THE D_TRB REVIEW: Porsche Cayman S
The Cayman's always had Perfect mid-engined poise, but has the loss of two cylinders and the addition of a turbo ruined it?
Driving the latest Cayman and Boxster is like watching a classic De Niro film dubbed into Tongan. So much of it looks and feels familiar: the swoopy bodywork, the elegant rising centre console, the top drawer materials. And the driving position, seat low, legs outstretched, is bang on. This is definitely a Cayman. But the sound, a bass-heavy chug, is all wrong. And so is the sync. Flatten the right pedal and there’s a small, but undeniable, delay before the car chase starts.
When Porsche engineers kneeled down before their engine stands and blew the entire 911 family (GT3 cars excepted), the result wasn’t so jarring. Lag was impressively modest and the soundtrack, though slightly muted, wasn’t that different because a flat-six was replacing another flat-six. Factor in all that extra turbo-derived torque and it seemed like a fair trade. But the Cayman and Boxster switch to flat-four power, and there’s no denying that the trade isn’t anywhere near as even this time.
First, though, an indisputable truth: these new cars are massively quicker than the ones they replace. The basic 2.0 Cayman makes 300bhp compared to 275bhp for the old 2.7, plus an extra 67lb ft, and the 2.5 S (which also gets a twin-scroll blower) puts out 345bhp, another increase of 25bhp, and backed up by 310lb ft. And this time both Boxster and Cayman share the same power output.
Of the two Caymans it’s the £40k base car that’s undergone the biggest transformation. Now able to hit 62mph in 5.1 seconds with the standard six-speed manual, and overtake without you dropping four gears and beasting the engine for all it's worth, it’s quick enough for you to question the need to spend another £10k on the S.
But the S is still better. There’s lag, but it’s as slight as a gymnast, and fractionally less noticeable than in the base car. And once the blowers are chuffing the acceleration is almost relentless, reaching 62mph in as little as 4.2 seconds, depending on options, and pulling hard in one big linear sweep.
And, unfortunately, with one constant tone. Where the sound of the old six changed again and again as you rev needle climbed higher, this one sounds more like some kind of over-muscled range extender engine funnelling juice to a hybrid’s battery pack. It’s got more character than an in-line four, but there are no interesting high frequencies to make your neck hairs do their meercat thing, and so many boomy low ones you might actually wish you couldn’t hear it at all. Just imagine.
One thing guaranteed not to disappoint is the way the Cayman goes around corners, and the turbo engine’s extra torque gives the chassis a proper workout for once. It feels happily neutral on the way into bends and now you can really lean on the rear tyres on the way out and feel like its having an affect on the car’s attitude. If you can stretch to one big-ticket item, go for the £890/$1320 torque-vectoring differential. There’s no need to bother with optional ceramics, not when the standard car gets the old S set-up and the S comes with 911 stoppers.
If we could make like the Men in Black, hold a zapper to our eyes and erase all memories of the previous decade’s worth of Caymans – and near 20 years of Boxster – the latest cars would be close to perfect. This is still the sports car to beat, but the shadow of the old flat-six looms large.