Porsche Cayman review
Porsche Cayman is the best sports car you can buy, with the awesome GT4 topping the range
When the second-generation Porsche Cayman was launched back in 2013 it followed the same formula as the original, but stepped out of the larger 911’s shadow. Smarter styling gave the Cayman its own identity.
It’s basically a Boxster with a roof, but the extra stiffness it gives the chassis means the Cayman is a sublime drivers’ car. In fact, it’s one of the finest-handling sports cars performance coupes money can buy. It’s got ample performance for the road, but it’s also a reasonably practical two-seater that shouldn’t cost the earth to run.
The Cayman is a true drivers’ car. It’s faster, but also lighter, which is great news for handling and fuel efficiency. As the Cayman is an every-day coupe, that’s important.
And when you want to exploit the car’s potential, with the engine and all the major components in between the two axles, it delivers a perfect handling balance.
The Cayman comes in four guises: the entry-level car with a 2.7-litre flat-six engine, the Cayman S which has a larger 3.4-litre motor, the Cayman GTS – which is based on the S but has an extra 15bhp and more kit as standard – and the GT4 halo model. This uses the bigger engine from the old 911 Carrera S and 911 GT3 suspension parts. Good luck getting one, though, as the limited production run is already all sold out.
On the three other versions there’s the option of a Sports Chassis – it’s 20mm lower than the basic suspension setup, making it a perfect car for track use.
Engines, performance and drive
No company has as strong a reputation as Porsche for building driver-focused cars, and the Cayman is a great example of this. However, it isn’t an intimidating road-racer, and if you don’t need more than two seats, the Cayman S could easily be a car you can use on a daily basis.
You’ll enjoy working the flat-six Porsche engine hard, especially with the optional sports exhaust, which delivers an evocative howl.
More importantly, the Cayman’s sublime chassis means you’ll never be left wanting by the driving experience. The car makes the most of its mid-engined layout and near-perfect weight distribution, so whether you’re on a track or the road, the Porsche’s brilliance shines through at every corner.
The chassis delivers bags of grip, body control is faultless and traction on the exit of tight corners is almost unbreakable. The steering is beautifully weighted, fast and accurate, and it’s easy to tighten your line or revel in the grip and balance of the Cayman.
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Even without the brilliant optional PASM adaptive dampers, the ride is surprisingly supple, meaning the Porsche soaks up and deals with bumps quite well. The Cayman is refined, too, with much less wind and road noise.
The fast-shifting PDK gearbox is well suited to the Cayman, and allows you to make the most of the car’s performance. In corners, the sheer amount of grip available means the Porsche encourages you to push harder into every turn, while the steering is full of feedback so you can place the car exactly where you want. When you do reach the limit of grip, the Cayman breaks away progressively, so you can catch the ensuing slide easily.
Some people will prefer the manual slick-shifting six-speed gearbox though, as it is a joy to use and you’ll relish revving the engine all the way to the near-8,000rpm red line. Which is just as well, as the 2.7-litre Cayman needs to be worked hard. Power starts to build from 4,500rpm, when peak torque arrives, and with relatively long gearing, the car can seem a bit flat at low revs.
The 3.4-litre engine in the S model has more performance with 321bhp on tap – or 336bhp in the case of the GTS. In 2015 Porsche revealed a new range-topper, however: the Cayman GT4.
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It uses the 380bhp 3.8-litre flat-six from the pre-facelift Porsche 911. This extra power means it sprints off the line from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds – 0.2 faster than the PDK-equipped GTS. However, that’s with a manual gearbox, as the GT4 only comes with Porsche’s mechanical feeling six-speeder.
And with a shorter throw and weightier action, it’s mechanically precise and integrates driver and car perfectly. It’s an old-school delight, while the GT3 suspension delivers huge grip and incredibly detailed feedback. It relays information back to you through each of the controls, giving you a little bit of extra confidence in the car's performance that you just don't quite get in the Cayman or Cayman S.
Regardless of which Cayman you go for, on the open road, it consistently delivers a thrilling blend of performance, handling and driving pleasure at all times.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The smaller 2.7 model returns 33.6mpg, but opt for the S and you'll see 31.4mpg (or 34.4mpg with the PDK automatic gearbox). Enjoy the full rev range too much, though, and fuel bills will rise. Scheduled servicing is pricey as well – the first three check-ups will set you back a total of £1,570.
You do get xenon lights as standard, but sat-nav, parking sensors and cruise control are optional, and there are plenty of other extras that will send the final price rocketing.
Interior, design and technology
Porsche is famous for producing the legendary rear-engined 911, but it’s also tried its hand at building mid-engined cars, and the models that have followed this format have gone down in history as some of the most successful sports cars ever.
The Cayman is the latest road car to use this template, and as you would expect, it shares its styling cues with the Boxster roadster, albeit with the addition of a metal roof that incorporates a large glass tailgate, adding extra practicality.
The low nose, round headlights and distinctive profile mean the Cayman is unmistakably a Porsche, while the entry-level 2.7 model can be upgraded to look just like more powerful versions, with bigger wheels and colour-coded trim.
Up front there are the familiar round lights and low nose inspired by the larger 911, while the slab sides and hunched rear wheelarches are better suited to the Cayman’s coupe profile than the drop-top Boxster.
However, the Porsche has to play second fiddle to the Jaguar F-Type Coupe and Alfa Romeo 4C in the style stakes – it’s more reserved than the muscular F-Type and not quite as extrovert as the 4C’s baby supercar styling.
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But with the rear spoiler cutting neatly into the tail-lights, there’s beauty in the Cayman’s sharp detailing, too, while the optional 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels look fantastic. The GTS gets 20-inch alloys as standard, as well as slightly redesigned bumpers, unique badging and lashings of Alcantara and leather in the cabin.
The GT4 also gets bespoke alloys and a big body kit – including a redesigned front bumper with a jutting splitter, and an aggressive rear wing – to reinforce its status at the top of the Cayman tree.
No matter whether it’s a luxurious S model or the stripped out GT4, climb inside and the Cayman oozes quality. The layout has plenty of traditional Porsche touches, including overlapping dials on the dash, banks of buttons flanking the gearlever, as well as high-quality plastics and metal trim.
The layout takes a bit of getting used to, especially the rather vague climate controls, but there’s no faulting the driving position, while the clear view out and well weighted controls mean the Cayman is surprisingly easy to drive.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
As it’s a two-seater sports car, you wouldn’t expect the Porsche Cayman to be particularly practical. However, you might be surprised by how much luggage you can take with you. The tailgate lifts to reveal a shallow load area, although Porsche claims that it has a volume of 275 litres.
The two deep bins either side of the engine cover are useful, although they are tricky to access. Pop the bonnet, and you get a well-shaped 150-litre front boot, which is deep and rectangular. The deep glovebox features a pair of twin cup-holders that pop out from the dashboard, too.
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The driver and passenger sit low in the Cayman, yet despite the lack of standard parking sensors, low-speed manoeuvres around town are easy for a sports car like this, thanks to the good visibility.
Reliability and Safety
The Cayman shares its running gear and electrical systems with other models in the Porsche range, and as the company designs its cars with performance in mind, it should prove able to stand up to the rigours of everyday life on the road – and more than a few occasions out on track , too.
While the original Cayman was built in Finland by Valmet Automotive, the current car is assembled by German coachbuilder Karmann, although production standards are as high as they are at the manufacturer’s Stuttgart works.
Porsche is confident that its cars will last, so the Cayman has two-year service intervals. But while maintenance will be expensive, you can expect a first-class service, as Porsche dealers came high up in eighth place in our Driver Power 2015 survey - although this was a five-place slip on its 2014 result.
All versions get six airbags and stability control, while adaptive cruise control can be added to help improve safety on the motorway.