From £39,162
Facelifted coupe is better than ever

What is it?

This is the new Porsche Cayman S, Weissach’s mid-engined two-seat coupe getting a mid-life refresh.

Cosmetically there is not much to differentiate new Porsche Cayman from old. It gets restyled light units and bumpers both front and back, plus new wheel designs.

Mechanically, though, there is more to get excited about. Both Caymans get revised engines with more power, improved economy and lower emissions.

The base Cayman’s 2.7-litre flat six is enlarged to 2.9 litres and retains conventional fuel injection, while the Cayman S tested here keeps its 3.4-litre capacity, but with the addition of direct injection and an extra 25bhp.

Both engines are from the same family of new flat-sixes recently introduced on the 911.

The Cayman also now gets Porsche’s dual-clutch seven-speed PDK gearbox, along with the option of launch control. For those wishing to change gear themselves, both models get a six-speed manual.

The five-speed ’box previously standard on the base Cayman has been discontinued.

Although the Cayman’s suspension architecture is unaltered, spring rates, dampers and anti-roll bar settings have been tweaked to match the increased performance. The steering control value has also been changed to reduce steering effort at low speeds.

The most controversial, and potentially gratifying, update is Porsche’s decision to finally offer the Cayman with the option of a limited-slip differential, something it has previously said the car did not require.

What’s it like?

Excellent. The Cayman S was pretty near perfection to start with, and now it’s even closer. The new engine feels a lot stronger than the additional 25bhp Porsche claims, particularly through the mid range.

In the new 911, direct injection has detracted from the flat six’s character, making it quieter and less meaty.

Quite the opposite is true with the new Cayman S. It not only goes harder, but also sounds much sweeter. More like an old 911 in fact.

A PDK Cayman S equipped with launch control is able to go from 0-62mph in 4.9sec. That’s exactly the same as that of a Carrera 3.6.

Since the Cayman was first launched Porsche has been careful to ensure that the Cayman doesn’t upstage the 911 Perhaps with the latest Carrera now occupying a more rounded role, Porsche is finally allowing the Cayman to fulfil its potential.

As for the PDK ’box, it is a technically excellent gearbox let down by the counterintuitive positioning of its shift controls. If you want an automatic, the PDK is so superior to the old Tiptronic that the two are not worthy of comparison.

However, PDK does rob some of the mechanical interaction that makes driving a Cayman such a joyous thing. The manual transmission might be the technically inferior solution, but it remains the gearbox of choice.

Back to top

Answering questions about its policy u-turn on the limited-slip differential, Porsche was deliberately evasive.

Whatever the reason, we’re thankful for the outcome, because it makes the Cayman S a sharper, more involving car, with improved traction out of corners and no hint of additional understeer. At £737 it’s an option worth ticking.

In other respects the Cayman handles pretty much as it always did: balanced, communicative and adjustable, and with a composed and comfortable ride.

The only question mark hovers over the steering, which doesn’t feel quite so peachy.

This could be as a result of changes to the steering assistance, but it could be down to the fact that PDK cars get a smaller-diameter, thicker-rimmed wheel than manuals.

Should I buy one?

We’re under no illusion that Porsche wants a great deal of money for a Cayman S.

But then, a base Carrera is a lot more expensive and arguably not as accomplished. For anyone in the market for a two-seat sports car, the Cayman S remains the benchmark.

Jamie Corstorphine

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Mad Dog! 8 December 2008

Re: Porsche Cayman S

I like open cars myself, but the Cayman does look nice and is much better looking in the metal than in photo's I think.

Honest Paul 8 December 2008

Re: Porsche Cayman S

julianphillips wrote:
I reckon the Boxster S would be better value for the vast majority of customers.

Couldn't agree more, but...........

The Cayman doesn't carry the soft poseur image that the Boxster has inevitably been lumped with and in true 'blokey car nut' circles that counts for a lot and leads many to dig a little deeper and end up with a little less.

I'd love the option of having my lid on or off but I'm too self concious to thread my way through the supermarket car park in a roofless Porsche and I fear others may feel the same.

julianphillips 5 December 2008

Re: Porsche Cayman S

Hasn't all this engine tweakery etc just been done to distance the Cayman from the Boxster S? And to justify why the hard top costs more than the soft top? In the current line up (not the one reviewed here, the previous range), I reckon the Boxster S would be better value for the vast majority of customers.