As a driver, the interior of your car is arguably one of the most important components. The exterior design, the badge, none of that really matters quite as much when you’re behind the wheel. The first-generation Porsche Cayenne is a capable machine both on and off road, and with plenty of attention to detail to the interior, it’s a pleasure to drive as well.
The first-generation Porsche Cayenne covers both the 955 models sold from 2003 until 2006 and the 957 models sold from 2008 to 2010. While there are some differences between the two, the major components are very similar across the entire range. For example, the Cayenne Base features almost all of the same standard features and options as the higher-end Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo, Cayenne Turbo S, and Cayenne GTS models. Any buyer could select from several different individual packages on any model of Cayenne, so there will be a great deal of variance between the various interior materials, features, colors, and treatments, depending on how many boxes checked on the Porsche Cayenne interior options form.
Porsche Cayenne Interior Standard Features (955/957)
Even the most minimally-optioned Porsche Cayenne has plenty of features when it comes to comfort and safety. Regardless of the model, the Cayenne’s interior is best described as luxurious, well-appointed, and safe.
All first-generation 955 and 957 Porsche Cayennes feature driver and passenger front airbags, front side impact, side curtain, and front/rear curtain airbags, along with 3-point shoulder belts for all passengers. The front passenger airbag also auto-disables for smaller passengers.
The Porsche Cayenne features leather 12-way adjustable front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and a leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with multi-function buttons to control the audio system and information display in the instrument cluster, among other things. Things like power door locks, mirrors, and windows are to be expected, but the air-conditioned glovebox is an especially nice and somewhat unique touch. Other standard features include an integrated Homelink garage door opener, an alarm system with an ultrasonic interior sensor, and an inclination sensor, as well as standard keyless entry and Keyless Access System (KESSY) with coded electronic immobilizer.
While some of these may be standard on many entry-level German vehicles today, at the time, they were very cutting edge, and to have all these as standard features made the Cayenne a very well-equipped SUV.
Porsche Cayenne Interior Options (955/957)
The 955 and 957 Porsche Cayennes have a ton of standard features. While most features on offer between the base and upper model Cayennes are the same, there are some differences. Probably the most significant for most buyers is that the base model Cayenne does not have automatic climate control, while the S, Turbo, Turbo S, and GTS all have it as standard. Likewise, the 955 Cayenne S, Turbo, and Turbo S feature an upgraded 14-speaker Bose sound system, while the base model makes do with a more basic 12-speaker system and no subwoofer. That said, base model buyers can add both of these features with the upper level ‘Preferred Package.’ Because of this ability to mix and match with so many different options, it’s difficult to say with any authority that any specific Cayenne will have any particular feature.
Many of the Porsche Cayenne interior options are aesthetic, ranging from various types of wood materials in light or dark, matte, or gloss finishes to sports aluminum, carbon fiber, leather, black painted, or body-matched trim components. The packages that added the most real content are the Preferred and Light Comfort Packages, both of which had different levels. Typically the Preferred Package cars feature a moonroof, heated front seats, automatic climate control, trailer hitch, 6-disc CD changer, Porsche Bi-Xenon headlamps, and roof rack rails, among other features.
The Light Comfort Packages featured things like auto-on headlights, dimmer controlled interior lights, self-dimming side, and rearview mirrors, along with a programmable ‘coming home’ feature. The Coming Home function keeps the exterior lights on for a certain amount of time after the ignition has been shut off for better visibility and safety.
The 957 Porsche Cayenne introduced an optional, updated Porsche Communication Management unit (PCM), aka radio and stereo, and the infotainment system hub. The 957 PCM unit offers touchscreen control, additional inputs, and Bluetooth connectivity, for a much more modern experience than the older 955 PCM system. That said, being an older piece of tech, much of what was cutting edge at the time, particularly in terms of navigation, it may be a bit outdated compared to a modern system.
Porsche Cayenne Interior Problems (955/957)
While the first-generation 955 and 957 Porsche Cayenne has a fairly durable interior, there are some common problems to be aware of.
First, the moonroof design can sometimes leak and rattle; this is a problem that ranges from annoying to potentially significant, mainly depending on the level of water intrusion into the cabin. Clogged sunroof drains are especially common on Cayennes that sit under trees or have sat for extended periods. This can lead to real issues in the electric system due to corrosion in the main body harness, which runs down the driver’s side under the rug.
There are some Cayenne seat problems as well, mainly the seat back shells will separate from the clips that hold the clamshell tight to the seat. The problems are repairable with some epoxy or other strong adhesives but can be tricky to do without causing a mess since the seat back shells are permanently attached to the bottom of the seat.
The leather seating and interior surfaces can crack and wear as leather seats can do, but this is mainly down to care versus any specific problem with the materials from Porsche. The carpet around the seat bases can also take a beating depending on how the passengers get in and out of the car, so may need to be re-glued or repaired on higher mileage Cayennes.
Like most other mid-2000s German vehicles, the Cayenne can also suffer from the instrument cluster display dimming, pixelating, or otherwise becoming unreadable. When this happens, the best route is to send it out to be repaired because a new or replacement instrument cluster will need to be reprogrammed to your immobilizer system, which adds to the cost quite a bit. If you’re handy with a soldering iron and very comfortable with electronics repair, the board itself can be replaced at a fairly low cost, but without the right tools, this is one best to leave to the experts.
Another common Cayenne problem that is shared by a lot of other early and mid-2000s German vehicles is the rubberized soft-touch plastic that covers most of the controls and switches. Not only can this be easily scratched or damaged, but certain kinds of lotions, cleansers, and moisturizers can cause it to dissolve, degrade, and get surprisingly soft and tacky. You’ll especially notice this in wet and humid weather. The soft-touch coating can be removed on some pieces, while others will need to be repaired. Some companies offer refurbishment, and there are some DIY options to repair it, but it can be an extensive and frustrating issue depending on the condition of your Cayenne’s interior.
On a somewhat related note, the various control switches and buttons for the Cayenne’s air suspension and the four-wheel-drive system can show signs of wear as well. These include controls for active air suspension ride-height, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) damper settings, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) four-wheel-drive system, and if equipped on the 957, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC). Because of their location on the center console, they take a bit of abuse as far as possible spills of things coffee or other drinks, or just general physical wear and tear.
Although not an issue with all Cayenne interiors, some of the more exotic wood or carbon-fiber interior panels and trim pieces can be damaged or peel, crack, or separate over time. This tends to be due to things like UV exposure or the condition of that individual piece; after all, the wood trim pieces are made of real wood. While you shouldn’t expect this to happen to all the wood or carbon fiber trim and bezels, it is something to be aware of. Obviously, these pieces are aesthetic, so it won’t affect function, but these more exclusive trim pieces can be extremely expensive to replace and sometimes hard to find.
Aside from some of these specific Porsche Cayenne problems, the major things that may need to be repaired or freshened up are much the same as you would find on any vehicle that’s 10-15 years old. Sometimes even a Cayenne with a bit of a ratty looking interior can be easily brought back to life with a little ingenuity, time, and elbow grease.
If you have any questions about the interior of the Porsche Cayenne 955, leave them in the comments section below.
FCP Euro's Event Director by day, writer and contributor by night, and wanna-be race car driver on the weekends. Nathan has been working in the VW and Audi performance aftermarket for nearly two decades, and dabbled with Porsche and BMW. He also used to write under the pen-name of Alex Rogan for magazines like Eurotuner, Performance VW, Total 911, and European Car. He has a Cornflower Blue Rabbit Edition GTI daily driver which is surprisingly still mostly stock, and a Mk5 GTI track car which is mostly not. ••• Instagram: @njbrown55