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Until a hypothetical three-row SUV arrives, the Cayenne is Porsche’s biggest vehicle. But while it’s a sporty luxury SUV, the Cayenne is more capable off-road than many realize or give it credit for. And because secondhand examples are often surprisingly affordable, a used Cayenne can kick butt on dust or pavement on a somewhat reasonable budget. However, the 2012 Porsche Cayenne currently listed on Cars & Bids has another special feature: a manual transmission.

The second-gen ‘958’ Porsche Cayenne was the last to rock the manual and a VR6

A silver 2011 '958' Porsche Cayenne driving down a road next to an ocean
2011 ‘958’ Porsche Cayenne | Porsche
2011-2014 Porsche Cayenne
Engine3.6-liter VR6
Horsepower300 hp
Torque295 lb-ft
TransmissionSix-speed manual
Eight-speed automatic
Curb weight4398 lbs
0-60 mph time7.1 seconds

Yes, it’s true, the Porsche Cayenne was one of the few SUVs with a manual transmission. A standard manual to boot, at least with the base V6. Or rather, VR6.

Let’s back up a bit. When Porsche introduced the first-gen ‘955/957’ Cayenne in 2003, it shared a platform with the contemporary Volkswagen Touareg, MotorTrend explains. Thus, it could use some of the VW SUV’s engines. For example, Volkswagen’s iconic VR6. Although some—Porsche and Volkswagen included—call it a ‘V6,’ the VR6 is technically a V6/inline-six mashup. And it first appeared in 3.2-liter form in the base 2004 Cayenne complete with a standard six-speed manual.

Then, in 2011 Porsche updated the Cayenne into its second-gen ‘958’ form. Although the SUV ditched its 4WD system for AWD, it got lighter and sharper, winning MotorTrend’s 2011 SUV of the Year Award in the process. Also, the base Cayenne’s 3.6-liter VR6 got a power boost to 300 hp. And while an eight-speed automatic was available, the standard six-speed manual was faster to 60 mph. Plus, because the Volkswagen R32 was now auto-only in the US, a base 985 Porsche Cayenne was the only way to get a 3.6-liter VR6 with a stick. The keyword there is ‘was,’ because Porsche dropped it after 2014.

Admittedly, even with a manual, a ‘V6’ Porsche Cayenne isn’t fast per se. However, it’s still a supremely capable and sporty luxury SUV. Even with the manual, it can tow up to 5952 pounds. Furthermore, it comes standard with features like four-wheel discs, stability control, traction control, a power liftgate, automatic dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, Bluetooth, TPMS, and automatic wipers. And not only are its interior ergonomics and materials excellent but the SUV “can be hustled along with gusto,” Edmunds says.

You can get one of these stick-shift Cayennes right now on Cars & Bids

A gray 2012 Porsche Cayenne manual parked on a gravel driveway
2012 Porsche Cayenne manual | Cars & Bids

As per usual with Porsche, the 2012 Cayenne came with an extensive list of optional extras. And the example currently listed on Cars & Bids has checked quite a few of those boxes.

In addition to the standard equipment, this 2012 Porsche Cayenne has front and rear parking sensors, GPS navigation, heated front seats, a power-operated sunroof, and 18” wheels. Also, it has a trailer hitch, roof rails, fog lights, upgraded power steering, and auto-dimming mirrors. And let’s not forget that six-speed manual.

The black dashboard and black-leather front seats in a 2012 Porsche Cayenne
2012 Porsche Cayenne manual dashboard | Cars & Bids

With roughly 131,000 miles on the clock, this 2012 Porsche Cayenne isn’t in perfect shape. But apart from some nicks, scratches, and underbody rust, it’s solid. Plus, it’s a one-owner vehicle with a zero-accident history and plenty of service records. Speaking of service, the seller replaced the transfer case and battery last year; this year they replaced the front tires.

A manual second-gen Porsche Cayenne like this 2012 one can be a reliable luxury SUV bargain

As of this writing, this manual 2012 Porsche Cayenne is listed at $14,700 with three days left in the auction. That’s less than a quarter of its original sticker price. And the cheapest Cayenne in similar spec on Autotrader right now is about $3300 more expensive and has over 22,000 more miles.

Given that a used Porsche Cayenne is still a Porsche, running costs and reliability might worry potential bidders. As always, a pre-purchase inspection is recommended. However, although some versions of the Cayenne have had significant issues, a base VR6 manual avoids most if not all of them. The 3.6-liter VR6s are some of the most reliable Porsche engines out there and don’t suffer the plastic coolant line failures that some of the V8s did. Nor does it have the ignition-coil problems that the 3.2-lite VR6s sometimes develop.

Also, although the 2012 Porsche Cayenne had some transfer case problems, the seller already replaced it. In addition, this Cayenne doesn’t have adaptive suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes, or an automatic: fewer expensive parts to replace. Basically, the only potential headaches left are age-related issues.

In short, a manual 2012 Porsche Cayenne like this one could be an affordable entry into the sporty luxury SUV world.

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