Porsche Cayman S review
by David Finlay (13 October 2009)
Of all the cars that Porsche currently sells, the Cayman is the one that has the most going for it, dynamically speaking. Its engine is sensibly mounted within the wheelbase, rather than hanging off the back as in the 911, the body structure is stiff because the roof is part of it, rather than being a separate item as in the Boxster, and it is small and low to the ground, unlike the Cayenne which is the size of a house. The Cayman should therefore in theory be the best Porsche to drive, and in practice it really is.
The last Cayman I drove was a now discontinued version with a 2.7-litre engine. Its maximum output of 245bhp was distinctly unsexy, and I'm sure many potential buyers ignored it for that reason, but it had exactly as much power as it needed, and it instantly became my favourite Porsche ever.
It still is, but the recently-revised Cayman S runs it a close second. The 3.4-litre flat-six engine in this one produces a much more butch 320bhp, and it makes the car correspondingly quicker, with a top speed of 172mph (Porsche being one of the German manufacturers which does not follow most of the others in electronically limiting their models to 155mph if they have the ability to go quicker) and a 0-62mph time of not much over five seconds.
In terms of fuel economy there isn't officially much to choose between the two, as the S now manages very nearly 30mpg, a figure beaten only marginally by the old 2.7. It would be fair to say, though, that not many people are going to be able to match that in real life, since the temptation to floor the throttle pedal is very substantial.
That's not just because of the performance, which is of course splendid. It's also because of the noise. Like other modern Porsches, the Cayman S is actually fairly quiet in normal road use, but it starts to growl from about 4000rpm and shriek from 5500. The sound gives an even greater sense of acceleration than the fact that you are being pushed back into your seat, and it's all rather wonderful.
I'm only guessing here, but I imagine that for most Cayman S owners this musical gaining of speed will be the highlight of their driving experience. If so, they're missing out, because if you get the chance to push on through corners you realise just how delightfully poised the car can be. And it's even better if you do something like I did, which was to take the S round the Knockhill race circuit.
I did this with the S as well as with a 911 Carrera 2 and a Boxster. The road surface was very wet (it always seem to rain when I drove Porsches on a track) and although all three cars gripped well the dynamic advantages of the Cayman, as discussed in the first paragraph, were very obvious.
The Cayman was certainly the easiest to drive, possibly the quickest (though I couldn't swear to that because no lap timing was being done) and, probably not coincidentally, the one I stayed out in for longest. In dry conditions the others might have come close to its appeal, but I believe the Cayman would still have been the number one choice. It certainly remains the type of Porsche I would most like to own.
One final point: I don't know how much of Porsche's income is derived from optional extras, but it must be a substantial proportion. The test car was loaded with well over a dozen non-standard items, of which (in descending order of expense) satellite navigation, silver metallic paint, leather upholstery, bi-xenon cornering headlights, Porsche Active Suspension Management, electrically adjustable seats (why on earth are they not standard?) and Bose surround-sound audio all helped to push the price up from the basic £44,107 to a little over £55,000.