27 May 2005

Porsche has officially revealed its baby 911, the 291bhp Cayman S. The 3.4-litre flat six-powered coupé, developed under the codename 987 C7S, will make its first public appearance at September’s Frankfurt show. It reaches the UK on 26 November priced at £43,930, slotting into the Porsche line-up above the new Boxster. A standard, lower-powered Cayman that could cost as little as £35k, and a hard-core track-orientated version will follow.

Porsche has bucked the trend whereby coupés are usually lower-priced than their more complex convertible siblings. The strategy has required Porsche to give the Cayman S greater firepower than the 276bhp 3.2-litre Boxster S, simply to justify its positioning.

At the same time, Porsche has been careful not to let its latest model encroach too far on the territory ruled by the 321bhp 3.6-litre 911 Carrera – it’s notable that the Cayman’s power output falls short of the 300bhp mark, keeping it a respectable distance from its more-expensive stablemate. However, it is reckoned to be quicker round the Nürburgring circuit than its bigger brother.

Boxster basis

In a move aimed at trimming development costs and streamlining production, the Cayman shares around 40 per cent of its components with the second-generation Boxster. The two cars have the same bonnet, headlamps, front wings, doors and tail lamps. However, close inspection reveals some interesting styling changes that, from certain angles at least, help give the Cayman its own distinctive visual character. The inspiration for many of the changes is said to have come from Porsche’s classic 904.

Up front, there is a modified bumper with larger air ducts below each headlamp, and the fog lamps are housed in round units rather than the rectangular items found on the Boxster. The windscreen shares the same angle as its open-top sibling’s, while the roof itself is heavily curved and similar to that found on earlier incarnations of the 911. Small fixed windows are incorporated behind the trailing edge of the doors, and the air ducts used to cool the mid-mounted engine receive vertical instead of horizontal strakes.

The rear hatch opens remotely via a button on the key fob, offering new-found levels of practicality for a Porsche sports car.

The Cayman is 12mm longer than the Boxster at 4341mm – all of it in the rear overhang. The heavy curvature in the roof also increases height over its open-top sibling by 13mm to 1308mm. Width remains the same at 1801mm.

Importantly, the addition of the fixed roof has brought more rigidity – the key to improved handling and refinement – making the Cayman stiffer than the 911 Carrera, according to insiders. The roof has also helped improve aerodynamic efficiency by smoothing out the air flow.

To regain rear-end downforce lost through the incorporation of the sloping rear hatch, Porsche has provided the Cayman S with a unique rear spoiler that deploys above 75mph. The steel-bodied Cayman tips the scales 5kg above the Boxster at 1340kg, much of the increase due to the packaging of the rear hatchback. Compared to an Audi TT or Nissan 350Z, however, the Porsche is still something of a lightweight.

As with the exterior, the Cayman’s interior also borrows heavily from the Boxster’s. The dashboard, instruments, switchgear, seats and door trims are all identical.

Additional storage space behind the seats extends the capacity of the rear boot to 260 litres, which combines with the 150-litre cubby up front to provide the Cayman with what Porsche describes as class-leading luggage-carrying ability. However, the combined 410 litres is still 80 litres short of a Audi TT’s capacity when its token rear seats are folded down.

Engine and gearbox

Powering the Cayman S is a newly developed version of Porsche’s horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. Based around the unit in the Boxster S, a bigger bore size increases the swept volume to 3.4 litres. It also gets Porsche’s Variocam Plus system, as used on the 911, which employs electro-hydraulic tappets to constantly vary the timing and lift on both the inlet and exhaust valves.

Power swells to 291bhp at 6250rpm – a 15bhp increase over the Boxster S’s 3.2-litre engine. This provides Porsche’s latest with a power-to-weight ratio of 217bhp per tonne against the soft-top’s 207bhp per tonne. Torque is also up 15lb ft, peaking at 251lb ft compared to 236lb ft.

As with the Boxster, drive is sent to the rear wheels via a standard six-speed manual gearbox. A five-speed Tiptronic automatic with steering wheel-mounted shift buttons will be optional. Word out of Stuttgart also indicates that Porsche will offer a new dual-clutch gearbox similar to Volkswagen’s highly lauded DSG unit, although it is unlikely to be available for another 18 months.

In manual guise, the Cayman S is claimed to hit 62mph in 5.4sec and reach 171mph flat out, pipping the Boxster S by a scant 0.1sec and 4mph respectively.

Suspension

Underpinning the new car is a lightly reworked version of the Boxster’s MacPherson strut suspension. The two cars also ride on the same 2415mm wheelbase and share the same track measurements – 1486mm up front and 1528mm at the rear.

Porsche’s chassis engineers have tweaked every component in a bid to provide the Cayman S with its own handling character. Changes are fairly straightforward – firmer springs, stiffer dampers, larger diameter anti-roll bars and more resilient bushings. The threshold for the standard four-channel anti-lock braking and PSM stability control systems has also been extended slightly, with similar changes to the optional PASM variable damping system.

As a measure of its ability, Porsche claims a prototype version of the Cayman has lapped the Nürburgring circuit in 8min 11sec in the hands of former rally ace Walter Röhrl – a 7sec improvement on the time he recorded in a Boxster S. More significantly, it also beats the 911 Carrera by 4sec.

Like the Boxster, the Cayman will be assembled by Porsche’s production partner, Valmet, at its plant in Finland. Porsche isn’t revealing expected volumes just yet, although industry analysts indicate the company has told suppliers it is banking on annual sales of over 10,000.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta has a big boot, pleasant dynamics and good pricing, but is a bit dull

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