Porsche Cayman

New engine heads a raft of changes for the 911’s little brother

When is a finely tuned Porsche coupé not a 911? When it’s a Cayman! Slotting in its range between the soft-top Boxster and the full-scale 911, this model is often overlooked. However, ignore it at your peril, as it has long been one of the best sports cars money can buy.

The Cayman’s shape closely follows Porsche’s family form, although for some the bulbous roofline makes it the least attractive of the trio. The rounded wheelarches and small overhangs are well proportioned, while the revised detailing is less fussy than the original. A cleaner headlamp design and striking LED tail-light clusters set it apart, and as before, the long tailgate opens to reveal a generous 260-litre boot.

In fact, the Cayman is surprisingly practical, as there’s a handy luggage net placed on top of the mid-mounted engine, plus a deep 150-litre storage area in the nose. Carpet-lined door pockets and hidden storage bins either side of the engine provide decent stowage, too.

Even though the interior remains largely unchanged, it still offers a combination of modern quality with a classic Porsche layout. The driving position is close to faultless, and thanks to the perfectly weighted controls you feel immediately at home and at one with the Cayman.

Turn the ignition key, and the 265bhp engine nestled behind the seats fires up with a characteristic flat-six rasp. It has the smallest torque output in this test, so it doesn’t deliver the in-gear thrust of its turbocharged rivals. But throttle response is consistent throughout the revs.

Once you hit 4,000rpm, the 2.9-litre unit comes into its own, racing to the red line with ease. The 1,330kg Porsche has the lightest kerbweight here, and this – along with its excellent traction – helped it match its rivals in the sprint from 0-60mph. All three models took 5.5 seconds. The Porsche’s engine has to be worked harder in-gear, but it’s so super-smooth and linked to such a slick gearbox that this is always a pleasure.

Although it isn’t the fastest car in the Porsche range, the Cayman is as much fun as more powerful variants due to its superb chassis. The beautifully balanced handling ensures it’s one of the most engaging vehicles in any price bracket.

The coupé combines a rigid bodyshell and taut suspension with razor-sharp steering, firm but delicate brakes and strong grip, and is a joy to drive whatever the road. Chassis balance is perfect, due to the mid-mounted engine, while minimal body movement and peerless feedback make this one of the purest performance cars we’ve ever driven.

The only drawback of this racy edge is the Porsche’s less relaxed long-distance cruising ability – the BMW and Audi leave you feeling fresher after a journey. Our model was fitted with the £1,008 Porsche Active Suspension Management system (PASM), and in sport mode this stiffens the dampers and the handling even further.

In the normal setting, the ride is firm, but the tin-top Cayman copes better than the Boxster over rough surfaces. While it isn’t as supple as its competitors in this test, it never becomes uncomfortably harsh.

Then again, PASM is a costly add-on – as with most of the kit on the options list. The TTS comes with Audi’s excellent Magnetic Ride system as standard. So the £36,101 Cayman’s status as the cheapest car here is undermined by the miserly equipment list, and the fact that most buyers will want to add various extras.

Nevertheless, the entry-level Porsche won’t leave you feeling short-changed. The revisions have only improved what was a superb package.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: One of the world’s best sports cars now features a new engine and reworked styling.

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