The regular Cayman comes with a 2.7-litre engine, but opt for the Cayman S and you'll find a 3.4-litre unit nestled in the back.
Whether or not the larger engine is preferable is a matter of personal preference and your intended use of the car. It's less effort to make faster progress in the S, thanks to its additional torque, but it's perhaps a little less enjoyable to work hard.
The 3.4-litre unit is claimed to be over half a second quicker to 62mph, and it feels more urgent out of the mid-range. But the smaller flat six is no pale shadow; it’s a stirring boxer engine in Porsche’s grand tradition, and what it lacks in tractability, it makes up for in high-rev sparkle and road-biased usability.
On the mile straight at MIRA’s proving ground, full of fuel and two up, the 2.7-litre version broke the 60mph tape in 5.9sec – a few fractions outside Porsche’s claim. But the Cayman driver should be concerned with away-from-the-lights performance least of all.
This is a car built to captivate when it’s already in motion. The in-gear performance speaks to this theme – 60-80mph in 3.9sec out of third, 80-100mph in 5.6sec from fourth – as does 30-70mph in 5.1sec.
Yet even numbers like these offer only a skeletal guide to the engine’s vibrant character. It doesn’t come fully on song until peak twist arrives at 4500rpm. The unit isn’t at all unco-operative beneath this point, either; in fact, it’s wonderfully smooth and biddable.
But requesting proper speed is not solely a job for your right foot; it’s an immediate stab through the clutch’s fleshy travel with the left and a wrist-flick of a downshift away.
This might be wearing if the six-speed manual’s gears didn’t engage so beautifully, or if the engine’s rising revs weren’t such an orchestral blend of gravelly inhalation and mechanical stress. By 6500rpm, memory of any inertia has vanished. The last 1000rpm is euphoric and over in a moment. Then you get to do it all again.
Flat-out on the road, the extra performance – particularly in the mid-range – offered from the more potent 3.4-litre engine is often negated by the need to ease off for corners. Consequently it's easy to see the upside in the base model's significantly lower price tag.
When it comes to picking the transmission, we'd recommend going for the manual. The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic is devastatingly effective, and will no doubt prove more popular in S models, but the six-speed manual is an endlessly rewarding and gloriously mechanical way to interact with the Porsche.