Car reviews - Porsche - Cayman - PDK
Cheaper thanks to wide-reaching price cuts, cracking soundtrack from mid-mounted boxer engine, Panamera grand tourer-influenced interior, sublime balance
Room for improvement
Still a price inversion compared with Boxster, expensive options list
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2 Sep 2013
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
PORSCHE asks $107,100 for the 2.7-litre six-cylinder boxer-engined Cayman fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. Adding the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, similar to our test car, pushes the price of entry out to $112,400.
Before you rush up to buy one, though, look around the Porsche showroom. That big Cayenne soft-roader over in the corner with five seats, a 180kW 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine mated to an eight-speed auto and a big boot costs from $101,100.
Per kilo, then, the Cayman looks a little expensive, and that’s before you even start to kit it out with a few individual options.
Our test car included a sport chrono package that adds a precision chronograph high on the dash and new engine mounts, costing $4790, 19-inch wheels normally fitted to the bigger-engined Cayman S costing $3390 and replacing the standard 18s, metallic paint ($1850), a premium Bose audio system ($1450) and $950 for a sports steering wheel. A spoiler pops up from behind the rear window at way-off-legal road speeds to help with high-speed stability.
All up, our test car’s cost blew out to $124,830.
With options it’s more expensive than the comparative opposition. BMW’s Z4 fitted with a 3.0-litre in-line twin-turbo six cylinder engine costs from $119,545 and comes with a folding metal roof, Mercedes-Benz’s SLK350 costs from $119,950 and includes a folding tin lid and 3.0-litre V6, and Audi’s fixed-roof TT S costs from $98,400.
So the Cayman is a bit exxy by comparison. It must come with a pretty rich list of standard gear, then?
Yes, but looks can be deceptive. Jump in behind the wheel of the Cayman in the comfortable, well-supported driver’s sport seat with its integrated headrest, and you’ll initially think the creature comforts are spread a bit thin.
The well-made cabin looks a bit plain – a leather-wrap steering wheel with no buttons on it, a traditional handbrake lever, a gearshift lever lined with rows of Panamera-inspired buttons, a pair of electronically adjusting seats, a multimedia screen and some industrial-looking air-conditioning controls.
Tucked in behind the steering wheel are only three instrument binnacles – digital and analogue – compared with the five that other larger cars in the Porsche garage sport.
However, behind the scenes is a pretty cutting-edge car. The radio hooks up to a seven-speaker system by default, and connects via Bluetooth to your phone.
You can store your favourite driving songs to the Cayman’s hard disc, find that favourite bit of twisty road via a sharp-looking satellite navigation screen, and even just walk up to the locked car with the key in a pocket, pull on a door handle and the Cayman will automatically unlock.
Part of the theatre of owning a Porsche is starting the engine. You still need to crank the ignition barrel by hand, although the key is a sculptured silhouette of the Cayman that is almost as impressive as the car itself.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel – it hasn’t yet headed down the squared-off bottom route – is free of any buttons, and therefore, any distractions. We’re driving the model with the twin-clutch seven-speed auto, which includes a pair of paddle shifters – left for downshifts, right for upshifts – tucked in behind the horizontal spokes.
Changing between the “Sport” and “Sport+” modes for the engine, gearbox and electronic safety net mappings lights up an indicator on the left-hand spoke of the wheel – very cool.
Small-item storage space is adequate, but the ergonomics of reaching almost behind you to stash mobile phones, wallets or even purses – yes, a lot of women buy Porsches – suggests it isn’t quite perfect. The passenger footwell gets a netting bag, while an adequate storage space sits behind the engine, and a big hole under the bonnet swallows a decent-sized suitcase. The doors have shallow flip-out bins, too, and a pair of pop-out cup-holders are hidden away behind the trim above the glovebox.
Let’s put things in perspective, though this base-model Cayman is lighter, larger, more powerful and less expensive than the original Cayman S launched here back in 2006. That has to be a good thing.
Engine and transmission
When it comes to engines, Porsche reviews are often full of gushing superlatives. I don’t see any reason to avoid that.
The 2.7-litre six-pot sitting behind the front seats has evolved over time.
Producing 202kW of power at a giddy 7400rpm, and 290Nm of torque between 4500-6500rpm, it’s an engine that works best with the right foot well and truly buried in the carpet floor mat.
Pace builds linearly and progressively, and while the smaller engine in the Cayman line-up is punchy, straight-line acceleration is a little underwhelming and lacks that big shove in the back that the badge on the bonnet suggests it should have. The 0-100km/h time is still 5.6 seconds, though, so it is no slouch.
Danke Gott, then, for that seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox, or PDK in Porsche-speak. Knock the gear lever across into its manual mode, release the brake, mash the accelerator, and the Cayman will race through the gears while the engine hangs in the upper third of the centrally mounted tacho in the instrument cluster.
Pull on the right-hand lever, and the gearbox snaps into a higher ratio as the distinctive metallic rasp and mechanical hum just behind your head builds in volume. Jump on the brakes and grab the left-hand paddle, and the engine revs angrily as though there is a direct connection between it and the gear shifter.
Officially the Cayman will use 7.7 litres of premium unleaded fuel for every 100 kilometres it travels, making it just as good for the environment as an entry-level Corolla featuring a 2.0-litre four cylinder engine. Reality, though, was a bit different for us, with the trip computer showing just over 10.0L/100km.
Ride and handling
Get ready for more glowing superlatives, because the Cayman corners like it is on rails.
Balance in the car is perfect, and the chassis is above and beyond what the engine can squeeze out of it.
Mashing the throttle will induce a bit of wheelspin, and pushing the Cayman too hard into a corner will induce a mild case of prolonged understeer as the car’s electronic stability control just keeps a watchful eye over proceedings rather than stepping in and killing the fun, but it is all very well contained.
Grip from the big, wide Pirellis – following the car down the street, the Cayman’s profile looks like a hunched-over, chubby kid in shorts that are a couple of sizes too big – is tenacious.
For a sports car, too, the ride is really well sorted. OK, the tyres are noisy over coarse-chip roads at highway speeds, but the ride is as gentle and cosseting as any European luxury car no matter how choppy the surface becomes.
The progressive brakes stand up well to repeated punishment, and the electrically assisted steering that varies according to speed, while lacking just that final little bit of precision on centre, is as wonderfully communicative as ever.
Please don’t compare it with a Toyota 86. Toyota fits its 2+2 sports coupe with skinny, low rolling resistance tyres normally used on the Prius to lull owners into a false sense that they’re pushing the car’s limits. With the Cayman, there’s none of that ego plumping going on.
Safety and servicing
There’s no independent crash test result for the Cayman, but with six airbags and the German sportscar maker’s reputation at stake, you can be sure it will perform well.
Porsche’s warranty on the Cayman runs to three years and covers unlimited kilometres. Roadside service is included, and the car will let you know via the dashboard when it needs a visit to the workshop – especially if it has a hard life between service intervals.
It’s expensive, yes, but in terms of a sportscar that lives up to expectations, the Cayman delivers. If the apparent performance deficit worries you, the Cayman S sports a bigger 3.4-litre flat six producing 239kW and 370Nm and costing about $30,000 more.
In reality, though, the boggo Cayman is fine as it is. I’ll have one any day.
BMW Z4 sDrive35is (From $119,545 before on-roads).
Just updated. This is the range-topper, and includes a tin folding roof behind a twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder engine producing a stonking 250kW and 450Nm from low in the rev range. We’re yet to spend some alone time with the car, but BMW says it is more value-packed than before. Good to drive, but not up to Porsche standards.
Audi TT S (From $98,400 before on-roads).
Mates an uber-quick 2.0-litre turbo four-pot up to all-paw grip via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Produces 200kW and 350Nm, is an aluminium and steel hybrid, looks good, but lacks some of the handling sparkle you want from a pedigree sportscar. Expensive options list, but the money you save on buying the Audi will add a fair bit of fruit.
Mercedes-Benz SLK350 (From $119,950 before on-roads).
Another folding roof, but look at it as a bonus. Sharp to drive and a lot of fun behind the wheel, the 3.5-litre V6 under the long hood spits out 225kW and 370Nm. Just as quick as the Cayman in a straight line, but lacks the same poise and balance once the road starts to twist. Well-equipped, including heated neck-warmer for those cool spring mornings.
MAKE/MODEL: Porsche Cayman
ENGINE: MR 2.7-litre boxer six-cylinder
LAYOUT: Front engined, rear drive
TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
TOP SPEED: 250km/h
EMISSIONS: 180g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: MacPherson (f)/MacPherson (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: Ventilated disc (f)/Ventilated disc (r)
PRICE: From $107,100 before on-roads ($112,400 with PDK transmission)
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