Day 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.
Day 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.
Day 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.