Porsche Cayman S
Despite the presence of serious rivals from Lamborghini and Audi, the amazing Porsche Cayman S retains its title
What a result for Porsche! For the first time in the nine-year history of the annual Auto Express Greatest Drives, our reigning champ has retained its title.
To the uninitiated, it’s nothing more than a poor man’s 911. But as anyone who has driven one can attest, the Cayman is no weak link.
This year’s 20-car line-up was arguably the most talented we’ve ever assembled. Looking through the list of contenders even before we went to Anglesey, it was hard to predict which would do badly... or which would be good enough to pose a real threat to the Porsche.
Yet on road or track, the Cayman was untouchable. Rivals were faster, newer and wilder, but none had the German’s all-round excellence.
So what is it that makes this Porsche so good? Well, if you reversed the question and asked what it did badly, you’d have a very short list. You could say the styling is an acquired taste, the cabin is a bit plain, it’s not brilliant value and is sparsely equipped.
But leave those out of the equation, concentrate on the driving and you would have to conclude that Porsche’s engineers are the best in the business. Get in, and the car fits around you. The driving position, pedal layout and gearchange are all perfect – the sports seats are definitely worth having, too.
Even 911 owners will be forced to concede the flat-six powerplant sounds better here, mainly because it’s closer to the driver in the mid-engined Cayman, rather than slung out behind the rear axle as it is in the 911. The noise is so distinctive, too, from a guttural rattle at low revs through to a rasping wail as the 7,000rpm red line closes in.
On the rollercoaster roads through Snowdonia, it was magic. We deliberately shifted down and blipped the throttle to enjoy the noise bouncing off the stone walls.
Even more impressive was the Cayman’s astonishing composure on any surface. The Audi R8 was equally capable, but didn’t provide as much feedback as the Porsche. The steering and suspension talk to the driver constantly, so not one detail goes unnoticed. At the circuit, this was evident in the Cayman’s amazing precision – nearly as taut as the fearsome 911 GT3 RS, it could be placed to the nearest millimetre, and displayed the balance and agility of an Olympic gymnast.
Those who stepped into the junior Porsche for the first time said afterwards that they could tell it was something special by the time they came out of the first corner. After three days, the Cayman had convinced us it deserved to add a second Greatest Drives trophy to its cabinet.
- 1Welcome to Greatest Drives 2007We've gathered together this year's hottest cars to fight it out on road and track for the title of Auto Express's Greatest Drives 2007
- 2Mercedes CL63 AMGThe latest Mercedes AMG is a variant of the Bentley Continental-rivalling CL63. Does a two-tonne sports saloon make sense?
- 3BMW 130i M SportAlthough it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
- 4Vauxhall Corsa VXRIt was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?
- 5Audi S5It might not be the most thrilling to drive, but the Audi S5 is one of the easiest cars to drive quickly
- 6BMW M5 TouringThe estate version of the BMW M5 is no slouch, but it doesn't feel as special as previous M cars from BMW
- 7Lotus 2-ElevenThe Lotus 2-Eleven is an uncompromised trackday car - driveable, if not comfortable, on the road, but unsurpassed on a circuit
- 8Morgan Aero 8 AmericaThe most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for
- 9Vauxhall VXR8The Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun
- 10Nissan 350ZA previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
- 11MINI Cooper SNow a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
- 12Caterham Sigma Roadsport 125It's a perennial favourite of Greatest Drives, and this year's Caterham Roadsport is no different - brilliant on the track, a little rough on the road
- 13Fiat Panda 100HPAs much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
- 14Mazda MX-5 RCIt's the top-selling two-seater of all time, but does the Mazda MX-5 still have the flair to challenge for the title of Greatest Drive?
- 15Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26The latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package
- 16Porsche 911 GT3 RSThe hardcore Porsche 911 GT3 RS is an unequivocal supercar. With incredible performance, the only doubt is its real-world usability - and price tag
- 17Renaultsport Clio 197 F1 Team R27If you thought the Megane was impressive, the hot Renaultsport Clio R27 manages to force its way into the top 5 with sheer poise
- 18Lamborghini Gallardo SuperleggeraThe Lamborghini was the most expensive car on test. Luckily the super-light Gallardo was also the most rewarding to drive
- 19Honda Civic Type RThe Type R version of the Honda Civic is not only the best hot hatch, its chassis makes it one of the best drivers' cars, full stop
- 20Audi R8The hottest car of the year, the Audi R8 isn't perfect, but driving it is such a thrilling experience, you won't care
- 21Porsche Cayman S - currently readingDespite the presence of serious rivals from Lamborghini and Audi, the amazing Porsche Cayman S retains its title