While the first-generation Porsche Cayenne features a plethora of engine options depending on the year and the model, there are only two options when it comes to transmissions and you can't go wrong with either of them.
All 955 and 957 Porsche Cayenne models sold between 2003 and 2010 feature the same 6-speed automatic Tiptronic Aisin transmission used in the equivalent generations of Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7. This makes parts more affordable and more readily available, which is always a good thing for a potentially expensive component like a transmission. Starting with the base model Cayenne in 2004 and expanding with the GTS in 2008, a 6-speed manual transmission became available on the Base and GTS models only. This is a somewhat rare option, can be found with due diligence if you're in the market for a manual Porsche Cayenne.
955/957 Porsche Cayenne Transmission Guide Sections
Neither transmission choice affects the Cayenne's rated towing capacity of 7,716lbs or changes any of the specifics when it comes to four-wheel drive or off-road capabilities. Featuring full-time dual-range four-wheel drive, the first-generation Porsche Cayenne has a 38/62 front/rear torque split as standard. It utilizes the active Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system to send up to 100% of engine torque either front or rear. The PTM system uses an electronically controlled and activated multi-plate clutch system and works in conjunction with the dual-mode traction control to maximize traction no matter the situation.
While the two different transmissions have different service requirements, all of the primary driveline components are shared between all the Cayennes. These shared components include the Porsche Traction Management/transfer case unit, driveshaft (Cardan shaft), rear differential system, and CV axles. After we cover the two transmissions, we'll go over the common problems and recommended services for these shared Cayenne components.
Porsche Cayenne 6-Speed Automatic Tiptronic Transmission 09D (955/957)
The 6-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission most commonly found in 2003 to 2010 955 and 957 Cayenne models is an Aisin AW TR-60SN/09D. This is often simply referred to as the '09D' transmission. While generally considered to be reliable, these transmissions can develop some problems from time to time. Porsche Cayenne automatic transmission problems usually occur due to lack of service or extremely high mileage. This is in part because of the excessively long fluid service intervals Porsche has specified for the Cayenne. Porsche recommends a 160,000 mile, or 16-year, fluid service interval on the Cayenne's Aisin Tiptronic transmission.
Depending on how you use it, a Porsche cayenne transmission fluid change should be done every 60,000 miles, along with a transmission filter change. This shorter interval will go a long way to avoiding the most common Cayenne transmission problems. An unfortunate side-effect of the extremely long 160,000-mile automatic transmission service interval is that if the transmission has never been serviced in that period, it's often just as bad to perform the service as it is to leave it as-is. This is because the fresh oil will often displace built-up varnish and deposits from inside the various corners of the transmission, potentially clogging the tiny pathways inside the transmission valve body. If in doubt, or if you have changed your Cayenne's Tiptronic transmission fluid and an issue developed afterward, performing a few shorter-interval changes to flush out the debris may help remedy the situation without resorting to more extensive repairs.
The Cayenne 955 and 957 feature an adaptive DME transmission control unit that optimizes transmission shifting and performance for driving habits and conditions. The earliest Cayennes are known to have a problem with hard shifts, which was resolved with a software update. Any used Cayennes currently on the market should have had this done by now, but it could be worth checking with Porsche with your VIN number just to be sure if it's a 955 Cayenne model.
As with any Porsche, you want to be sure to use the best-quality Porsche-approved fluids and oils for optimal performance. A full service will also include a new transmission filter, gasket, and hardware. In a worst-case scenario, thanks to a plentiful supply of used transmissions on the market, complete replacements can be under $1,000.
- Transmission code: TR-60SN/09D
- Transmission manufacturer: Aisin
- Years: 2003-2010
- Models: Porsche Cayenne Base, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo, Cayenne Turbo S, Cayenne GTS, Cayenne S Transsyberia
- Transmission type: 6-speed automatic transmission with reverse gear, traditional design with torque converter (Not PDK)
Porsche Cayenne 6-Speed Automatic Tiptronic Transmission Problems 09D (955/957)
Transmission Valve Body
The most common 955 or 957 Porsche Cayenne transmission problem is hard shifting while driving and clunking during gear changes. There are a few different possible reasons for this, but most of them all point back to the transmission valve body. The transmission valve body is part of the mechatronic unit that controls the transmission along with the DME, also known as the transmission control unit (TCU). There is a Porsche technical service bulletin (TSB) related to the DME software that attempts to resolve hard upshifts and downshifts on early 955 Porsche Cayenne models.
As we've touched on, the Tiptronic Cayenne's factory fluid and filter service interval is an overly long 160,000 miles. If you're experiencing transmission problems with your Porsche Cayenne, performing a transmission service may resolve or minimize the issue. If, however, you perform a fluid service and have confirmed the Porsche TSB DME reflash has been done, and neither of these resolves your shifting issues, you may need to replace the transmission valve body with a new or remanufactured unit.
The transmission valve body consists of various fluid paths and solenoids that control the shifting and clutch actuation on the transmission. Over time, contaminants and debris will wear these tiny pathways and cause your shifting issues. The good news is that the transmission valve body is relatively easy to access and does not typically require special coding. If you continue to drive your Cayenne with a bad transmission valve body, you can damage other expensive components such as the clutch packs, so it's important not to ignore this issue.
Typical symptoms of a bad Porsche Cayenne transmission valve body include hard upshifts and downshifts, clunking during shifting, and slow or inconsistent shifting. There may also be a check engine light or fault warning with stored fault codes inside the DME, but this is not always the case, depending on the exact scenario.
Torque Converter Seal
This issue is not so much due to a fault in the torque converter seal or design itself but can be a residual problem related to coolant leaks. If your Cayenne engine coolant pipes are leaking, the coolant can run down the back of the engine and enter the transmission bellhousing. As this builds and hardens as it dries, it can cause damage to the torque converter seal. Once damaged, it will begin to leak, slowly at first, but it can become significant. Replacement does require removal of the transmission, but thankfully the torque converter itself is rarely damaged due to the leaking seal, so you shouldn't need to replace other components. While the leak alone isn't enough to cause further issues, if you lose a substantial amount of fluid and continue to drive your Cayenne, other damage can occur due to running with low transmission fluid.
The primary symptom of a leaking torque converter seal includes visible transmission fluid leaking from the bellhousing area where the engine and transmission meet. This will be visible in the middle of the car, just behind the front wheels. If your Cayenne's transmission has lost enough fluid, you may see other symptoms such as slipping or hard gear changes. There are two different types of torque converter seals available, so you will likely need to verify the specific type you need with your VIN.
Porsche Cayenne 6-Speed Automatic Tiptronic Transmission Service 09D (955/957)
- Transmission fluid and filter service - 60,000 miles
- Porsche Cayenne transmission fluid capacity (automatic)
- Porsche 955 Cayenne S, Base, Turbo, Turbo S - 8.5 L
- Porsche 957 Cayenne Base - 9.5 L
- Porsche 957 Cayenne S, Turbo, Turbo S, GTS, Transsyberia - 9 L
Porsche Cayenne 6-speed Manual Transmission G0L(955/957)
Porsche introduced the manual transmission Cayenne with the base-model 955 3.2 L VR6 Porsche Cayenne in 2004. Porsche continued to offer a manual transmission on the base model 957 Cayenne in 2008 and expanded the option to include the new sporty 957 Porsche Cayenne GTS. Thanks to its simple design, there is very little to service or go wrong with either the base-model or GTS manual transmission Cayennes.
Although they use different specific components in terms of the clutch and flywheel, the manual Cayennes' overall design and function is essentially the same. The transmission features six forward gears plus reverse and utilizes a dual-mass flywheel to minimize NVH and provide smooth acceleration and shifting. The heavier dual-mass flywheel will need less throttle to maintain speed under heavy load, such as towing or driving off road in sand or similar soft surfaces.
Because manual transmission Cayennes are relatively rare and are so service-free, they can be very sought after and sometimes hard to find. The only real downside is a lack of plentiful spares compared to the Tiptronic models, but the simplicity more than makes up for it. Like the Tiptronic, Porsche specifies a 160,000 gear oil service interval, which is too long for the best operation like the Tiptronic.
- Transmission option code: G0L
- Transmission manufacturer: Porsche
- Years: 2004-2010
- Models: Porsche Cayenne Base, Cayenne GTS
- Transmission type: 6-speed manual transmission with reverse gear
Porsche Cayenne Manual 6-Speed Transmission Problems G0L (955/957)
Between the various components on the manual transmission Cayenne Base and Cayenne GTS, the dual-mass flywheel is the most likely culprit of transmission problems. With a dual-mass flywheel, you have the primary main flywheel and a sprung secondary component for the friction surface. This makes engagement smoother and minimizes noise from the transmission and various components. Over time the sprung center section can develop play and eventually go out of balance, causing several issues. Once it's bad, the flywheel has to be replaced, and you should also replace the clutch disc, pressure plate, and clutch release bearing assembly at the same time. The rear main seal should also be inspected and replaced if needed.
The exact mileage of when you will need to replace your dual-mass flywheel will depend on your use and driving style. Both the VR6 and V8 are fairly smooth engines, so it would not be unusual to see 150,000 miles or more from the factory flywheel. Extremely hard shifting, launches, and heavy use will significantly shorten the life of your flywheel.
Symptoms of a bad flywheel include light to heavy vibration at a specific engine speed and, on occasion, inconsistent clutch engagement and shifting. In extreme cases, you may hear metal to metal contact inside the bellhousing. If you hear any noise in that area, you should immediately stop driving your Cayenne and have it towed to repair and diagnose the issue. The Porsche Cayenne 3.2, 3.6, and GTS 4.8 manual transmission cars all use different clutch and flywheel components, so you'll need to select your exact Porsche Cayenne model to get the right parts.
Clutch Pressure Plate/Clutch Disc/Release Bearing
The clutch assembly on a manual 955 or 957 Porsche Cayenne consists of a clutch pressure plate and clutch disc. The disc has an organic friction material that is long-wearing and durable with normal use. If you slip the clutch quite a bit or otherwise overheat the friction material, it can be damaged and either glaze over or begin to fall apart. The clutch pressure plate can fail depending on the mileage and lead to issues with shifting or transferring power from the engine to the transmission. The Cayenne 3.2 V6, Cayenne 3.6 V6, and Cayenne GTS 4.8 V8 all use different clutches, so be sure to select your correct Porsche model when ordering.
Symptoms of a bad clutch include clutch slippage and the inability to accelerate, especially at lower RPMs and higher loading, such as full-throttle in 4th, 5th, or 6th gear below 2500rpms. Other common symptoms can include being hard to shift or impossible to shift when the engine is running but shifting fine when the engine is off. Lastly, the clutch pedal may have an inconsistent feel or fail to return after being depressed to change gears. Any gear change issue that happens in every gear is usually clutch system related. A gear change issue isolated to either one specific gear, or one set of gears, is usually transmission related. Some of these faults can also point to a failure in the clutch slave cylinder.
Clutch Slave Cylinder
The Porsche Cayenne clutch slave cylinder is a hydraulically actuated component that should be replaced anytime you replace the clutch. It takes the physical force generated by depressing the clutch pedal from the clutch master cylinder and actuates on the release bearing. This then disengages the clutch. The Cayenne clutch slave cylinder can fail internally or externally, depending on which seals fail.
Symptoms of a failed clutch slave cylinder include hard shifting, failure of the clutch to completely disengage, and brake fluid leaks from around the transmission bell housing area.
Porsche Cayenne Manual Transmissions Service G0L (955/957)
- Transmission gear oil - 60,000 miles
- Porsche Cayenne transmission fluid capacity (manual) - 1.8 L
Porsche Cayenne Drivetrain & 4WD (955/957)
All 9PA 955 and 957 Porsche Cayenne models share the same primary driveline components regardless of which transmission they have. While there are some common problems, for the most part, the core drivetrain is fairly trouble-free.
Porsche Cayenne Drivetrain & 4WD Problems (955/957)
Cardan Shaft Bearing
This is also often called a driveshaft carrier bearing and is the most common failure on any 955 or 957 Porsche Cayenne drivetrain. The center driveshaft is supported by a bearing at about the middle of the car. Over time and miles, the rubber that holds the driveshaft carrier bearing in place deteriorates, allowing the driveshaft to move. To repair this, you can either replace the Cardan shaft or replace the bearing as part of the Meyle driveshaft flex disc repair kit.
Noise and heavy vibration are the primary symptoms of a Cayenne Cardan shaft failure. There will be an extremely loud and fairly violent clunking/clanking coming from underneath the vehicle. There is almost no mistaking a Cardan shaft failure. While you could limp your Cayenne home if the Cardan shaft bearing fails, it's not advised to drive very far or very fast. Not that you would want to based on the violence coming from underneath the car.
Driveshaft Flex Disc
The driveshaft flex disc, also commonly referred to as the guibo, is a rubber disc that installs between the Cayenne's PTM/transfer case unit output to the rear of the car and the driveshaft itself. It is there to dampen any driveline shock and prevent damage to the driveshaft or transfer case and transmission. Over time and with use, the rubber will crack and tear, requiring replacement. It's typically a good idea to replace this when you either replace or repair your Cardan shaft. The Meyle HD flex disc kit includes a Cardan shaft bearing repair kit and is the most cost-effective way to repair both items at once.
Symptoms of a bad Cayenne driveshaft flex disc include visible cracking of the disc, as well as a noticeable vibration at highway speeds and occasionally noise. Periodic inspection of the disc when you're performing your oil changes is the easiest way to keep tabs on the condition and decide when to replace it.
Transfer Case Actuator
The Porsche Cayenne transfer case actuator is sometimes called the 'stepper motor,' and it does occasionally fail, usually due to lack of use. The transfer case actuator is what changes the Cayenne four-wheel drive system from high range to low range and is located on the transfer case/Porsche Traction Management unit. Lack of use causes the actuator to seize. Luckily, it's straightforward to replace. Owners can potentially avoid this problem by regularly activating their Cayenne's low range 4WD option. Once a month should be enough to keep things happy, and you don't need to drive far; just the process of changing ranges should be enough.
Symptoms of a bad transfer case actuator can vary. Most often, the Cayenne's 4WD selector switch won't work, and there will be an error message in the instrument cluster. Some Cayennes may experience mild vibration and clicking noises, as well as a sort of lurching acceleration at lower speeds. It can also get stuck in either low or high range 4WD mode. There is an updated version of the transfer case actuator from Porsche, so older models can be updated for the best performance.
Porsche Cayenne Drivetrain & 4WD System Service (955/957)
Porsche has the same recommended 160,000-mile service intervals for all of the other drivetrain components, including front and rear differentials and transfer case. While your exact use and driving habits will affect just how imperative it is to service your fluids early, we usually recommend changing these at the same time as your primary transmission fluid. That way, you get it all out of the way at once, and you don't have to tackle any major fluid services for another 60,000 miles.
- Front differential gear oil service - 60,000 miles
- Rear differential gear oil service - 60,000 miles
- Transfer case oil service - 60,000 miles
Whether your 955 or 957 Porsche Cayenne is a Tiptronic or manual, if you address the more common simple failures and follow a more rigorous and regular service interval than the one outlined by Porsche, you can have many hundreds of thousands of trouble-free driving.
If you have any questions or feel additions should be made to this guide, 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