Porsche Cayman review
The Porsche Cayman is faster, more agile, and cheaper to run than before, and it's one of the best sports cars available
The second-generation Porsche Cayman was launched in 2013, and it follows the same formula created by the original. That means it's essentially a Boxster with a roof, but the stiffness of the hard top means the Cayman is a better driver’s car as a result.
The Porsche Cayman is one of the finest-handling performance coupes money can buy. It has plenty of performance for the road, yet is a reasonably practical two-seater that won’t cost a fortune to run.
You can get it in three guises: the entry level Cayman with a 2.7-litre flat six, the Cayman S which has a 3.4-litre engine and the range-topping Cayman GTS which is based on the S but has an extra 15bhp and more kit as standard. It also has the option of a Sports Chassis – it's 20mm lower than the basic suspension set-up, making it perfect for track use.
The Cayman is lighter, faster and better looking than ever. Its mid-engined layout places all the major components between the axles, with the aim of delivering perfectly balanced handling.
Our choice: Cayman S
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 in history. 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.
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.
With the rear spoiler cutting neatly into the tail-lights, there’s beauty in the Porsche’s sharp detailing, too, while the optional £1,700 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.
Climb inside, and the Cayman is leagues ahead of the Trophy R for 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.
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.
The Cayman’s pure, undiluted feedback immediately makes you feel at one with the road. The electric power-steering is perfectly weighted and full of the feel.
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 Cayman 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.
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 Porsche 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. The range-topper is the fastest accelerating Cayman to date, capable of 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds when fitted with the PDK gearbox. That makes it faster than the more expensive 911 Carerra.
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. However, for track-day fans a GTS with a manual gearbox and optional sports chassis, with its 20mm lower suspension and fixed rate dampers, is the ultimate driver’s Cayman.
It feeds 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.
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.
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 third in our Driver Power 2014 survey.
All versions get six airbags and stability control, while adaptive cruise control can be added for £1,368.
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.
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.
The smaller 2.7 model returns 34.4mpg, but opt for the S and you'll see 32.1mpg (or 35.3mpg with the PDK automatic gearbox). It costs £265 to tax every year.
Enjoy the full rev range too much, though, and fuel bills will rise. Scheduled servicing is expensive 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.