The £64,000 Porsche Cayman S and £67,500 Lamborghini Gallardo are both desirable cars, but which should you pick if you're in the market?

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.

The Porsche is genuinely rapid when pushed, but power is dispatched with incredible composure thanks to the Sport Chrono pack’s vibration-quashing active transmission mounts and the assured deftness of the chassis.

PASM’s Sport mode gets knobbly on rippled B-roads, but even in Normal mode, the Cayman retains excellent body control and you can feed it through corners with huge confidence. Get over-exuberant with the throttle mid-corner and the torque vectoring brakes the inside rear wheel to keep the car turning, while the limited-slip diff produces very strong grip on the exit.

But the Porsche isn’t just at home on twisty roads – it’s pliant in town and calm on motorways, too. This is an extremely usable sports car.

The Gallardo’s gearbox is a delight for different reasons. Its open gate lets you gaze inside at the greased linkage and rings with every strike of the lever. It’s a delightful point of interaction with the charismatic 5.0-litre V10, which needs fewer revs to come on song than the Cayman’s six-pot and lets out a race-worthy scream towards its 7750rpm red line.

The approach of a corner initiates an indulgent sequence: lean on the powerful, ventilated discs, blip the skinny throttle pedal between downshift ‘clacks’ and a single ‘pop’ of sniper fire follows from the exhaust.

Roll is marginal and the four-wheel drive system lends a totally planted cornering stance. You can feed power in early, but the pace it produces is in a different league from the Cayman’s, so full throttle can’t be laid on with anything like the same abandon without triggering the traction control.

The firmness of the ride – which, on a bumpy road, affects comfort more than it does confidence – only highlights how well tuned the Cayman’s set-up is. But although we once reckoned that the Gallardo was short on steering feel, its hydraulically assisted helm is a veritable flibbertigibbet compared with the Cayman’s slick yet relatively monotonous electric set-up.

The Lamborghini is never quiet, but it’s no louder than the Porsche when cruising. And usability isn’t compromised: all-round visibility is surprisingly good, the turning circle usefully compact and the steering light when manoeuvring, although the boot is far too small to cope with extended trips.

Because of its age, the CO2-heavy Gallardo nevertheless costs the same in VED as the Cayman, at £285, but that’s where parity on running costs ends. Services are due annually or every 7500 miles for the Lambo, with one major for every two minors. BHP charges £1680 for the former, £600 for the latter.

The Porsche operates on two-year/20,000-mile intervals, which alternate between £480 and £610 at Porsche Centre Reading, and it uses less than half as much fuel.

The verdict

So which wins? The Cayman S is easily the more multi-talented and rounded proposition. But you could arguably retain the bulk of its most endearing skills by spending less than £40,000 on the entry-level model. If you’re buying for weekend thrills more than daily duties, though, it has to be the Gallardo.

It’s an absolute showman, and Audi-hewn robustness has let it age gracefully. And if the running costs worry you, know that early Gallardos are currently appreciating. Now there’s food for thought.

Porsche Cayman S 

Price £64,043; 0-62mph 5.0sec; Top speed 175mph; Economy 32.1mpg; CO2 206g/km; Kerbweight 1389kg; Engine 6 cyls, 3463cc, petrol; Power 321bhp at 7400rpm; Torque 273lb ft at 5800rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Lamborghini Gallardo

Price £67,500 (price new: £155,000); 0-60mph 4.1sec; Top speed 192mph; Economy 14.5mpg; CO2 450g/km; Kerbweight 1520kg; Engine V10, 4961cc, petrol; Power 492bhp at 7800rpm; Torque 376lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Our Verdict

Lamborghini Gallardo

The Lamborghini Gallardo is the full supercar sensation with sublime handling

Join the debate

Comments
5

30 August 2014
Like choosing which of your children your prefer.

30 August 2014
I think it is very simple. If you want excitement and have very deep pockets, go for the Lambo or, if you want everyday usability and reliability don't mind just a little less excitement and have slightly shallower pockets, get the Porsche. On second thoughts I don't think it really is that simple..

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

30 August 2014
It's worth pointing out that the Gallardo received a major update in 2006, which polished the car in many aspects and received much better reviews from buyers and journalists alike. And I don't think those cars carry a particular premium - unlike the LP560 facelift. Unfortunately they're hard to find, because the LP560 appeared in 2008, and not all 2006s had the upgrades. But if you can track one down, that may be the car to clinch anyone on the fence.

31 August 2014
If you took the depreciation of the new Cayman into account! the Lamborghini may actually make more financial sense.

31 August 2014
No contest for me! One of the best sounding engines ever made. Manual all the way!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bFMBH9zcVjI

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK