What is it?
Twenty three thousand pounds. That is the figure you must not lose track of when reading this first drive of the second-generation Porsche Cayman. It refers to the price difference between the new range topping Cayman S driven here and the latest 911 Carrera, whose 3.4-litre flat six-cylinder boxer engine it shares, if in lightly detuned guise.
Yes, the pricing of the new Cayman S is aggressive. With a base sticker of £48,783 it is little changed from that of its predecessor. Among its keener two-door rivals is the Audi TT RS Quattro at £48,120. But it is the £77,449 Porsche 911 Carrera against which it must surely be compared.
Video: Steve Sutcliffe tests the new 2013 Porsche Cayman S
Seeing it away from a motor show stand for the first time only serves to reinforce early impressions of just what a good looking car it is. As with its Porsche Boxster sibling, the new coupé adopts an edgier appearance, with tauter surfacing and crisper lines, as well as a noticeably sleeker profile.
The wheelhouses have also increased in size, allowing Porsche to fit the Cayman S with 19-inch wheels as standard and offer 20s as an option. Among the features helping to distinguish the new Cayman from the year-old Boxster are daytime running lights and indicators housed within a round unit within the front bumper, more pronounced rear haunches and a heavily angled liftback at the rear.
Length is up by 35mm, width extends by 1mm while height drops by 10mm over its predecessor at 4380mm, 1801mm and 1295mm respectively. The Cayman also rides on a 30mm longer wheelbase at 2475mm, while the track widths have increased by 40mm to 1526mm at the front and by 18mm to 1540mm at the rear.
As part of Porsche’s focus on weight saving, the body is now predominantly aluminium, with the rest fashioned from a combination of magnesium and hot formed high-strength steel. Porsche is claiming a 25kg saving in the body structure, although the added dimensions and a larger interior mean overall kerb weight has crept up marginally.
What's it like?
Few car makers understand basic ergonomics quite as well as Porsche. The Cayman’s driving position is beyond criticism, supported by additional levels of steering wheel and seat adjustment owing to a stretch in overall cabin length. You’re immediately aware of greater levels of accommodation, particularly shoulder room. Visibility is also quite sound, thanks in part to a more cab-forward design and larger rear three quarter windows.
Porsche has worked hard to provide the new Cayman with a richer and more visually inviting interior than its predecessor. It is all carried over from the Boxster, of course, but that doesn’t distract from it in any way. Broader and more heavily contoured seats add to comfort levels while providing added levels of support. It’s still a two seat layout, although it is now much more practical.
There is greater oddment stowage space, too, and the deep front luggage compartment is reasonably sized at 150 litres. The shallow rear luggage shelf behind the seats at 162 litres is less practical, but it’s welcome all the same.
Apart from the superb ergonomics, it is the quality that really stands out. It says a lot that in other Porsche models costing twice as much the perceived fit and finish is much the same. The only criticism we have is its adoption of an electrically operated handbrake whose switch is unnecessarily hidden within the outer edge of the dashboard. They call it progress…
Having spent a good deal of time in the mechanically identical Boxster over the past year, we suspected the Cayman would be a step beyond its predecessor in accelerative potential. And it doesn’t disappoint. The initial range topping S model driven here runs a revised version of the old model’s 3.4-litre flat six engine – as used in the latest 911 Carrera, albeit in a higher state of tune.
The short stroke unit, endowed with constantly variable valve timing and valve lift and a second induction system to enable it to breathe through both the air ducts incorporated into the bodywork behind the doors, kicks out an additional 5bhp, delivering 320bhp at 7400rpm. Torque is up by 5lb ft, swelling to 270lb ft at 5800rpm, or 1300rpm higher than before.
They’re hardly class-leading figures, and intentionally suppressed so as not to allow the Cayman S to encroach too much upon the more profitable 911 Carrera. But thanks to Porsche’s efforts in suppressing weight to 1350kg, the new Cayman boasts a power-to-weight ratio of 237bhp per tonne.
The engine now features a Sport mode as standard. Activated via a switch on the centre console, it alters the throttle response through the adoption of remapped electronics. A six-speed manual gearbox continues as standard, with a seven speed dual clutch unit with shift paddles, as fitted to our test car, key among a long list of options.
Other options include the Sport Chrono package, which brings dynamic engine mounts that constantly alter their stiffness and damping characteristics to reduce load change for more neutral handling. A further must-have is the optional sports exhaust, if only for the added aural entertainment it brings.
Response, flexibility, smoothness are central to the engine’s appeal. There is a pleasing immediacy to the delivery at lower revs range. But it is through the midrange and up high where it is at its most engaging – and it’s nothing less than brilliant. The revised engine demands more revs, but that only extends its allure.
The truly compelling factor with the new Cayman S is just how much performance you get for your money, particularly with the optional dual clutch gearbox and sport chrono package. So configured, it will accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 4.7sec, 0 to 124mph in 16.9sec and reach a claimed 175mph.
The inherent liveliness these figures allude to is fully present when the Cayman S is given sufficient room to move and there’s never any doubt about its ability to carry its revs to the 7600rpm redline, such is the voracity of the delivery.
The changes to the chassis also provide added levels of straight line stability and a calmer feel to the steering. Above 150mph there is a lightness to the front owing to positive lift, but while it knocks your confidence initially it never becomes unmanageable.
The Cayman S is, by class standards, fast. But the gains in straightline potential over its predecessor can’t all be directed at its reworked engine. The optional seven speed dual clutch gearbox also plays a pivotal role.
On the one hand, it endows the new coupe with the sort of relaxed usability that makes it a highly desirable everyday proposition, providing excellent part throttle operation in stop and go traffic. But it is the decisive action of the shifts when you switch to manual mode that leaves us in no doubt that it will be the preferred choice of gearbox.
With contemporary fuel saving features such as automatic stop/start and brake energy recuperation as well as a coasting function all coming as standard, the Cayman S’s combined cycle fuel economy has improved by a creditable 4.6mpg to 35.3mpg in combination with the dual clutch ’box. It also reduces average CO2 emissions from 221g/km to 188g/km.
After flinging the Cayman down a broad six-lane autobahn, we headed on to some brilliantly smooth mountain roads south of Stuttgart. But even before reaching the first corner, we’d already made some interesting observations.
Firstly, it is easily placed on the road. Despite its larger dimensions, it rarely feels any bigger than the old Cayman. The newly adopted electro-mechanical steering is tremendously engaging. It might lack the subtle feedback that characterized the earlier hydraulic system but what it lacks in ultimate communication, it more than makes up for in consistency of weighting, eagerness to self centre and sheer directness. There’s also a new found calmness that makes the new car less demanding when driven hard for long periods.
In line with German regulations, our test car came shod on high performance winter tyres, a set of 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport A/S in the same 235/40 and 265/40 profile as the regular pneus. But even they couldn’t mask the breathtaking delicacy, astonishing agility and sheer composure of the Cayman‘s handling, which unquestionably remains the benchmark in the class.
We were fully expecting the new coupé to be a little special in the dynamic department. But it is safe to say that the admittedly highly specified example you see pictured here exceeded all our expectations by a good margin.
On dry roads, grip is never in doubt. Its stance through fast corners is terrifically neutral, helped tremendously by the ability of the body to resist roll. The inclusion of torque vectoring, which uses the stability management to provide individual braking to the rear wheels, helps to extend the dynamic envelope, providing the basis for added poise and improved balance, without detracting from the driving experience in any way. In combination with the locking differential, it also provides tremendous drive out of corners, allowing you to get on the throttle early without fear of some backwards led reprisal.
More accomplished, then, but it is far from clinical. Turning off the various driving aids exposes the inherent balance and ability to hang out the tail, revealing just how entertaining the Cayman will prove on the track.
The really striking aspect, though, is just how undemanding it is at the sort of speeds that would have rivals struggling. The Cayman manages to achieve such lofty standards of handling prowess with a ride that is surprisingly supple and more cosseting than that of its predecessor.
The active suspension management system can be credited with some of the progress here. It is a clear improvement on the old arrangement, which we already held in fairly high stead. The longer wheelbase no doubt helps, too.
Should I buy one?
It’s rare that a car moves us as much as the new Cayman S has – at least on first acquaintance.
With more power, compelling looks, sharper handling, improved comfort, a sumptuous interior and added practicality, it is a clear improvement on its predecessor in every discernible area.
Dare I say, it is the best car Porsche builds right now, and at twenty three thousand less than the 911 Carrera, terrific value.
Porsche Cayman S
Price £48,783; 0-62mph 4.7sec; Top speed 175mph; Economy 35.3mpg (combined); CO2 188g/km; Kerb weight 1350kg; Engine 6-cyl, horizontally-opposed, 3436cc petrol; Installation mid, longitudinal, RWD; Power 320bhp at 7400rpm; Torque 270lb ft at 5800rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch auto