Road Tests

Porsche Cayman: Test & VIDEO

Time 13 years ago

caymanWhat’s the best car Porsche makes? The 911, surely? Well, look at where the smart money goes, and the Cayman is definitely in with a shout.

It has always been great to drive, for thousands less than its famed icon – and now, freshly face-lifted, with direct injection and the 911’s PDK gearbox, it’s even more compelling.

In typical Porsche style, you’ll be hard pressed to spot the changes. Outside, the detail mods are minimal in the extreme, pleasing the car-spotting aesthete rather than the gung-ho sort who want everything to be ‘new’. Instead, Porsche has spent all its time drilling improvements into the bits beneath.

As a range, it’s more powerful, economical and less polluting. The Cayman S gets direct fuel injection to further enhance these attributes too. Also available is Porsche’s mesmerising dual-clutch PDK gearbox. It’s like a VW DSG unit, with seven speeds and near-instantaneous changes.

With any Porsche, you never stand around for too long looking at it. Time for that later. Instead, drop down into the superb seat (of which dealers can up-sell myriad options). You’ll briefly note that it’s brilliantly practical – strict two-seater it may be, but there’s a combined total of 410 litres of luggage room in the front and rear compartments, which on paper is more boot space than a Ford Focus! Quality is also top notch, but options are very expensive.

The important bit is firing up that that mid-mounted flat-six engine and giving it full beans. The ‘basic’ model gets a capacity bump from 2.7 to 2.9 litres and a consequent 20bhp boost to 265bhp. Now with a standard six-speed gearbox, 0-62mph is 5.8 seconds (down from 6.1) and 5.7 seconds with PDK – a whole 1.3 seconds faster than the old Tiptronic S car.

The S stays at 3.4 litres, direct-injection and various other tweaks unleashing another 25bhp to give 320bhp and slash 0-62 from 5.4 seconds to 5.2. With PDK it’s even more impressive, the outgoing car’s 6.1-second sprint falling to 5.1 seconds, with 4.9 seconds possible using the launch control mode offered with the optional Sports Chrono package.

That’s just 0.4 seconds slower than a similarly equipped 911 and the Cayman S PDK feels every bit as fast as the numbers suggest. In auto mode, PDK is almost too slick to be sporty, manual override is the answer with the optional Sports Plus slamming shifts home with a thump.

As for handling, there wasn’t much wrong with it, so Porsche has wisely confined itself to detail changes for the chassis and suspension. Optional PASM suspension adds about £1,000 to the price, but offers two distinct settings via computer controlled adjustable dampers.

Riding 10mm lower than the standard set up, in standard mode PASM is relatively plush, the Cayman riding with more composure than the 911 thanks to its centred weight distribution. Sport mode, however, is only really suitable for smoother Tarmac and when you’re really pressing on.

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There’s also now an optional limited-slip differential, which racks up the aggression another notch and offers keen drivers extra throttle adjustability and improved traction. But, as it stands, the £44k Cayman S’s sublimely weighted steering, brilliant brakes and inherent balance make it a delight to drive at any speed. It’s even more green. All models now slip under the 225g/km threshold, with big savings on VED and company car tax as a result.

PDK has the most dramatic effect, when compared against the old Tiptronic S auto option. Previously 28mpg on the Cayman, PDK improves this to 31mpg, the S going from 25.7 to 30.1mpg.

The basic formula remains as appealing as ever. Beneath those slightly lumpy proportions lurks quite simply one of the finest driver’s cars around. Indeed, the Cayman is almost too good, presenting Porsche with a tricky conundrum if it’s to stop it pinching sales from its £30k-dearer big brother. But, with 911 buyers apparently unwilling to trade down, we’re sure dealers will find it a welcome problem to have… 

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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