Good grief, it's a slightly slower Porsche! What are they thinking?
Not everyone can afford the £43,930 for the Cayman S. So here's a Cayman minus the ‘S’ bit and minus a handy £7710. There are sacrifices to be made. The new base model is down 50bhp and 50lb ft of torque over the ‘S’, loses the six-speed gearbox, makes do with a basic cabin and sheds 40kg. Think of it as the low-cal, Diet Cayman Lite.
What lies beneath?
The Cayman borrows the very same 2.7-litre, six-cylinder, water-cooled boxer engine from the Boxster. As Porsche points out, the Cayman is more powerful than the Boxster - and they’re not lying, even if it’s up a slightly cynical 5bhp and 2lb ft of torque. Which translates to 245bhp and 201lb ft of torque and a 0-62mph time cut by 0.1secs and a top speed raised to 160mph (up 1mph). It's linked to the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox (as standard) or an optional six-speed manual. As ever a five-speed tiptronic box is offered but best avoided. The damping's been revised along with the anti-roll bars and high profile 235/55 R17 rubber help to make the base Cayman a slightly more forgiving car than the S.
What’s it like to drive?
Achingly good. The engine needs to be worked but the power delivery is smooth and linear with decent punch towards the top end. Combine this with superb feel through the thin-rimmed wheel and a hyper-rigid body and the Cayman emerges very special indeed. The body control and ride are marginally better on the standard steel springs combined with the more pliable 17-inch rubber. Opt for the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and the larger, 19-inch wheels and the ride becomes nervous. The standard five-speed gearbox is so good that you only occasionally feel the need for the closer ratios of the optional six-speeder.
Could you live with it?
Yes please. In addition to the luggage space under the nose (150 litres) you get another hatchback luggage space in the back providing another 260 litres for your bags. In contrast to the Boxster you can actually hear your passenger at motorway speeds, and it's comfortable and well built despite some cheap looking trim.
Why does the tin-top Cayman out-price the Boxster?
The Cayman costs £3580 more than the Boxster using very nearly the same engine and a cheaper-to-produce body shell. Porsche accounts for the premium by pointing out the different damping and (marginally) sharper performance. We're not convinced.
It's good. Very, very good. But too expensive by £4000. Options are extortionate too. Like those Porsche Turbo 19-inch wheels? That'll be £2200. Ouch. But you still find yourself doing the sums. Despite the optimistic prices it does little to dent the appeal of what is one of the most satisfying and entertaining cars you can buy. My choice? I'd stretch that little bit further, bypass the options list and go for a bog standard Cayman S. It has that edge, that raw appeal that the standard car is somehow lacking despite its better manners and more civilised ride. The softer Cayman is easier to live with but the S still has it.