CAYMAN S REVIEW
Viewed in the most simplistic terms, Porsche's Cayman is little other than a Boxster with a tin top. It is, of course, much, much more than that, a crucial stepping stone to Porsche 911 ownership, especially in its latest 3.4-litre S guise.
With prices pitched at around the £45,000 mark, it isn't cheap, so if that's a little on the high side and you don't need 320bhp, there's also a 2.9-litre entry-level Cayman variant with 265bhp for nearly £10,000 less.
The Cayman S is powered by a 3.4-litre flat six with 320bhp. This engine features direct fuel injection technology which precisely controls the quantity and timing of fuel injections into the combustion chambers. It can adapt according to the inputs of the driver providing optimum performance when it's called for or better economy if you go easier on the throttle. In a Cayman S featuring the fitted with Porsche's PDK double clutch gearbox and Launch Control, a 0-60mph trip takes 4.9s.
An automatic Porsche was once frowned upon by the marque's aficionados in the same way as a Suzuki GSX-R1000 with stabilisers might be viewed in superbike circles. The PDK gearbox models, by contrast, encourage nothing but respect from those in the know. It's a twin-clutch 'box which shifts between ratios many times faster than you can say Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (don't worry, we'll stick to PDK from now on). The system actually shaves 0.1s from the 0-62mph time of an expertly driven six-speed manual car, such are the slickness and speed of its shifts. With the optional Launch Control function which manages traction off the line, a further 0.2s can be stripped from the performance envelope.
Porsche has shown us with the 911 its fondness for settling on a styling direction for its cars and sticking to it like a like a mute monk to his vow of silence. Sure enough, the latest facelifted Cayman isn't hugely different from the original car. The latest car has reshaped headlamps with indicators built in that resemble the units on the Carrera GT supercar. The air-intakes below have also been reshaped with horizontal bars for the outer ones in the front bumper that also house LED side lights. There's more of the in vogue LED lighting at the rear where the bumper has come in for some subtle tweaks. Far more salient are the changes to the suspension and steering designer to enhance the Cayman's exemplary driving experience.
"A classy act that's hard to resist.."
Having tinkered with the suspension settings on the Cayman, Porsche predictably claims improvements to both handling and comfort. The power steering system has also been remapped with the aim of achieving a more agile and spontaneous feel. The Porsche Stability Management system is rightly regarded as the leading technology of its type and now features Brake Pre-Loading that primes the brakes in anticipation when the driver lifts off the throttle suddenly. An optional feature that's now available will please those who felt the Cayman was only a limited slip differential away from being a better car than the 911: it's a limited slip differential. This ensures that the car can put its power down more effectively in extreme handling scenarios and will be a must for buyers planning to take their car to the track.
The Cayman S shares around half of its componentry with the Boxster S in order to share development costs between the two product lines but aside from that roof, there are some notable differences. Although track and wheelbase is the same as per the common platform, the suspension has been modified to endow the Cayman with a sharper feel. Firmer springs, stiffer dampers, meatier anti-roll bars and beefier bushings all combine to give the Cayman a more focused agenda. There have also been changes to the stability control system and the anti-lock brakes to give keen drivers a little more margin for experimentation. Built alongside the Boxster at the Valmet plant in Finland, Porsche aim to sell around 10,000 Caymans each year.
The audio and communication systems have been comprehensively upgraded in the latest model. The standard car gets a plush CD radio system but the set-up to have is the optional PCM (Porsche Communication Management) version 3.0. This includes a hard disc satellite navigation server and a 6.5" touch screen monitor which houses all the controls neatly under one roof. Voice control makes the interface even more user-friendly and further options box ticking will bring iPod, USB and Bluetooth compatibility.
Even Porsche has to be seen to be green these days and the latest Cayman includes a number of features designed to keep running costs down through improved efficiency. The direct injection technology on the Cayman S helps, as does the PDK gearbox which is more efficient than the manual. With the PDK, the Cayman S squeaks over the 30mpg barrier and emits 221g/km which is very creditable in a car with this kind of pace.
Although the styling may still divide opinion, it's unlikely there will be anything about the Cayman's driving dynamics that generate cause for complaint. Is it better than a 911? No, it's different and very, very effective. 911 owners will still want another 911 but for many other customers, this will be a classy act that'll be hard to resist.