With a new for ’09 and glorious sounding 2.9-litre flat-six engine producing 265bhp, the Cayman is no slouch. With the standard 6-speed manual gearbox (as opposed to the optional double-clutch PDK transmission), 62mph arrives in 5.8 secs while the top speed of 164mph takes a little longer. Moreover, the gearchange, clutch, brakes and other controls all feel so perfectly weighted and sweetly engineered that, regardless of the raw figures, driving it hard is a real pleasure in itself. Trouble is, I can’t help myself from thinking what the 310bhp, 170mph Boxster S might be like, or the 320bhp, 172mph Cayman S…
The suspension is certainly taut, and coupled with an extremely rigid bodyshell and low-profile 17-inch tyres, you can feel every ripple and nuance in the road, but amazingly the ride never jars and always remains comfortable. As mentioned above, all the controls, rack-and-pinion steering included, feel absolutely spot-on. There’s no play or vagueness and you can place the mid-engined Cayman on the road with absolute precision, almost without even thinking about it. It’s precise, taut, lithe, agile, responsive, nimble and superbly well-balanced. It also grips very tenaciously, is highly confidence inspiring and terrific fun to drive. I’d give it six stars here if I could.
About ten years ago I had a serious problem with the interiors of the Boxster and the 911 (ugly design plus cheapo buttons and materials). As far as I’m concerned, this has been fully addressed in both those models and the Cayman, but that still hasn’t stopped some testers from whining about some of the plastics (which look like aluminium) and one or two other details. However, I reckon they may not appreciate the simplicity of Porsche’s interior design and so tend find fault where there is none. Nothing’s perfect, but if there is a better built car than a modern Porsche, then I’ve yet to drive it.
Full-size frontal airbags offer good protection should it all go badly wrong, plus there’s also a window airbag on each side combined with a thorax side airbag on both sides. Seatbelt pretensioners and Porsche’s Stability Management system also come as standard. PSM comprises not only the ABS anti-lock brakes (among the best in the business), ASR drive spin control, MSR engine drag force control and the ABD automatic brake differential, but also the new Brake Pre-Loading and the Brake Assistant functions. Central locking, an engine immobiliser and an alarm are also listed as standard equipment.
The Cayman’s engine is in the middle, and so there’s effectively no stowage space immediately behind the seats. Instead the Cayman has ‘his and hers’ luggage compartments front and rear. The 150-litre front ‘boot’ is deep but short while the rear, 185-litre compartment extends to 260-litres if the rear parcel shelf space is also utilized. As this extra space can be seen through the rear screen, Porsche offers an optional swivelling security mechanism fastened by four rapid-action catches on the roof frame and the luggage protection bar behind the seats. Space for occupants is adequate, but it can’t be described as being particularly spacious. The seats, though, are terrific.
If you’re drawn to the Cayman’s tempting list of options, eg. The Sport Chrono Package, the active suspension, the PDK transmission or any of the sophisticated, high-level infotainment packages, then be prepared to dig deep. Options aside, a new Cayman – complete with leather, aircon, radio/mp3-compatible CD player with mono 5-in screen and electric windows etc. – can be yours for £36,101 (minus any discount you may skilfully negotiate yourself…). Combined fuel consumption is 30.1mpg, rising to 40.9 on the extra urban cycle – pretty reasonable for a 164mph car I’d say. The basic warranty is 2yrs/unlimited mileage while the service interval is 20,000 miles. No doubt about it, the Cayman is a great car, but serious enthusiasts will lust after the Cayman S, while those who like the wind in their hair will likely choose of the two Boxsters.