Entry-level Cayman is predictably brilliant

What is it?

It’s the entry-level Porsche Cayman in its revised form, with its engine upped in size to 2.9 litres. This increase in capacity not only brings another 21bhp and 20lb ft of torque compared with the previous 2.7-litre base Cayman but also slightly improved performance and reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Although it misses out on the direct injection fitted to the latest Cayman S, the regular Cayman now gets a six-speed manual gearbox rather than the poverty-spec five-speeder fitted to the previous car. And there’s nothing stopping you from adding desirable options such as Porsche’s new seven-speed PDK gearbox and a limited-slip diff, same as the Cayman S.

What’s it like?

We’ve said previously that the latest Cayman S is pretty close to sports car perfection, and the less powerful Cayman isn’t far behind. Where the old five-speed 2.7 sometimes felt slightly lacking (in both outright performance and its ratio count), the 2.9 is quick enough to keep most drivers happy.

To be honest, its performance is still nothing startling – rival coupes such as the Audi TTS and BMW 135i Coupe are quicker off the line and more flexible in their power delivery – but the Cayman makes the most of what it’s got, and the result is a very satisfying package.

A lot of that is down to its sweet handling and tactile steering, which are on a different level from its German rivals and more than make up for any deficit in performance (though you wouldn’t ever call it slow, with a 0-62mph time of 5.8sec).

On standard suspension the Cayman’s ride can be quite jiggly at low speeds (despite the fact that our test car was riding on standard 17in wheels). But it comes right at higher speeds, where the Cayman displays astonishing poise and suppleness, seemingly irrespective of the road surface below. Extending the engine and probing the limits of the Cayman’s idiotproof chassis add up to an unusually cohesive and rewarding experience, especially considering how usable the Cayman is day to day.

The new six-speed manual gearbox is very welcome too. As well as removing the nagging ‘poor relation’ feeling that you got with the old five-speed Cayman, the new ’box brings a more ideal set of gear ratios (for both cross-country and motorway cruising use) and a typically lovely gearshift action. The optional PDK ’box is a far better alternative to the old Tiptronic auto if you must have a two-pedal layout (and helps the 0-62 time and CO2 output), but it’s hard to imagine it being more satisfying than the regular manual version.

The only real disappointment is the way the Cayman sounds. There’s a bit of induction howl under hard acceleration that dies away all too quickly as you ease off, but for the majority of the time the engine is just too quiet, whining away behind the cabin. A shouty sports exhaust would seem to be the answer – and it might also distract your attention from the amount of road noise the car generates. There’s a surprising number of rumbles and thumps, especially on the motorway, which could detract from the Cayman’s cruising ability.

Should I buy one?

Although the 2.9 Cayman won’t blow your socks off with its performance, it is now well enough endowed to make you question whether there’s any need to spend an extra £8k on a Cayman S. And unlike the previous 2.7 with its five-speed ’box, there’s nothing obvious to suggest that it’s a lesser model than the S, so you’re unlikely to ever feel short-changed if you can’t stretch to the 3.4-litre model.

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In the end the S is probably a slightly more complete car, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with such a rewarding driver’s car as the 2.9 Cayman.

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TegTypeR 24 February 2009

Re: Porsche Cayman 2.9

Hurundi V Bakshi wrote:
"Pick of the bunch"? Double eh? It's the Cayman or the Cayman S : small bunch.

Fair point.

Hurundi V Bakshi wrote:
What does this mean? Sounds like babble. "In the real world"? Eh? Aren't we all in the real world.

Real world? The world as you rightly point out is inhabited by all of us. The world where your speeds are limited and you would rarely, if ever, do 0-60mph in the times quoted by the magazines. Where driving is done to get you from A-B and sometimes it is a chore.

Un-real world? The world that most magazines test their cars in. The world where most fat a**ed wind bags sit in the pub and compare cars. The world where 0.4 seconds off the 0-60 time makes a crushing difference.

JNW1 24 February 2009

Re: Porsche Cayman 2.9

TegTypeR wrote:

It's for a purely practical reason in this case, CO2 emissions. With out the six speed box they wouldn't have got the exceptional (well, exceptional for a car that does 0-60 in 5.8 seconds whilst not being a light weight like the Elise) figure they have.

Not sure the figure of 221g/km is actually that exceptional; by comparison, the (heavier) 330i BMW coupe is 173g/km and even the 335i is "only" 218g/km. However, I doubt people buying that sort of car at that sort of money will have CO2 emissions as their top priority; it may well be a factor if all other things are equal but if saving on road tax and appearing to be green are that important to you then a three litre petrol sports coupe costing £36k probably isn't your car!

perusal 23 February 2009

Re: Porsche Cayman 2.9

Interesting comments.

I seriously considered a 2.7 when I chose my last company car back in 2007. I had 2 extended test drives and overall really loved the driving experience but in the end decided I couldn't live with the jiggly ride and also the continuous road noise - a lot of my mileage is covered on the motorway.

In the end I went for a BMW 330 Coupe and whilst it is no Porsche have never regretted my decision. I could live with the Cayman foibles if it was an occasional car but not as an only car for every day use.