Some testers complained that the M4’s gear ratios weren’t ideally suited to Combe circulating duties, but for the most part there was praise for a powertrain that delivers substantial thrust with a minimum of fuss and a potent soundtrack.
The BMW’s dynamic crudities are less intrusive than the mildly wayward Jaguar F-type coupé’s, incidentally, but present enough that you feel slightly short-changed. The original E30 M3 (and BMW must be sick of reading about this car) was far less fast but provided better balance and a lot more high-precision control.
And that’s what you get from the Cayman, as well as the intriguing swivel-about-the-centre turn-in that you enjoy in the best mid-engined cars. Its reactions are measured enough to avoid twitchiness, allowing you to lean on it until it produces controllable oversteer that’s rewardingly straightforward to control. ‘Measured’ captures the character of much of this car, its confidently precise way with bends, its unflustered absorbency of bumps, its secure braking and evenly delivered acceleration making this an easy car to drive fast and a forgiving one, too.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not exciting, especially for one tester, who complained that it was too easy to tip the Porsche into oversteer. But most marvelled at the Cayman’s balance, not only in chassis terms but as a complete car. “What can’t this thing do?” asked one. “The only reason the Cayman S didn’t get my vote last year is because it lacked that final hard edge when you really wanted it. The GTS has that and also improves every component on top of it.”
Despite its 335bhp, ‘measured’ often describes the performance, too, the Cayman’s fuel-eking gearing making third practically a 100mph ratio, with three more to go. Absurd, and it takes the edge off its grunt.
On the road, this makes it a bit less of a thrill than you’d think until you learn to work the lower gears, doubtless to the detriment of economy. But that’s when the tactile rewards really flow and the Cayman emphatically underlines its credibility as a properly sorted piece of driver’s kit. It’s also very civilised. With the fire of lower gearing, it would be close to perfection.
Fire is what you think you’re going to get from the i8, with its satisfyingly dramatic, supercar looks. It may be the unlikely wearer of an eDrive badge, but the little three-pot sounds at least twice as big as it really is and, together with the electric motor, allows the i8 to get going pretty smartly.
This dramatic machine looks like a mid-engined car and duly behaves like one on track, with the impression of a chassis pivot point not far forward of your seat. It turns in well and, in contrast to the early reports from its launch, understeer is not an issue. It will oversteer readily enough on a trailing throttle, too, before transitioning smoothly to gently run wide.
Your enjoyment of this behaviour is somewhat spoiled by a steering wheel that feels unpromisingly light unless you’re in Sport and, regardless of mode, this turns out to be the numbest rim here. But the wheel does shuffle encouragingly over camber changes. Fulsome brake feel has also been neutered by the i8’s electronics, although there’s no doubting their effectiveness. And while we’re whining, the instruments are near unreadable at speed despite their trick graphics.
The brakes’ scope for recharging the BMW’s battery pack in track conditions appears to be limited, though, the battery charge sinking to a solitary segment’s worth within a couple of hours of intermittent use. Which doesn’t mean that the electric motor turns dormant; the battery always retains enough charge to power the front wheels when necessary, BMW’s aim being to provide consistent handling regardless of circumstance.