned wheels, the cornering force is not lost through further free-rolling wheels.

The car seems to be ready for production, just that there’s camouflage on the headlamps and the Porsche badge is covered with black tape like on all prototypes. © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 interior electronics
Electronic components of the cockpit on the demo/training/showcase car © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 assembly in Leipzig
The bodies were assembled at the Volkswagen factory in Bratislava and shipped to Leipzig for the installation of the drive train. This simple work could have been done at the VW factory in Slovakia, but for marketing reasons it was important to install the engine and chassis parts at the Porsche site in Germany. © Porsche

The photos of the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo were unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March 2002, but the real unveiling had to wait for half a year more.

Porsche Cayenne 955 in front of Leipzig factory customer building
Cayenne Turbo and Cayenne S in front of the Porsche Leipzig customer center (not to be confused with the Porsche Center Leipzig that’s 1,5 km away)
Porsche Leipzig
Porsche Leipzig: the plant plus on- and off-road demo drive tracks for the customers. The “UFO” is the customer welcoming center with a conference room, restaurant, Porsche Selection shop and garages for the new cars that customers opted to pick up at the factory. © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 assembly in Leipzig
Porsche Leipzig final assembly plant

The Cayenne was shown to the press on September 25, 2002, and from September 28 to the guests of the Paris motor show.

Porsche Cayenne unloaded for the 2002 Paris motor show
2002 September, one of the Cayennes unloaded for the Paris motor show © Porsche

Standard equipment was generous in the Turbo version (air suspension, navigation, Bose sound system and other goodies), but the Cayenne S was rather simply equipped. In Europe it didn’t even have cruise control in standard equipment. The Cayenne was the first Porsche available with the speed-dependent Servotronic power steering. This means that the steering is light at low speeds and therefore the car is easier to park. Cayenne was also the first Porsche to feature a foot-operated parking brake. In addition to the gas tank lid, the glove box and even the sun-moon-roof were included in the central locking system.

A year after the introduction of the 4.5-litre V8 Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo, the base version Cayenne was introduced. It was equipped with the 3.2-litre VR6 VW engine. The bodies were already built by Volkswagen and now, when equipped with the VW engine, there wasn’t much left of the Porsche, just the badge and the design.

The performance of the VW-engined 2.2-ton SUV was miserable – the acceleration from zero to 100 km (62 mph) took 9.7 seconds with the Tiptronic gearbox. In Europe, manual transmission was available for the Cayenne 3.2 and the Cayenne S which made them a bit better performance wise. When the Cayenne S was equipped with the manual transmission, its V8 rpm limiter was raised from 6500 to 6700 rpm. Cayennes with the manual gearbox have the Porsche Drive-Off Assistant that supports the moving off process when on uphill (the car is not moving backwards when you work with the clutch pedal).

Available from the end of 2003, the Advanced Off-Road-Equipment Package included rear differential lock, disengageable anti-roll bars, side-sill protection, steel plate underfloor protection around the radiator and the second tow loop. The anti-roll bars can be disconnected only in the low range mode and they reconnect automatically as soon as the vehicle speed exceeds 31 mph/50 km/h. With the anti-roll bars disengaged, the PSM Porsche Stability Management cannot be switched off.

Porsche Cayenne 955 disengageable anti-roll bars
Disengageable anti-roll bars are needed for serious off-road driving. © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 disengageable anti-roll bars
This is how the optional disengageable anti-roll bars work © Porsche

From December 2004, the performance of the Cayenne Turbo could be increased with the 368 kW (493 SAE hp/500 DIN hp) factory power kit (option code E81). The WLS (WerksLeistungsSteigerung, factory power increase) engine came with larger intercoolers and bigger brakes. The Cayenne Turbo WLS was the most powerful Porsche in production after the Carrera GT supercar. A year later, the WLS was topped with even more powerful Cayenne Turbo S with 383 kW (513 SAE hp/521 DIN hp).

Porsche Cayenne S and Turbo (955 generation)
Cayenne 3.2 and S look the same, Turbo’s nose and exhaust pipe ends are different © Porsche
Halogen headlamp and xenon headlamp (standard on Turbo, optional on 3.2 and S). Note the different shapes of the headlamp washer covers.
Porsche Cayenne 955 with roof rack and cargo box
Allowed roof burden is 100 kg (220 lb)
Porsche Cayenne 955 Turbo with SportDesign kit
SportDesign body kit incl. side skirts (option 2D1) and 20″ SportTechno wheels partially painted in car color (option CT1) © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 Turbo towing a trailer with 911
Towing a trailer is an easy job for the 4.5V8 bi-turbo Cayenne © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 with panorama roof
The optional panorama roof comprises a lot of parts which means it makes noises © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 on the off-road track
Thanks to PTM Porsche Traction Management, every wheel is controlled separately and it is not a problem if one of them is not on the ground – the power is directed to the opposite wheel © Porsche
Porsche Cayenne 955 Turbo top view, doors open
Cayenne Turbo can be identified by the front lid design © Porsche
The air suspension can be used in the highest off-road position at the speed of up to 19 mph/30 km/h. When the speed gets higher, the suspension is automatically lowered a bit, into lower off-road position where it stays until the speed is not higher than 50 mph/80 km/h.
Silver Porsche Cayenne 955 Turbo
The air suspension in the lowest position. This “loading position” is not designed for driving, so the car raises itself a bit when you start driving. Note the optional rocker protection and wheel arch extensions.
Wheels: 17" Cayenne, 18" Cayenne S, 18" Cayenne Turbo
Wheels: 17″ Cayenne, 18″ Cayenne S, 18″ Cayenne Turbo
Wheels: 19″ Cayenne Design, 20″ SportDesign, 20″ SportTechno
With the optional keyless system, the door handles have buttons to close the central locking when leaving the car

Optional SportDesign body kit and 10" wide rear wheels (standard on Turbo S)
Optional SportDesign body kit and 10″ wide rear wheels (standard on Turbo S)
19" Cayenne Design wheel
19″ Cayenne Design wheel spokes painted in car color (option CP7) and optional “sports” tailpipes (0P3)

With the air suspension, ground clearance can be adjusted

Ground clearance

Steel springs Air suspension
273 mm Special off-road level When the speed of 19 mph/30 km/h is exceeded, the car is automatically lowered.
243 mm Off-road level If a speed in excess of 50 mph/80 km/h is reached, the system automatically lowers to Normal level. With the reduction gear engaged, it is possible to remain in Off-Road level up to 62 mph/100 km/h.
217 mm with Tiptronic 217 mm Normal level
193 mm with manual
190 mm Low level This level can be manually selected and used as a default level instead of Normal level. When the speed is higher than 78 mph/125 km/h, Low level is activated automatically (when the speed drops below 25 mph/40 km/h, Normal level is resumed if it was selected previously).
(179 mm Special low level) Above 131 mph/210 km/h, the vehicle is lowered to Special Low level. When speed drops below 105 mph/170 km/h, Low level is resumed.
157 mm Loading level If the vehicle is moving at a speed greater than 3 mph/5 km/h, an automatic change to Low or Normal level is made depending on which was selected previously.

Engine and transmission codes

Cayenne Cayenne S Cayenne Turbo
Engine code M02.2Y M48.00 M48.50
Tiptronic code A48.20 A48.00 A48.50
Manual gearbox code G48.20 G48.00

Brake disc sizes

Cayenne Cayenne S Cayenne Turbo Cayenne Turbo WLS / Turbo S
Brake disc diameter, front 330 mm 350 mm 350 mm 380 mm
Brake disc diameter, rear 330 mm 330 mm 330 mm 358 mm

Cayenne S Titanium

At the end of the production, Cayenne S Titanium Edition was for offered in USA. It was just a cosmetic edition, and controversial one – most of the “Titanium” cars were Pure Red like fire engines. In addition to red, the car was available in cool light blue Iceland Silver metallic, Sea Blue metallic and non-metallic black. The interior had two-tone seats, black in the middle and beige or gray at the edges. The door panels and dashboard were in matching 2-tone color scheme. Learn more.

Cayenne Ambulance Car

15 trainees of Porsche AG created a Cayenne 955 S ambulance vehicle for the factory use.

The End of The 955 Cayenne

While the Cayenne model year typically changes in June, the 2007 model year was not started and the 2006 model year was extended from June 2005 until the end of 2006. 150,371 units of the Cayenne 955 were made between 2002 and 2006. In December 2006, the production of the facelift version, the Cayenne 957, started.