Probably the best new sports car of 2014. Which will come as a massive surprise to those who know how great Caymans are to drive generally, and how highly we’ve praised them over the years.
But not only that, it’s also a clearly superior sports car than the Boxster GTS we reviewed recently – and by a bigger margin that you’d credit given how closely related the two cars are.
You’ll value quality over quantity of performance to justify spending £55k on a Cayman – but that’s all part of the appeal. This is, after all, BMW M4 money – and the BMW is half-a-second quicker to 62mph, and probably quicker still in real-world conditions thanks to all that twin-turbocharged torque.
The connoisseur chooses the sharpness of response and the gathering noise and force of the Porsche’s naturally aspirated power delivery every time. Blipping the Cayman’s accelerator for a downshift and then leaving it pinned to the carpet on a delicious run to the 7800rpm redline is like immersing yourself in oily, tuneful perfection.
The car isn’t breathtakingly fast, but every bit as quick as a sports car intended to be driven on the road in 2014 needs to be – and rowing your way up and down the box for sharper corners and overtakes only makes the driving experience more vivid.
The car’s controls are beautifully harmonized. Dip the middle-weighted, long-travel clutch pedal and you know exactly how much effort you’ll need to operate the gearlever and steering wheel, and can even gauge the initial takeup of the brakes. The primary ergonomics are spot on, too. You won’t find better placed pedals for heel-and-toe gearchanges in any other car in the world.
Move off and you’ll instinctively feed drive in just-so, because the engine’s modest low-rpm torque won’t bother the clutch and because there’s such precision about everything the Cayman does. Ride quality is firm, never harsh. In the Boxster GTS, you do get the odd tremor and crash through the body structure over nastier broken surfaces; in the Cayman, almost every one is soaked up at each corner.
Lateral body control is awesome. There’s the merest smidge of roll, just to work the outside contact patches and let you know much grip you’ve got left. But steering response and precision are phenomenal, and balance of grip likewise.
Longitudinal body control’s slightly softer, but only because it can be. The Cayman’s mid-engined configuration keeps effortless control of pitch and dive, so the car can afford to be a bit supple over vertical undulations, making for a comfy motorway ride. It certainly isn’t so soft that it fails to transfer its weight smartly as you play with the pedals – and thusly to give you and endless source of entertainment and adjustability of cornering attitude through the bends.
What you end up with is an almost unimprovable driver’s car. Stable, assured and sharp as a tack at high speeds. Utterly planted the moment you sink the accelerator. But more playful when your driving style demands it; when the rear axle’s deliberately unloaded on turn-in, and the PSM stability control’s disengaged. It's not a car for bullying into a slide with the accelerator – and you’ll end up liking it even more because of that.