Currently reading: Used car buying guide: Porsche Cayman
Porsche's baby 911 got its brother's poise and balance for a bargain price

The best everyday sports car Porsche makes is not the 911 but the Cayman: discuss. 

You’ll find compelling arguments on both sides of that debate, but the mere fact that there’s any discussion at all speaks volumes about the Porsche Cayman. It’s a world-class, enthusiast’s sports car built for daily driving with the same attention to detail and engineering integrity that has helped to make its bigger, rear-engined sibling Porsche’s talisman for decades. Only it also has mid-engined athleticism, the agility of a lighter, smaller footprint – and the draw of a far lower price. 

And none, arguably, offers better value right now than the Mk2, 981-generation version. 

The 981-gen Cayman arrived in 2012 on the back of a well-received first-generation (987) model, which had been around since 2005. As before, it was essentially the coupé twin of the convertible Porsche Boxster

Porsche cayman s 2014 front side

The base 981 Cayman had a relatively modest-sounding 271bhp and 214lb ft, but the poise of the earlier model was very much in tact and there was plenty to reward a keen driver, even though there was now electromechanical steering.

Its 2.7-litre flat six was paired with either a seven-speed PDK or six-speed manual gearbox, and both have their strengths. The PDK lets you tap the full potential of the car’s performance with lightning-fast shifts, while the precise manual brings all the delights of an analogue driving experience, especially with the well-weighted pedals and a characterful, naturally aspirated engine. 

There was also a Cayman S, which came with a 3.4-litre engine from the Porsche 911 Carrera for 321bhp and 273lb ft. If the base model is a good buy, this is a great one. However, it wouldn’t be a Porsche if you weren’t drowning in options and initialisms. PASM (active suspension) means it will ride better, but don’t get confused with PSM (body control), which had PTV (torque vectoring) for stability. Or how about Sport Chrono for better throttle mapping and gearbox enhancements? 

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The GTS was simpler in this respect because it bundled options. Some subtle styling changes accompanied the standard fitment of Sport Chrono and either active suspension management or 20mm-lower sports suspension. This even more driver-focused variant also had deeper reserves: 335bhp and 280lb ft from its 3.4 flat six. 

Porsche cayman s 2014 rear

In 2015, the Cayman received the attentions of Porsche’s GT department in the form of the mighty GT4. It gained striking aerodynamics and the 3.8-litre engine from the 911 Carrera S, delivering 375bhp and 309lb ft. The rear suspension was new and the front was taken from the GT3. There were also new dampers, three-way adjustable anti-roll bars and Michelin Cup 2 tyres. 

Today, used Caymans of this vintage look great value. You can grab yourself a good example for just £25,000, and that makes it very desirable indeed. It’s an excellent all-rounder: an engaging steer on a challenging road or undemanding transport to the shops, and anything in between. There’s excellent storage for a mid-engined two-seater and a luxurious yet robust interior. Depreciation, such as it exists, will be low – or even non-existent if you decide you’ll never sell it. And no one could blame you for that.

What we said then 

17.01.06 - “It’s enough to expect its rivals to measure up to such stellar performance and handling, but only when you consider the Cayman’s static virtues – such as competitive list price, distinguishing residual value, creditable economy, comfy cabin and GT practicality for two – do you get the fullest sense of what this car represents.”

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An expert's view

Ian Phillips, owner: “I bought my 2014 Porsche Cayman 981 four years ago mainly to use for pleasure. My first choice would have been a 911, but after driving a Cayman, I was hooked. These cars are pretty tough so I bought one privately with a full Porsche history. 

“It’s one of the best driver’s cars out there, with fantastic handling and a sublime engine note above 5000rpm. I can even get 40mpg on a long journey. I’ve kept up the Porsche servicing, which for my car works out at £400 per year. It’s worth noting that overall maintenance costs are high. I’ve recently had a large bill to fix the air conditioning. 

“Despite some running costs, the Cayman 981 is well engineered, reasonably practical and brilliant fun to own and drive.”

Porsche cayman s 2014 steering wheel

Buyer beware 

Maintenance: Porsche has a two-year/20,000- mile service schedule, but experts recommend an annual check-up both to keep the fluids fresh and to get a more frequent professional look at the car, just to check for any lurking problems. It’s best (and cheaper) to catch any issues early.

Dampers: There are rare cases of PASM dampers leaking but it’s an easy fix when taken to a specialist.

Diagnostics check: Get a diagnostic of the engine management system to check that the dashboard clock mileage is legitimate and to check for any fault codes or cases of over-revving.

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Corrosion: If not monitored properly, corrosion can set in on certain parts such as air condensers, damaged radiators, exhaust fixings and brake parts.

Porsche cayman s 2014 badge

Buttons: The standard steering wheel came with hateful shift buttons for the PDK gearbox instead of paddles on the sports wheel. These parts can be professionally retro-fitted.

Bodywork: Much of it is made from bonded aluminium, so corrosion there is not a problem. However, check for stone chips and gravel rash, especially on the front bumper, wheel arches, front and rear wings, sills and windscreen.

Clutch: A heavy clutch pedal is a sign that it may be about to go, so get it checked.

Tyres: The car came as standard on N-rated Pirelli P Zeros, but they have a reputation for cracking, so some owners favour Michelin Pilot Sport 4S or Cup 2 tyres instead.

Brakes: Brake pedal bushes are known to bind, which means the pedal does not fully return. This can lead to eventual overheating and should be caught quickly.

Also worth knowing 

For the birthday of Porsche R&D chief Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche’s GT department – led by Andreas Preuninger – surprised him with a Cayman GT4 that had been adapted to take a GT3 engine, which was an idea that Hatz had been toying with for a while. When Porsche executives drove this prototype, they gave the green light to the recently released Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS.

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How much to spend 

£25,000-£35,000: This kind of money will give you access to base models of varying mileage but usually in good condition and with a fair number of factory options. You’ll also find some S models with higher mileage. 

£35,000-£45,000: Low-mileage base models and sparingly used S models, usually with desirable options. 

£45,000-£60,000: Mostly GTS models in this price bracket but some choice S models at the lower end and the occasional GT4 at the top. 

£60,000-£85,000: GT4s, all with less than 20,000 miles. Be choosy. 

One we found 

Used porsche cayman side

Porsche Cayman 2.7 PDK, 2014, 69,000 miles, £27,995

Four-owner car was serviced in May by a Porsche dealer and has “service history” but no details of how much, so ask. The MOT runs out this month, too: insist on a fresh one before purchase. It has plenty of desirable options to sweeten deal, though.

Finlay Ringer 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
speculatrix 21 October 2022
Whatever you do, get an independent inspection report.

I was about to buy a 981, only 8 years old so should have been in good shape, but the report revealed some potentially expensive faults. The seller was disingenuous in omitting certain details too which meant I felt sour about the deal.

jason_recliner 18 October 2022

An ugly impractical car sold by a dishonest duciplitous corrupt company that is going to be expensive to own. Where do I sign up?

gagaga 17 October 2022

I have a 981 boxster.  Love the thing.

Extra things for the list-

- if you've a techie friend, swap the HDD in the PCM head unit for an SSD.  The HDDs do fail after a while and it's a £700+ repair or £1800+ replacement at the dealer.  A suitable SSD is about £30, it's an hours work

- you can get Carplay/Android Auto fitted to the head unit.  About £300 for the electronics standalone, or £6-700 fitted keeping absolutely standard look and buttons

- insurance: I was quoted £1200 and £1400 from 2 different low-mileage specialists.  I added it to my household multi-car policy for £35, most of which was an admin fee