The Cayman is my Porsche. I don’t care much for drop-tops, so while I acknowledge the Boxster’s strengths, I’m comfortable enough with passing one by. I’m not Steve Sutcliffe, so I never feel entirely certain that a 911 isn’t on the verge of biting me on the backside on a wet roundabout. And the Cayenne, er, well…
Truth is, my Porsche soft spot has always been with the boggo Cayman, the 2.7-litre model with a five-speed gearbox. It never felt stupidly fast, but its performance was enough for plenty of enjoyment on a quiet country road, and the sublime chassis always felt like it was on my side. It’s the sort of car in which an uncouth leadfoot can get away with fundamental errors, in other words.
So I was eager to grab the keys to the new basic Cayman – now 2.9 litres and with a six-speed gearbox – to see how Porsche has progressed my pick of its range.
First impressions were good. The driving position is as sorted as before. The steering has retained its lovely linearity. The gearbox has an extra ratio, but it’s every bit as slick as the old five-speed unit. It doesn’t feel any quicker than before in real-world terms, but it seems to have kept its smooth power delivery.
Then I started to have doubts. They started with what seemed like more pronounced road noise, although I told myself that this might just be down to the fact that the 2.9-litre motor is more refined and so less characterful in note than the old unit. Then I realised that, around town, I was bouncing around in my seat, and hearing more than the odd suspension crash.
The new Cayman feels stiffer and, when you’re pressing on, the chassis feels even more planted than before – you would have to be an utter lunatic to unstuck a base model mid-corner, so flat is its torque curve – but it’s a bit of a pig on potholed urban roads as a result.
It seems to me, in fact, that the overall Cayman package has been re-engineered to cope with the revised, more powerful S, and its little brother has lost a little of its forgiving nature in the process. So you’re left with a car that satisfies, but one that comes with the very faintest whiff of disappointment.
I’m told by our road test team that the Cayman S is utterly sensational, particularly when equipped with the limited-slip differential. That may well be true. But I regret the fact that the peachy entry-level model has been sacrificed to achieve this.