The new ‘981-generation’ Porsche Cayman S is 30kg lighter than the outgoing model, 5bhp more powerful, and boasts same the classy interior as its soft-top Boxster sibling. Is it still the £40-50k sports car benchmark?
Porsche Cayman S: the spec
The new Cayman is bigger than before: its wheelbase is 60mm longer, and it now rides on 19-inch rims as standard. Porsche claims the body structure is 40% stiffer than the old car's too. The Cayman S uses a 3.4-litre flat-six engine, developing 321bhp. It’s essentially a detuned version of the motor found in the back of a 991 Carrera, pushing 1385kg of mid-engined Cayman down the road.
As with all new Porsches since the 991, the power steering is now assisted by an electric motor, rather than hydraulics. You can upgrade the standard six-speed manual gearbox to a seven speed dual-clutch PDK auto, and there’s the usual mind-boggling array of pricey options.
In the optimum spec, the Cayman S will hit 62mph in 4.6sec, top out at 176mph, and return around 35mpg.
What’s the new Cayman like to drive?
First off, it's fast: quicker than a Cayman R and even a manual 991 Carrera to 62mph. Get brutal with the power and you'll easily overcome the chassis's benign balance and provoke big slides from the tail.
The Cayman feels nimble, and though its natural reaction to ham-fistedness is a dollop of understeer, being precise with your throttle inputs yields real balance and delicacy. However, although the mid-engined chassis handles beautifully, the electric power steering feels more mute than the the outgoing hydraulic rack's, and it can make slight, self-correcting inputs on bumpy roads that are an unwelcome intervention.
The six-speed ‘box has a crisp manual gearchange action, though the more economical and whip-crack fast PDK box is well worth the extra £1922. Standard steel brakes offer peerless strength and feel: would you ever long for £4977 of carbon-ceramic stoppers? We think not.
How does it stack up with a 911? You'll find out in the March issue of CAR magazine, on UK sale 20 February...
Could you live with a Cayman every day?
Yes, easily. Our test car was fitted with Porsche Active Suspension Management, which lets drivers choose between Normal and Sport chassis settings. It's cleverer than before though: even in Sport the Cayman's ride stays relatively soft if the driver is holding back. We haven't tried the standard suspension yet, but if it's anything like a base-spec 911 chassis it'll be a safe choice.
Another chassis option is PTV (Porsche Torque Vectoring), which pairs a mechanical differential lock with the car's ABS brain, and slows the inner rear wheel on turn-in to make the Cayman corner harder on tight bends. With PTV, the car is slightly more eager and has even better traction, but you won't find a standard car wanting!
The Cayman's leather-smothered cabin is slightly roomier than before, befitting of something that will likely be specced beyond £50,000 by owners. The button-heavy approach is an acquired taste: if you're an old-school switch fetishist (like CAR’s Ben Pulman with his Panamera GTS long-termer) you'll be okay, but ex-Audi and BMW drivers will long for a rotary dial.
Fast, well-built, sporty and safe, the new Porsche Cayman is a soulful and emotional drive. The brakes, transmission, handling and cabin are all top-of-the-class material, and though it's spec-sensitive, the new Cayman is basically a brilliant car.
For a full ten-page feature on the new Porsche Cayman, including our verdict on how the Cayman compares with the iconic 911, pick up the March issue of CAR magazine, on sale 20 February.