The second-generation Porsche Cayman is a five-star motor and today’s benchmark junior sports car.
The 271bhp 2.7-litre version costs £39,694, and the 321bhp 3.4-litre Cayman S is £48,783. That you can debate their merits against the £73,509 911 Carrera with an entirely straight face illustrates their outstanding value.
But the cost of options is the elephant in the room. Take this Racing Yellow Cayman S. For extra dynamic focus, it features carbon-ceramic brakes (£4977), PASM adaptive dampers (£1700), a Sport Chrono Plus pack (£1084), torque vectoring with a limited-slip differential (£890) and lightweight, leather-finished sports bucket seats with integrated airbags (£2226).
A bi-modal sports exhaust, 20-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors and sat-nav swell the final bill to £65,573.
It’s worth seeing what else that buys before signing up. Jaguar F-type V6 S? BMW M4? Lotus Evora S? All tempting. But none comes near the firepower and presence of our used contender: the 492bhp, V10-powered Lamborghini Gallardo.
Yep, Sant’Agata’s Audi-financed saviour can now be had from just £55,000. Owned by Gareth Hardiman and for sale through independent Lamborghini specialist Buckinghamshire High Performance (bhpmsport.com), this gorgeous, 24,500-mile example – lurking low, wide and dark like a prowling stingray to the Cayman’s yellowfin tuna – is priced at £67,500.
The sting in its tail is BHP’s own cat bypass and a Tubi exhaust, which fill the cavernous space of our aircraft hanger with an extremely rude, extremely loud bark and burble that has us all sharing guilty smirks.
The Lambo’s dated, slow-witted E-gear automated manual gearbox would have been floored by the technical brilliance of Porsche’s slingshot PDK dual-clutch automatic, so manual it is for our mid-engined two-seaters.
The Cayman sends drive to the rear wheels only whereas our 2004 Gallardo drives all four with the help of a limited-slip differential at each axle.
Climbing in, you immediately notice how much more luxury the Gallardo offers. There’s Alcantara on the ceiling and stitched leather not only on the seats but also on the door cards and the dashboard. Adding extra hide to the otherwise plastic-heavy Cayman would cost an additional £1428.
The Gallardo’s cabin is unmarked, save for some thinning of the helm’s Alcantara, but the Porsche’s slick instrumentation and stylish yet robust switchgear have a clear edge over the Lambo’s chunkier fare, which features interesting toggle switches alongside more mundane Audi-sourced buttons and outdated red LEDs. Unsurprisingly, the Porsche’s modern sat-nav wins, too.
Hitting the road first is the Cayman S. Were this a track exercise, I’d have been glad of the bucket seats’ security, but their limited adjustment and thin padding do little for comfort. That aside, the driving position is ergonomically sound.
Within moments, you’re treated to what could be the sweetest manual gearbox on sale. It’s light yet mechanical feeling, with a joyous lubricity that seems to suck the shifter into each nook.
With the hard-biting carbon-ceramics making in-roads near the top of the brake pedal, you need to be pressing on to make heel-and-toeing tenable, but a rev-matching function (part of Sport Chrono’s Sport Plus mode) lets you enjoy rasping, seamless downshifts even during dull commutes.
I could leave the £1530 sports exhaust, though. The contrived fun of the grumbles that it emits on the overrun in Sport mode is outweighed by its overbearing constant-throttle volume, even in Normal mode, and the flat six – from its tractable bottom end, 4500rpm pickup and free-revving, howling upper reaches – already offers plenty of entertainment.