By adding a roof to the Boxster platform, Porsche has obviously created extra stiffness with the Cayman. Having said that, the key to this car’s handling balance remains in the basic positioning of the engine.
Typically, Porsche is coy on specific numbers, simply stating that the 911 and Cayman bodyshells offer near identical torsional stiffness, and that the Cayman is twice as stiff as the roadster on which it is based. This has allowed firmer springs and dampers all round, a thicker anti-roll bar at the front and, interestingly, a smaller bar at the rear compared with a Boxster S.
An adaptive damping system (PASM – Porsche Active Suspension Management) is an option and was fitted to the test car. Off the record, all Porsche engineers agree that, in the basic disciplines that combine under the blanket term ‘handling’, the Cayman is the best sports car Porsche currently makes. And that includes any 911.
Having driven the Cayman on road and track, wet and dry, snow and ice, we agree. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. The Cayman has an engine ideally placed for roadholding and agility, and Porsche wrote the suspension damper handbook – but the aspect that exceeds expectations is just how accessible the car’s treats are to the average driver.
Where a 911 can feel intimidating, the Cayman simply doesn’t. And this isn’t simply a case of speed or potential danger. Both cars have Porsche’s delicate stability system (PSM) that is as unobtrusive as you could hope, but the intervention comes much later on the Cayman because it doesn’t suffer the same extremes of oversteer or understeer.
What sets the Cayman apart is its steering, and specifically the amount of reassurance it offers in being so accurate. Of course, there’s a safety window of understeer at work, but it’s never an issue and grip from the optional 19-inch tyres is excellent.
You can take liberties with the Cayman. It is a car willing to allow a driver a second chance. It is so agile, so keen to change direction that adding steering inputs through the middle of a turn is entirely acceptable. This isn’t possible in a 911.
Where mid-engined cars can prove less satisfactory is on the fringes of grip levels. Not so the Cayman; it doesn't have the power to slide at will, but it’s a mid-engined sports car that can be driven with a degree of predictable, enjoyable slip within the limits of its open differential. Traction is mostly good but there were occasions, on both dry and wet surfaces, where a lone wheel was left spinning. But then had Porsche offered an LSD the car would have lapped the Nürburgring track quicker than a standard 911 Carrera, and that isn’t allowed.