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I Bought the Cheapest Turbo Porsche in the USA

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author photo by Tyler Hoover June 2017

A few months back, I wrote about the Porsche 944 Turbo losing its status as the cheapest turbocharged Porsche. With 944 prices rising, and the first-generation Cayenne Turbo rapidly depreciating, the crown had officially been passed to Porsche's first venture into grocery getting. While researching the Cayenne, I fell in love with them, and immediately started shopping for one -- but it had to be really cheap.

Currently on Autotrader, there are three turbocharged Porsches listed for under $10,000. Two of them are early Cayenne Turbos, for around $9,000. For only $6,500, there's one 944 available -- but the listing has zero photos and scant details. I briefly looked on other sites for listings and recent comparative listings -- but I couldn't find anything cheaper. $6,500 seemed to be the lowest price for a clean title Turbo Porsche that was running and not wrecked.

With my small budget, finding a Cayenne Turbo that qualifies as "the cheapest in America" was very challenging. My access to a nationwide link of dealer auctions was my only hope -- but each promising candidate seemed to sell for way more. Finally, I was the high bidder on a black 2004 Cayenne Turbo in central Florida -- but it seemed too cheap. Scary cheap.

Since I couldn't inspect the Cayenne in person, I was buying totally blind. This might seem crazy -- and it totally is -- but there are some clues to help. Most of the nicer offerings at dealer auctions are listed with detailed photos and condition reports, much like you would find browsing Autotrader listings. Additionally, wholesale offerings from new car dealers have a much higher chance of being good cars, since most franchise groups don't bother keeping older inventory with higher mileage -- even if it's in nice shape. Used car dealer wholesale offerings can be more of a minefield, as many use the auctions as dumping grounds for cars that can't be fixed for a profit. It becomes an endless game of hooptie hot potato.

This Cayenne ticked all the good boxes. It was offered wholesale by a franchise Ford dealer, with a detailed condition report, and lots of service records from Porsche dealers. It has 144,000 miles and good options, like the gorgeous 19-in. wheels and tow package. I didn't have much hope for this one selling under my budget -- but, much to my surprise, I was the high bidder at $6,100. On a turbocharged Porsche!

I immediately wondered why it went for so cheap, with so few bidders -- but, unfortunately, I wouldn't know how bad it was until it arrived. I paid for the Porsche and booked shipping to Kansas, and then I patiently waited. Three weeks went by and I lost my patience. With all the snowbirds shipping their cars back north after spending the winter in Florida, there was a long backlog.

I was going crazy wondering what my Porsche was like, so I asked my friend and fellow automotive masochist Freddy "Tavarish" Hernandez to pick it up for me. The car was less than an hour from his house -- and he gleefully went to grab it. After some difficulty finding the car among the thousands at auction, it refused to start. Once he was able to jump it, he reported the 450-horsepower turbocharged V8 was running like garbage.

Freddy limped the Cayenne back to his house and hooked the car up to his scanner. The codes were all for misfires. This could come from a number of problems, ranging from fouled spark plugs to poor cylinder compression. In addition, there was a warning message for the air suspension. Things didn't look good.

The next morning, Freddy investigated the misfire and found the car had been sabotaged, likely by a different bidder at the auction. You see, a common trick used at auction by unscrupulous individuals is to unplug a few ignition coils before the car goes up for sale. The resulting rough-running engine and check engine light will scare off other potential buyers, keeping bids down for the saboteur. What this person didn't count on was an idiot bidding online from over 1,000 miles away.

With the engine running perfectly, I only had the air suspension to worry about, as well as a minor oil leak Freddy noticed. Another week went by before finally getting a shipper -- and the Porsche arrived more than a month after I purchased it.

I was very pleased with the car overall, but still worried about the suspension -- so I drove it to my mechanic almost immediately. My "Car Wizard" has the proper diagnostic equipment for most imports, and he was easily able to read the fault code. A ride height sensor was malfunctioning -- which was easily fixed with an $90 used sensor online. The oil leak was also a best case scenario, coming from the oil drain plug. With an oil change (9 quarts!) and a fresh drain plug washer, my cheap Turbo Porsche is now mechanically excellent.

As my video shows, the Cayenne Turbo is not what you would expect from a company known for sports cars. It's seriously heavy, with serious off-road equipment and towing capacity -- but it's still a serious rocket ship, too. The 5-second flat zero-to-60 time made the Cayenne Turbo the fastest production SUV at the time.

Now that I have one, it's time to test its capabilities -- and I certainly plan on being a little more gentle with this Porsche than my last one. There's no LS swap kit for the Cayenne.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
I Bought the Cheapest Turbo Porsche in the USA - Autotrader