Calling 911 – the Porsche Cayman is coming up fast behind you

New Porsche is a credible alternative to the more expensive flagship sports car

Wed, Apr 10, 2013, 05:00

The Porsche Cayman has previously been regarded – unjustly – as a poor man’s 911. Not that you were particularly poor if you could spend over €60,000 on a sports car, but perhaps not rich enough to get the iconic Porsche.

In fact, the Cayman isn’t some value deal brought out in the last decade simply to bolster the brand’s presence in the car parks of five-star hotels. Porsche first introduced a two-seater, mid-engined sports coupe back in 1953, with the launch of the Porsche 550. They’ve proved the capability of this engine and chassis configuration, with 15 of their 16 Le Mans 24-hour race wins coming from mid-engined cars.

The Cayman may sit between the Boxster and the 911 within the model line-up; however, it’s a model that can rightly claim to be a viable alternative to the more expensive 911. This all-new Porsche Cayman has a more muscular and purposeful look than that of its predecessor. It now benefits from its own doors, as opposed to previously sharing the 911’s, with sculpted recesses aiding airflow into the engine. Through the extensive use of lightweight aluminium in the car’s construction, overall weight has been reduced by as much as 30kg. Another key benefit of this is the 40 per cent increase in torsional rigidity.The Cayman’s wheelbase has been lengthened by 60mm and the track widened by 40mm, with the overall height reduced by 10mm. These fundamental alterations result in improved stability and cornering suppleness.

Two Porsches
As with the two previous generations, the Cayman is available across two variants: the standard entry-level Cayman and the more powerful Cayman S. Porsche has downsized the Cayman’s engine from 2.9 litres to 2.7 litres; crucially, power has been increased by 10 horsepower, resulting in 275bhp produced from the flat-six boxer engine. The Cayman S’s engine capacity remains unchanged at 3.4 litres; it too sees an increase in power output, with 325bhp (up 5bhp) available. Power is transferred to the rear wheels through a standard fitment six-speed manual transmission, with Porsche’s twin-clutch PDK automatic transmission available optionally.

Porsche has come in for some criticism – justifiably – regarding the base specification of its cars. The carmaker seems to have taken note, with an increase in the standard equipment on both Cayman models. Of particular relevance is the inclusion of a 7-inch touchscreen control interface which sits neatly in the centre console.

There’s also a 4.6-inch colour display incorporated into the driver’s instrument cluster. You can easily toggle through various displays such as the trip computer and view navigation maps and guidance. The fit and finish of the interior is completed to the same plush standard found in Porsche’s high-end models, with precision-engineered quality switchgear evident throughout.

Improved appearance
The Cayman now has the purposeful appearance and equipment it somewhat lacked in previous generations; most importantly, this two-seater, mid-engined sports coupe exudes driver appeal.

Both models demonstrate immense all-round grip. Driving on some of Scotland’s highest roads in freezing conditions on our test route, the Cayman never once felt anything other than surefooted. The cornering ability of the car never fails to impress, with neck-jerking front-end grip on turn-in. The steering is accurately weighted on the heavy side; this provides you with instant feel and a connection with the road wheels.

One of the few options I’d indulge in on either model would be the Sports Chrono package. It incorporates dynamic transmission mounts; these offer more precise handling and feedback when cornering. When sport plus is selected with a manual transmission, there is an auto-blip feature installed.

The car will automatically “blip” the throttle when you downshift; it’s effectively doing a heel-and-toe manoeuvre for you – something I would normally do myself. I was sceptical at first, but it’s a clever piece of technology that certainly works. The optional twin-clutch seven-speed PDK transmission offers near-instant gear changes and is a must-have for daily commuting. Personally, I’d opt for the six-speed manual transmission.

After back-to-back drives of both Caymans, the most notable difference in the Cayman S is its power delivery. From low revs there’s instant response to the throttle inputs where a downchange may be necessary to extract acceleration in the standard variant. Nonetheless, once you climb over 4,000 rpm in the Cayman there’s sufficient power to achieve licence-losing speeds in just a few seconds. For over 90 per cent of the time I believe the entry-level Cayman will satisfy all needs. It costs more than €15,000 less than the Cayman S, with prices starting from €68,460, so you’ll save a few euro too.

Having recently driven both the new Porsche Boxster and 911 I can confidentially declare that this new Porsche Cayman has an identity of its own. Its sublime handling, styling and driving characteristics set it apart from its competitors. Porsche needn’t worry about competition from Audi, BMW and Lotus – the Cayman’s strongest competitor may come from within its own stable: the ubiquitous 911.

This isn’t a poor man’s 911 – it’s the smart money alternative.

The Lowdown: Porsche Cayman

ENGINE
2,706cc flat-six cylinder petrol putting out 275hp at 7,400rpm and 290Nm at 4,500 - 6,500rpm with a six-speed manual transmission
Cayman S: 3,436cc flat-six cylinder petrol putting out 325hp at 7,400rpm and 370Nm at 4,500 - 5,800rpm with a six-speed manual transmission

PERFORMANCE

0-100km/h 5.7 seconds, max speed 266 km/h
Cayman S: 0-100km/h 5.0 seconds, max speed 283 km/h

ECONOMY
Urban 11.4l/100km (24.8mpg) extra-urban 6.3l/100km (44.8mpg) combined 8.2l/100km (34.4mpg)
Cayman S: Urban 12.2l/100km (23.1mpg) extra-urban 6.9l/100km (40.9mpg) combined 8.8l/100km (32.1mpg)

EMISSIONS
(Motor Tax) 192g/km (€1,200)

Cayman S: (Motor Tax) 206g/km (€1,200)

SPECIFICATIONS
18" alloy wheels (Cayman S:
19" alloys), air conditioning, Auto Start-Stop, Sport Button on centre console, mp3 connectivity, automatic headlights (Cayman S:
Bi-xenon headlights), 4.6" TFT instrument luster display, (Cayman S: partial leather upholstery)

RIVALS
Audi TTRS 2.5 Petrol 340hp €83,020 (motor tax €1,200); BMW Z4 sDrive35i 3.0 Petrol 306hp €71,300 (motor tax €1,200)Lotus Evora 3.5 Petrol 280hp

PRICE €68,460
Cayman S: €84,136

RATING 9/10

OUR VERDICT One of the best-handling cars on the road