For 10 years, the Porsche Cayman has toiled quietly away in the shadows of the Boxster on one side and the 911 on the other, earning the admiration of enthusiast drivers with its steering, brakes and sweet, mid-engine balance.
Whereas you might need a track to fully appreciate the 911’s full range of talents, a good, quiet road is all the Cayman requires. It’s that accessible. It’s practical, too, with enough space for a golf bag in the boot and a soft bag or two under the bonnet.
Unsurprisingly, prices for the best used ones have been firming in recent years as more people realise just how good the Cayman is. Those prices have since been boosted by the market’s love affair with non-turbo 911s – the values of these have shot up, creating a price void that good, used Caymans have been only too happy to fill – and the arrival of Porsche’s new turbo four-cylinder engines, first in the Boxster and now in the 718 Cayman, which is sure to generate a nostalgia dividend for flat sixes, such as power the Cayman.
The Cayman we’re considering here is the first, so-called 987-series that ran from 2006 to 2013. There are two generations: Gen 1 cars spanned launch to 2008/59-reg; and Gen 2 cars look similar but were usefully improved in all areas, not least the engine and chassis. Build quality, already very good, took a leap, too.
Throughout, there have been two variants of each generation: ‘standard’ and S (the performance one). Standard Gen 1s are powered by a 2.7-litre flat six producing 245bhp and driving the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. So equipped, they can do 0-62mph in a less than spectacular 6.1sec, although it’s the performance on twisty roads that really impresses. You could have an optional sixspeed manual in combination with the Porsche Active Suspension Management – PASM – system, or a five-speed Tiptronic automatic, which is a little slow to shift.
The Gen 1 S has a bored-out 3.4-litre flat six developing 295bhp and it is capable of pushing the Cayman from zero to 62mph in 5.4sec. It has a six-speed gearbox as standard or an optional Tiptronic.
Standard Gen 2 cars have a larger (2.9) all-new flat six with a new fuel-injection system, 265bhp and a six-speed manual, together shaving 0.5sec off the 0-62mph sprint time. In place of the optional, laid-back Tiptronic ’box is a super-efficient PDK auto. The new 315bhp 3.4-litre S version cracks 0-62mph in 5.0sec.
Naturally, there are special editions to look out for, including the Design Edition and the 911 GT3 RS-inspired S Sport (both based on the Gen 1), and the lightweight R, with a limited-slip diff, and S Black Edition (both Gen 2-based). With its uprated engine, choice of green or orange finish and extensive levels of kit (highlights include active suspension and the Sport Chrono package of performance modes) the S Sport is hugely popular.
HOW TO GET ONE IN YOUR GARAGE
An expert’s view...
Jonathan Leach, Cridfords Garage (cridfords.co.uk)
“Gen 1 and 2 are in equal demand, but while there’s little difference between the S versions, the difference between 2.7 and 2.9 is huge.
"A 2.9 Gen 2 is a better buy than a Gen 1 S. Older cars may have had multiple owners, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because with each change of owner, the car experiences a honeymoon period of care and attention. The PDK was the must-have option when it first came out, but now manual ’boxes are in demand as people look to connect more closely with the car.
"Options to look for are 19in wheels with active ride suspension — it takes out a lot of the harshness so that it rides like a standard car on 18in wheels — sat-nav, Bose sound system and heated seats.”
Porsche Cayman problems - buyer beware…
Around one in 10 used Caymans bought privately or from the trade is a serious money pit, and as many as half could need at least £2000 of work.
MISSED OIL CHANGES
Despite what the schedule may say, an annual oil change is essential.
A tiny minority of Gen 1 S 3.4s suffered bore scoring, caused by the liners being too thin and inefficient cooling of cylinders five and six. Check for an oily tailpipe and high oil consumption.
LEAKY COOLING AND AIR-CON SYSTEMS
Check the vulnerable, front-mounted radiator and condenser for pin holes, and the hoses for splitting.
BEWARE LOW-MILEAGE CITY CARS
Cold running means poor lubrication, which means accelerated engine wear.
Pay a specialist to interrogate the car’s DME (digital motronic electronics) system to check how often the engine has been over-revved. The results need to be interpreted correctly, though.
Gentle driving can actually cause clutch plates to glaze over. Give it a thrash and check the operation again.
A particular problem with Gen 1 cars. The likely cause is worn ‘tuning fork’ arms and ‘coffin’ arms on the front and rear suspension.
Early Gen 1 cars suffer bad corrosion of the exhaust fixings.
Tyres should be Porsche-approved N-rated. If they’re not, suspect neglect elsewhere.
Check for a loose shift. Cables can stretch and even snap.
Also worth knowing...
Subject to the car passing its 111-point inspection, Porsche will sell you a comprehensive mechanical warranty for your Cayman.
Cars either owned or bought privately or from the trade, and up to 15 years or 120,000 miles old, qualify. It could be worth that extra peace of mind.
Porsche Cayman price - how much to spend...
You’re looking at a good, early Gen 1 2.7 and possibly an 07/08-plate Gen 1 S. Caymans bottomed out at £15k some time ago, so be wary of anything below this figure.
Now things really get interesting. Easily a good 2.9 Gen 2 or even a really nice 10/11-plate Gen 2 S PDK.
Welcome to the best Cayman 987s on the planet. A mint, low-miles 2011 Gen 2 S PDK with every option will be around £33,000.