The Brave Pill: Porsche Cayenne S

Here's a game for when you want to spend some time in the grungier part of the classifieds. Nominate a brand and then try to find the cheapest car from it that - crucial point - you might actually want to own. Today we'll be playing with Porsche.

As with all such exercises, it soon turns subjective, then argumentative and stands a good chance of leading to a punch-up in the virtual carpark later on. It is possible to spend very little on a Porker. I have a friend who bought a freshly MOT'd 924 S for the princely sum of £800 a few years ago, largely for the novelty of being able to boast that he'd done so.

But among the products of the brand's modern era it's fair to say that low prices tend to come with good reasons. A four-grand Boxster is £4000 for a reason; the similarly aged £6000 example will almost certainly be a fair better long-term bet.

Bringing us to this week's Brave Pill, and tentative proof it is possible to get one of the more desirable variants within one of Porsche's model ranges for an impressively modest outlay. Yes, it's a Cayenne, and therefore likely to get some people heading for the room where the pitchforks, burning torches and maps to the ogre's castle are kept. But this low-mileage, high-history £6750 S also looks to about as solid a bet as it's possible to make in this part of the market.

No less than 17 years of hindsight has proved Porsche to have been well ahead of the curve on the Cayenne. The idea of a big, fugly SUV from a brand that, at the time, exclusively made sports cars seemed pretty ridiculous when it was first floated, even with Stuttgart's justification that it would raise the cash necessary to keep making the more interesting models. But the fact the hulking Cayenne had been given almost the same headlights as the contemporary 911 - just sitting about three feet higher - added insult to injury.

Yet it didn't take long for the Cayenne to start making friends and finding itself on many lists of guilty pleasures. It drove far better than any other obvious competitor, making even what had previously been the segment's sharpest steer, the BMW X5, feel big and lardy. It was launched in the UK in S and Turbo guise, the entry-level V6 came slightly later, with the S's V8 combining solid urge and a 150mph top speed with an amusingly bristly soundtrack under enthusiastic use. The Turbo was a rocket ship, but one with even more punishing running costs and the sort of insert-expletive-here image problem that the fruitier versions of the BMW X6 would later inherit.

These days there are more than enough first-gen Cayennes out there to allow buyers to be properly picky, and relatively few that cross the line into desirability. The V6 isn't so much underpowered as over-petroled, Porsche's reluctance to - as the brand saw it - sully the Cayenne with a diesel engine seeing it sent into the world with a version of VW's narrow angled VR6 largely unsuited to hauling so much car around. The six needs to be worked hard, and thirstily, to extract Porsche-appropriate performance and real world economy isn't much better than that of the V8; managing low 20s rather than the S's high teens. The Turbo is faster obviously, which to some people will automatically mean better, but dynamic prowess is limited compared to more modern performance SUVs, and running costs cross from scary into hide-behind-the-sofa terrifying.

Which is why the S is where the moderately smart, reasonably brave money goes. This privately sold grey 2006 example is pre-facelift, meaning it doesn't get the later direct injection engine, but it comes in a good colour, has a modest 61,000 miles showing, plenty of history and - we're told - a recent service and four new Goodyear Eagles. It also wears a private plate which, although not included in the sale, suggests the owner has some appreciation for or working knowledge of Cosworth racing engines, which I'm taking to be a good thing.

The eagle eyed will have noticed that it is also wearing a towbar, often taken as proof by internet experts that a car has spent the last decade hauling an overweight burger van between far-flung fairground sites, but the vendor says this has never been used and is just fitted for the pictures.

Now, before the doubters slide in two-footed, I should point out that there are some - ahem - reliability questions over the Cayenne S's big V8. Earlier cars like this one had cylinder bores coated with Lokasil, which can flake off and expensively destroy the engine. Which sounds terrifying, but plenty of owners report having taken cars to considerable mileages with no sign of this happening; it is also possible to check with a scope inspection. They can also suffer from electrical maladies, sticking tailgates, leaking coolant pipes and can have an insatiable appetite for ignition coils, although the owner of this one reports all eight packs were done last year.

But this is meant to be a big boy's club; the risk of any Brave Pill is acknowledged by the person swallowing it in the first place. For a better perspective on the Cayenne S's affordability consider the fact that this one is substantially cheaper than a contemporary 'L322' Range Rover of similar age and mileage, and it can hardly be less reliable can it? Oh, and to land yourself a comparable Audi Q7 - with the less sonorous if more sensible 4.2 TDI V8 - you'd need to spend twice as much.

Sure, any middle-aged Porsche is likely to throw up bills beyond the wallet-walloping that comes with every refill. But let's recap on the salient points here: it's a Porsche, it has a V8, it's been well looked after and it's yours for under seven grand.

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Comments (37) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mrclav 09 Mar 2019

    Yes. But still... no.

    The looks weren't the best when they first came out and it looks even worse now!

  • Cloudy147 09 Mar 2019

    I went for the 3.2 due to the bore score issues on the S model. I ran that risk with a 997 previously and couldn't stomach another go on the roulette wheel.

    However, to date (touch wood), it's been great. Bought at 101,000 miles, now has 135k ish on the clock. Probably worth about £4k now. Mega car for such tiny money.

    I've owned it for 3 years, struggling to part with it as in the value for money stakes,I just can't beat it. Drinks a lot though!

    I think they look quite nice too! Running report here if anyone wants to know what is been like to live with -

  • sidewinder500 09 Mar 2019

    All in all, close to sensible for that outlay.
    The AMG from two weeks before was braver.

  • Big GT 09 Mar 2019

    Good cars. Its basically an uglier vw touareg with a nicer interior and powerful engines.

    No mention of the propshaft issue that plagues these, the q7 and touareg. Make sure propshaft brearings are replaced every 70k. Other than that ussual large 4x4 maintenance costs to consider

  • Turbobanana 09 Mar 2019

    Can "Rhyl on a foggy day" grey ever be described as a "good colour"?

    If so, what is a "bad colour"?

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