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Car reviews - Porsche - Cayman - S coupe

Launch Story

Porsche logo20 Jan 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

PORSCHE’S two-seater Cayman S coupe has arrived Down Under and is now available as the least expensive coupe within the German sports car maker’s range.

Described as a Boxster derivative rather than a fourth model line (in addition to the Boxster convertible, 911 coupe/cabrio and Cayenne SUV), Cayman S offers a 50 per cent stiffer body than the open-topped, second-generation Boxster upon which it’s based.

According to Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl, the mid-engined Cayman S is more nimble to change direction, delivers higher cornering speeds and is more forgiving at the limit of adhesion than the company’s rear-engined 911 flagship, which is priced from almost $50,000 higher at $195,255.

Indeed, Porsche claims Cayman "sets a benchmark in the area of driving dynamics and active driving safety".

However, the Zuffenhausen car-maker is adamant the iconic 911 is still its sports flagship, with the entry-level 911 Carrera 2 – fitted with a 239kW 3.6-litre boxer engine - having recorded a best time at Germany’s famed Nurburgring of eight minutes and two seconds (7:59 with optional sports suspension).

Priced at $148,500 in six-speed manual guise (plus $7000 for the Tiptronic S five-speed auto version), Cayman S managed a best Nurburgring time of 8:20 in the hands of Rohrl – 8:11 with 19-inch wheels and PASM active suspesnion damping - which is substantially better than the $132,500 Boxster S has managed.

While the 3.4-litre boxer six in the Cayman S musters 217kW from its 3.4-litre boxer six at 6250rpm plus 340Nm of torque from 4400rpm – enough to propel it to 100km/h in 5.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 275km/h – a 206kW 3.2-litre boxer pushes the Boxster S to 100km/h in a claimed 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 268km/h.

Similarly, the base 997-series 911 offers claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of five seconds and a top speed of 285km/h, while the 911 Carerra S is even quicker at 4.8 seconds (0-100km/h) and faster at 293km/h (top speed).

The flagship (rear-drive) 911 Carrera S, powered by a 261kW 3.8-litre six, is priced at $221,100, while the entry-level Boxster – powered by a 176kW 2.7-litre engine – is priced at $107,400. It’s good for claimed 0-100km/h acceleration in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 256km/h.

Of course, as Cayman’s Nurburgring results show, real world performance and user-friendliness are better indicators of actual ability than claimed statistics, and Porsche – which is keen to downplay the Cayman’s outright pace in a bid to leave its top-shelf 911’s image intact - has always been conservative when it comes to performance claims.

In essence, however, the Cayman S engine is mid-way between Boxster S and 911 C2 in terms of displacement, but is closer to its Boxster S donor car than the 911 in terms of both power output and claimed acceleration.

Equally, Cayman S is priced at just $16,000 more than Boxster S, but a whole $46,725 below the least expensive 911. Of course, an entry-level Cayman –when it eventually arrives - is likely to confuse matters even further.

For now, however, Cayman S constitutes a compact two-seater coupe that will vie for sales with the Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW’s forthcoming Z4 coupe.

Presenting different proportions to both the 911 and Boxster, Porsche’s says the Cayman shape is most reminiscent of the 1953 550 coupe and the 904 Carrera GTS coupe.

Featuring separate fog lights and the Boxster’s trademark side air inlets, Cayman’s hallmark is a tapered rear-end that features an 1160 x 900mm rear hatch.

Apart from increased luggage capacity of 410 litres (260 beneath the tailgate, with a further 150 litres available up front), Porsche says the result is a body that sets new torsional rigidity benchmarks for the sports coupe segment, which at 31,500 Nm/degree is almost as stiff as the 911.

Featuring the Boxster’s variable power steering system with just 2.62 turns lock-to-lock, riding on 18-inch wheels and set-up with firmer springs, dampers and (front) anti-roll bars than Boxster S, Cayman S comes standard with Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and 318mm front and 299mm rear brake discs.

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM, which lowers the car by 10mm), 350mm Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) and four 19-inch wheel types are available as options.

Despite an extra 11kW of peak power over the Boxster S, the 1340kg Cayman S offers fuel consumption of just 10.6L/100km – only 0.2L/100km more than Boxster S.

Porsche Cars Australia’s Cayman S sales will be restricted by limited supply, but should amount to between 100 and 150 examles over its model life - two-thirds of which are expected to be manual initially.

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