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911 still the Porsche king

Upstart: Cayman is officially 12 seconds slower than 911 at the Nurburgring.

Porsche dismisses claims Cayman will be quicker than its 911 sports flagship

Porsche logo21 Jun 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

PORSCHE has dismissed claims its forthcoming Cayman coupe is quicker at the Nurburgring than its 911 flagship.

The German super-coupe maker has also clarified its own position that the forthcoming Cayman coupe sets a new dynamic benchmark, and denies claims that the mid-engined Boxster derivative will significantly cannibalise sales of its iconic 911 sports car flagship.

Due to make its public debut at September’s Frankfurt motor show before arriving in Australian Porsche showrooms around March, Cayman S will be priced around $50,000 less than the entry-level 911 Carrera at around $150,000.

While Porsche marketers concede that between three and five per cent of potential 911 buyers may instead be swayed toward Cayman, the company remains adamant that 911’s status as Porsche’s performance leader is not in danger.

According to Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl, the 217kW Cayman S lapped Germany’s legendary Nurburgring road circuit in a respectable eight minutes and 11 seconds – not faster than the standard Carrera 2, as some European reports have claimed, but in fact nine seconds slower.

And Porsche’s global press relations manager Michael Bauman says the press release that last month announced Cayman “sets a benchmark in the area of driving dynamics and active driving safety” compared the new Boxster derivative with similarly priced rivals – not 911.

"I don’t think we’re really comparing a 911 to a Boxster-series car," he said. "We still think Boxster and Cayman are really a different series to 911.

"We’re talking mid-engine and rear-engine, for a start, so in its class of sports coupe at that price it sets a new standard.

"We try to achieve a best-in-class (result) with every product we do. We think that whoever considers buying a 911 will not consider a Cayman."Mr Bauman said that while 911 was the "more mature" model, Cayman is a "younger, more urban car". However, he admits more than 10 per cent of Cayman sales may be substitutional for Boxster sales.

"If 10 per cent of Carrera buyers went to Cayman that would be an issue," he said. "But even with, say, up to 15 per cent of Cayman buyers coming from existing Porsche models, that leaves 85 per cent of people who will be new to the Porsche brand. So it’s not such a worry for us."Citing the likes of the Mercedes-Benz SLK as a key Cayman competitor, Mr Bauman said: "We think we have a niche that’s not really at the top end of medium-priced sports coupes.

Mr Bauman also confirmed the likelihood of a less expensive 209kW 3.2-litre version of the Cayman, to be sold alongside the 217kW S version revealed so far.

"It’s not a far leap to suggest there will be other Cayman variants. But there won’t be as many derivatives as the 911 has," he said.

The man who set the 8:11 Nurburgring time in Cayman – as well as the 911 Carrera’s benchmark time of 8:02 (7:59 with sports suspension) and a best of 7:45 in a GT2 – Walter Rohrl, agrees 911 is still the Nurburgring king.

However, he claims the mid-engined Cayman, which is reported to have a 50 per cent stiffer chassis than Boxster, is more nimble to change direction, delivers higher corner speed and is more forgiving than 911.

"Cayman gives you the feeling you need more power, but you have to be careful because there’s less traction because there’s less weight over the rear wheels.

"There’s no doubt it would be quicker with a 911 engine, but 911 is still the king because you can use all its power – unlike, say, M3," said Mr Rohrl.

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