Back in 2005 Porsche found itself the father to only two sports car sons; its first-born 911 and its baby Boxster. A middle child was required and this came in the form of the Porsche Cayman. For 2009 the Cayman has entered into a second generation receiving cosmetic and mechanical upgrades but remaining based on the platform of its Boxster sibling. To simply view the Cayman as a ‘Boxster Coupe’ is a massive oversight because the Cayman is hell-bent on carving out an identity all its own.
Car and SUV road tested the go-harder Cayman S variant with the optional PDK dual clutch transmission, a desirable combination for showcasing the updated Porsche’s performance credentials. Packed inside the Cayman S is a mid-mounted direct fuel-injected 3.4-litre six cylinder that now kicks out 253kW – an 18kW increase on the outgoing model. It’s an exciting power plant, the flat-cylinder howl that comes from the exhausts and the noise the engine generates behind the driver’s head is spine tingling. It’s a brawny yet flexible unit, responding with haste even from low revs and pulling with absolute gusto all the way to 7,200rpm where peak power is achieved. The new-generation motor benefits from direct-injection which sharpens engine response, improves carbon emissions and increases fuel economy (9.2l/100km).
Porsche’s commended PDK double-clutch gearbox does the cog work; it works seamlessly through the seven available gears providing subtle and smooth shifts. The PDK’s strength comes from its multiple personalities, being capable of economical tip-toeing around town but work the throttle and the speedy shift patterns will push the Porsche to peak performance. Manual shift operation is available on the steering wheel through sliding buttons that are pushed for up shift and pulled for down. While this system functions without issue, some drivers will prefer the more established paddle set up with ‘right paddle up, left paddle down’ operation.
Overall, the Cayman’s power train is pure class and will rocket the car from 0-100kph in 5.1 seconds. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional Sports Chrono Pack with launch control dropping the 0-100kph sprint time to a blistering 4.9 seconds. At the scary end the Cayman S won’t give up till it tops out at 275kph.
It was clearly important to Porsche that the Cayman S not surpass its flagship 911 for raw pace but no such restrictions were put on its handling capabilities. The handling was already near perfect and now it’s even better with a retuned suspension for the second generation. With a wide stance and fat tyres the grip on offer is staggering and throttle or brake can be applied mid-corner with complete confidence. All drivers can adjust safely and quickly to the Cayman’s agile handling, and its limits are higher than many will dare venture. Steering is direct and highly communicative, there is also genuine weight to the steering system, allowing the driver to muscle the Cayman through sharp bends and switchbacks. The Cayman S simply feels built for the open road it has a level of agility and poise that would be hard to match even by more expensive sports cars.
Ride quality is firm but compliant gobbling up dips and bumps in the road and any jarring doesn’t upset the handling. Some wind noise does enter the cabin and the wide tyres do generate significant road noise on rough surfaces but general comfort never feels compromised. There is nothing to suggest the Cayman S wouldn’t make a good touring vehicle, so long as you pack reasonably light.
Physically, the Cayman S has received light restyling, the 911 derived front end now features new light clusters and fog lamps. Along the flanks, gaping side air intakes and muscular wheel arches look fantastic and 18-inch alloys or optional 19’s boost up bling factor. When viewing the Cayman S from the rear and in profile it does look awkward with its fastback hatch dipping toward the rear bumper. It’s an indulgent styling line that’s only broken when the car hits 120km/h and the automated rear wing raises 80mm. The Cayman’s front end is timeless Porsche design but this elegance doesn’t shift fluidly into the rear aesthetic resulting in a car that’s still handsome and eye-catching but not totally stunning.
Step into the cabin and you’re greeted with a functional and immaculately built interior. Strictly a two-seater the Cayman still rejects any threat of claustrophobia with ample natural light entering and generous leg and headroom for both occupants. There is usable storage space with front and rear boots combining to provide a 410-litre capacity. The driving position is excellent; despite the low seating position front-facing visibility is uncompromised and the Cayman’s raked roofline doesn’t necessitate a sharply reclined seat. Occupants are wrapped up tight in soft perforated-leather sports seats and surrounded by high-quality dark plastics with silver accents. The interior receives some face lifted touches including a larger multifunction display screen that works well but the surrounding switchgear could be better laid out. The only small complaint for the Cayman’s cabin is the cup holders which are an innovative design but look precarious when filled with an open vessel.
When it’s time to throw down the anchors the Cayman is equipped with huge vented disc brakes interacting with four-piston aluminum calipers. A ceramic brake package is offered as optional equipment. Six airbags are standard fare including dual front airbags, side window airbags and side thorax bags. Additionally, the Cayman’s packing an advanced stability control system with traction control and brake assistance.
Priced at $161,000 with the PDK transmission a piece of performance kit like the Cayman S doesn’t come cheap, particularly considering it’s not Porsche’s top range model. While it doesn’t have the history, prestige and raw performance of the 911 the Cayman is a solid step up from the Boxster and an accomplished all rounder. Despite some polarizing exterior design there is a modern European elegance to the Cayman and a fireworks factory of bang for your buck. Clear its lungs and stretch its legs on a windy road with the flat-six engine providing the stereo soundtrack and any romantic notions that you really needed a 911 will be rapidly drowned out.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
Price: from $155,000 as tested $169,860
What we like:
- Exceptional handling ability
- Brawny and flexible power plant
- High quality and practical interior
What we don’t like:
- Awkward rear styling
- Cup holders
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Porsche Cayman S – Specifications
Layout / number of cylinders 6
Displacement 3,436 cm³
Engine layout/Drive Mid-engine
Power 235 Kw (320 hp)
Max. torque (Nm) at rpm 370 Nm at rpm 4,750
Compression ratio 12.5 : 1
Top speed 275 km/h (171 mph)
Acceleration from 0 – 100 km/h (0 – 62 mph) 5.1 s (4.9 s Sport+)
Acceleration from 0 – 160 km/h (0 – 99 mph) 11.2 s (10.9 s Sport+)
Elasticity 80 – 120 km/h (50 – 75 mph) 6.3 s 5th gear
Body Length 4,347 mm
Width 1,801 mm
Height 1,306 mm
Wheelbase 2,415 mm
Drag coefficient (Cd) 0.30
Unladen weight (DIN) 1,375 kg
Unladen weight (EG) 1,450 kg
Permissible gross weight 1,675 kg
Fuel tank 64 litres
Urban 14.1 l/km
Non-urban 6.6 l/km