A week with a Porsche Cayman S

Posted in DriveL by Richard Porter on Friday, June 21st, 2013

AWWCayman1Day one: Here we go then; the second generation of the poor man’s 911. Except of course it isn’t. If you really wanted a 911 you’d buy a second hand one instead of a new Cayman. The Cayman is really the thinking man’s 911 because its engine is in the middle rather than bloody mindedly positioned in the 1930s. The old model had just one problem, image snobbery aside; it looked like a crap platypus. But here’s this new one, which I think looks rather squat and dense and excellent, a bit like a 7/8th scale version of a mythical ‘60s Le Mans car. The interior is less sexy, but everything’s in the right place and all the main controls feel very tight and solid, like proper pieces of engineering. It makes that nice, hollow flat six noise, like a consumptive robot coughing down a drainpipe.

Day two: I have to be in the north. The Cayman is not the most relaxing motorway car. There’s a lot of road noise and on anything but smooth surfaces it can get a bit wandery. And that’s at British motorway speed. I wouldn’t recommend trying to grapple a hot drink on an autobahn. In fact, I’m surprised the pop-out cupholder doesn’t have some kind of warning sticker on it; Nicht uber 130kmh! Kaffee gerspillen!

Safely in the north I go for a proper, helmsmithy drive across Cheshire. The Cayman turns out to be a very excellent thing in which to do this. It’s plenty brisk enough, it’s got a great deal of grip and the balance of the chassis is delightful. Only one thing bother me; the steering doesn’t always tell you much about what’s going on. The new Cayman has electric steering, cause of tantrums amongst Porsche fans when it turned up on the 911, and when you’re really going for it, you’re expecting to feel tiny sensations through the steering wheel that just aren’t there. I might be worrying about this too much. If you like driving, it’s basically a bloody good car.

AWWCayman2Day three: A drive back to London. This Cayman has the PDK double clutch paddle shift gearbox which includes what Porsche calls a ‘sailing’ function. At speed, when you lift off to coast, it drops whichever clutch it’s using so the car freewheels, apparently saving petrol. It’s a bit weird clipping along at motorway speed and watching the rev counter drop to an idle. Plus, you can feel the clutch close again when you touch the accelerator. It’s all a bit distracting. Also, you can’t help thinking it’s not very good for the car. Still, it seems to work. The Cayman reckons it’s doing 32mpg pretty much everywhere. For a 3.4-litre six cylinder car that encourages you to rag it, that’s very good.

Day four: I don’t know why Porsche sometimes does stripped out versions of its normal cars. You could just order a standard model. They’re rarely overburdened with kit. This test car, for example, is specced with 10 grand’s worth of options yet it still lacks stuff you’d get on an up-spec Mondeo like cruise control and heated seats. The driver’s seat recline is electric but the forward and back part is manual. It’s like they’re wilfully pushing you towards the reassuringly expensive options list.

Day five: Something else the Cayman lacks; remote volume controls on its steering wheel. It wouldn’t matter so much but the normal volume knob is a stretch and the gearlever is in the way. The same is true of the air recirculate button which you need to reach quickly these days since every mid-2000s diesel car pumps neat carcinogens through your vents when it accelerates. Still, it wouldn’t be a true Porsche without the noble tradition of slightly cockarsed ergonomics.

Day six: Tooling about London the Cayman is an easy going sort of thing. Leave the gearbox in auto and it gets on with things well, the ride is firm but strangely comfortable and the whole car is a good size for the city. Unlike a 911, you don’t have brief moments of neurosis about twatting its hips on a width restrictor. You could live with it in town every day and know that on high days and holidays it’s terrific on country B-roads too.

AWWCayman3Day seven: The Cayman is going away soon. I think I’ll miss it. Not in a wailing, gnashing, passionate way. More a sort of quiet reflection on just what a polished and reassuring all-rounder it was. The sort of rueful feeling you’d get if Huw Edwards stopped reading the news. That said, I was buying a Cayman I think I’d go for the manual gearbox. The PDK is great, but in a car like this you’d enjoy the sensation of changing gear. Taking it away is like kissing without touching. Also, I’ve driven the manual option in a Boxster and it’s bloody great. Come to think of it, so is the rest of the Boxster. It’s got all the good bits of the Cayman plus you can drop the roof down on a nice day and immediately make everything even nicer. So there we go; the new Cayman is great but for maximum enjoyment I’d get the convertible version.

The car talked about there is a Porsche Cayman S. It has a 321 horsepower 3.4-litre flat six engine, in this case connected to a seven-speed double clutch gearbox. It can go from 0-62 in 4.9 seconds (or 4.7 seconds if you spec the £1376 Sport Chrono Plus pack with launch control) and on to 174mph. It costs £48,783 although this test car was specced up to £58,757.

16 Responses to “A week with a Porsche Cayman S”

  1. Jennifer Warts says:

    There’s a very nice looking Porsche…. unfortunately hidden under all that hideous bodywork. It’s that famous German sense of humour at work. Sorry, verk.
    Hmmph! (in a Germanic accent)

  2. Lucas says:

    Love this car!

  3. Cliff Smith says:

    Well at least now I know which used car I’ll be buying in 15 years time.

  4. Morgan says:

    I know car manufacturers fit electric power steering to save money and lower emissions, which is fair enough…

    … If your business isn’t making performance cars. What’s fine for Ford, Vauxhall, Honda, Nissan, Toyota and the rest of them isn’t necessarily good for Porsche.

    Every review I’ve read of the new Cayman (including Sniff’s) says something along the lines of “great car, but slightly dulled steering responses”.

    Surely “great car, perfect steering” is worth more than a few g/km C02 or mpg?

    Or am I a delusional traditionalist, totally out of step with the modern world?

  5. Jennifer Warts says:

    Yes you are.

    And so am I. Hhmph.

  6. Joe Squadronleader says:

    Pah! Porsche Cayman, no thanks.
    My Kia Magentis turns more heads and helps me pick-up millions more birds than this frankly ridiculous heap of toss. FACT!

  7. flyingfridge says:

    I’d be willing to bet your Kia Magentis has hydraulic power steering too….

  8. Morgan says:

    Mmmm, the Kia Magentis. Fitted with engines described as sewing machine smooth, if I recall correctly.

    On a more serious note, a friend of a friend bought a nearly new Magentis some years ago. He took a MASSIVE bath on depreciation, and was actually SURPRISED it was only worth £5.50 and some pocket fluff when he moved it on.

    This is despite me laughing like a drain when he told me he’d bought a nearly new Magentis. That was your first clue, my friend.

    None of which has anything to do with the new Porsche Cayman S. Thread trash complete.

  9. yes morgan, you’re a deluded tradionalist, welcome to the club – now let’s jump in our TVR’s, where we can discuss the exquisite tactile sensations that can only be had from the pre-digital vehicular age, whilst reversing through the nation’s countryside hedges… : D

  10. Jennifer Warts says:

    Did somebody find reverse in a TVR gearbox? A precedent has been set.

  11. Graham Rix says:

    The new Cayman is better in every objective way than the old one. Faster in a straight line, faster around corners, better sounding, better looking, more comfortable and more economical.

    But the old model was more fun, more intimate and it was this way 10mph slower. The new model is fabulous, but too capable for southern England’s congested roads.

  12. Reverse is usually found still attached to the centre console, next to the remains of the hedge ; D

  13. Brandon Hatch says:

    Hedge-reversing in a TVR, as in a 911, is properly executed in a forward gear (usually third).

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