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Porsche Cayman S (2009) review

Published:04 December 2008

Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
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By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

Click here for the mini convertible video

The Porsche Cayman should have been a failure. The first pictures showed an ugly and ungainly coupe tottering on tiny 17-inch wheels, it cost a few grand more than its cheaper-to-build Boxster sibling and it should have always been overshadowed by its 911 big brother.

But that never happened. Even though Porsche was clearly trying to reign the Cayman back, all but the most committed Porschephile will admit it has always been snapping at the 911's heels. Others will even (whisper) that the Cayman is the better car.

And now, with the recent 911 facelift upping the rear-engined car's power, Porsche has given itself the space to let the Cayman breathe and perhaps create the car the little coupe always should have been. (Not that it was anything other than brilliant before). Read on for our first drive of the new Porsche Cayman S.

I can hardly spot the changes on the new Porsche Cayman. What’s been tweaked by Stuttgart?

Barely three years after its introduction the Cayman has had a mid-lift nip and tuck to keep it looking taut and tight until an all-new car arrives in 2012. Until then new front and rear bumpers, repositioned fog lights, revised headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED rear lamps keep the looks fresh, with a much more pleasing differentiation from its predeccesor that Porsche has managed with the latest 911 facelift.

Inside the new Cayman you’ll find Porsche’s latest multimedia touch-screen system (should you tick the options box), while the centre console is a classier black rather than the old car’s scratchy grey. The basic layout is the same but everything feels a step-up in quality terms.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Porsche Cayman S first drive

  

Any revisions to the engines? Does PDK and direct injection feature?

Yes, yes and yes. The basic boggo Cayman comes with a new 2.9-litre flat-six, with 261bhp (up 19bhp on the old 2.7), but we’ve driven the new 3.4-litre flat-six with 49 extra cc's, direct injection and other engineering tweaks. Its means power and torque is lifted from 291bhp/251lb ft to 315bhp and 273lb ft, so acceleration is much brisker and there's lots more pleasing mid-range grunt to keep those pesky high-powered diesel repmobiles at bay.

Add in the optional (£1920) seven-speed double-clutch PDK gearbox (over the sweet-shifting six-speed manual) and you’ll be able to knock out 5.2 second 0-62mph runs. Or if you engage launch control mode – part of the Sport Chrono Package – that drops to 4.9, matching a manual Carrera after one upshift is banged through the dual-clutch 'box.

It's just a pity that PDK, while a technical marvel, is still a push-to-upshift/pull-to-downshift counter-intuitve device. But PDK does mean 30.1mpg, up from the old self-shifting Cayman S figure of 25.7mpg. And the fancy gearboxs cuts a further 2g/km off the CO2 figure, dropping it to 221. That's mainly because the gearbox, when left in auto mode, quickly shifts into 7th gear and you pootle round at 1500rpm.

What about the chassis and suspension?

Porsche didn’t tweak too much, so good was the current car. But should you wish to indulge in the options list you can spec 19-inch wheels (18s are standard), ceramic brakes, a PASM chassis with swtichable suspension or a limited-slip diff (£737). But put it altogether and those (great looking) 19s, with PASM set in Sport, cause the Cayman to tramline across the road and slam into potholes.

But if you like a bit of rough then you'll like the Sport Plus mode which tunrs PDK into an animal. It downshifts at the merest hint of throttle and let's you blast around on it everywhere. Get the optional dual-tone exhaust too and everyone will hear you coming. We like.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Porsche Cayman S first drive

What else?

Quite importantly, pushing it around the streaming wet roads of Stuttgart, I reckon its better than the base Carrera. But we'd still stick with a manual gearbox, 18-inch wheels and the standard chassis. And if you can't afford the S, a basic Cayman will still be absolutely, unbelievably brilliant.

And credit to Porsche for the steering. This is no semi- of fully-electric system desgined to save fuel, but a proper hydraulic-only set-up. Relaxed around the straight ahead, alert the moment you twist the wheel and even sharper beyond 30deg steering angle. More so than the throttle or amazing brakes, the steering connects you directly to the Cayman's core.

And I suppose it’s pretty practical, too.

It’s actually not all that great. All Porsche sports cars have a similar front boot, while the 911 has those rear seats and the Boxster has a lidded boot. The Cayman's hatch just can't complete. Big blokes will also struggle to fit and there's heat intrusion from the drivetrain.

Verdict

The Cayman S has always been a brilliant car, and it’s just got better. Okay, Porsche’s pricing is cheeky, only 18s and air-con are the notable standard equipment and its not all that spacious. But it is an amazing driving machine and if the credit crunch is hitting you, meaning you can't afford that 911, we can think of no better substitue than a Cayman S.  

911 or Cayman? Or would you never go near a Porsche? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Specs

Price when new: £44,108
On sale in the UK: February 21 2009
Engine: 3436cc flat-six, 315bhp @ 7200rpm, 273lb ft @ 4750rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.1sec 0-62mph, 171mph, 30.1mpg, 221g/km
Weight / material: 1350kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):

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  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche Cayman S (2009) CAR review

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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