Manages to tread the fine line between Boxster and 911. A stunning addition to the Porsche range and worthy alternative to an M3.

This is a testing road, a nasty road. It threads its serpentine way through the Tuscan hills without a straight section of asphalt for miles. It’s mainly second gear stuff, with half a turn of steering input left then right, then left, and so on, interjected regularly with a hairpin. I’m struggling to imagine a car that would be faster through here than a Porsche Cayman S. And I’m including a 911 Carrera in that prediction. Rarely have I felt so bolted into a car, so soon after getting behind the steering wheel.

Why is this? Chiefly, it’s to do with the Cayman’s abilities as an overall package. The balance of the chassis is sublime: it cuts these corners into ribbons, turning in briskly and unfailingly, and gripping so hard – especially on 19in wheels with PASM – that your sides start to ache. At times either the front or rear of the car loses grip, but because I can feel what’s going on through the typically accurate steering and the seat of my pants, it becomes a dialogue with the car, rather than a series of nasty surprises. And matters move onto a different level again with the optional ceramic brakes fitted: eye wateringly expensive, but the king of the late brakers, every time.

Porsche may wince at the phrase, but the Cayman is effectively a Boxster coupe. Under that sweeping rear glass lies a 185-litre boot and a new 3.4-litre flat-six, which marries 911 and Boxster parts along with some bespoke items of its own such as the crankshaft. The result is, predictably, a power output shy of a regular Carrera but comfortably above a Boxster S, with 295bhp. It has a character all of its own, however: more raw than a Boxster’s and rougher than a 911’s, with a noticeable sucking sound from the air intake at higher revs.

In typical Porsche style it provides just enough motive force not to leave you feeling short changed, without overwhelming the car or threatening the model above it in the range – in this case the regular 911. It is an engine that you simply feel compelled to thrash the moment you get behind the wheel.

Talking of which, the Cayman’s interior will be familiar to any Boxster driver out there. That’s no bad thing, as it’s beautifully made, and with the vastly improved structural stiffness of the coupe bodyshell feels even more solid then usual.

Which brings us to the Cayman’s final trump card: its looks. Maybe like me you’d seen the first spy pictures and motorshow snaps and felt distinctly underwhelmed, but under the autumnal Italian sun it looks fantastic: small, contained, focused, balanced, aggressive.

There are plenty of performance cars that offer a bigger bang for £44k, but none of them offers the depth of ability and integrity of the Cayman. It’s one of those rare cars that after driving you have to make a conscious effort to find genuine fault with. Maybe it could be a mite faster, the engine a bit smoother, the steering a little more talkative around the straight ahead. But we’re talking subtleties here. We should get a Cayman S in the UK by the end of the year for a full Autocar road test. We can’t wait.

Adam Towler

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snoosh 8 December 2008

Re: Porsche Cayman S

- I agree with all of this - I am lucky enough to own an 'S' which is used as a weekend toy and every time I get behind the wheel I am reminded about how well sorted a car this is.