In the Porsche hierarchy, the Cayman S was penned to fit snugly below the mighty and ever so iconic Porsche 911, that gem of a sportscar that continues to be the success story of the brand. The Cayman was asked to play second fiddle to its elder and more accomplished sibling but I don’t think everyone at Porsche was in agreement. Second should not be this good.
The Porsche Cayman S was designed from scratch, adopting a mid-engined, rear wheel-driven layout that is the perfect recipe for motoring perfection. Located just 30 centimeters behind the driver, the 3,4-liter flat-six engine provides the shove and the soundtrack as you exploit the dynamics and sheer breadth of talent that comes from this car. The car’s 239 kilowatts (kW) and 370Nm of torque may not sound substantial on paper, but from helm, it’s blisteringly quick. The performance figures start to sound more convincing. It claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 280km/h.
The partnership of Porsche’s booming, normally aspirated engine with the PDK double clutch system is true automotive genius that allows the driver to capitalize on the full potential of this car in all driving modes. The more willing the driver, the more rewarding the driving experience, particularly in Sport or Sport Plus mode when performance is at its peak in steering, throttle, gearbox, engine management and suspension responses.
The metal-forged paddle shifters behind the steering give you the option to take control yourself, but if its absolute speed and immediate, unfaltering gear changes you are after, let the box do it for you. Sport Plus also allows you to go beyond the edges of traction as it allows a small degree of slip to make even the most unskilled drivers look like pros. The steering feels perfect and the response is flawless; all adding to a visceral experience of high performance motoring.
In complete contrast, driving the Cayman S in Normal mode is as comfortable and easy to drive as a B-segment hatch. This is, in part, due to the optional dynamic gearbox mounts that adapt their stiffness and damping characteristics in accordance with the driving conditions and changing road surfaces. A softer drive yields a more comfortable and more compliant ride, the opposite being true for when you floor the pedal. The car is also more practical than other sportscars with enough room in the storage compartment, located at the front of the car, for at least a medium-sized suitcase and some more. For the smaller things, such as quick-stop shopping bags and laptop cases, there is some space behind the seats. In true Porsche spirit, the interior can be customized to suit any tastes, all at the risk of inflating the price and the ego.
At R838,000 ($75,800), it’s difficult to quantify the price in comparison to the Cayman S’ competitors. The Audi TT RS; Nissan 370Z Coupe; BMW Z4; Mercedes Benz SLK 55 AMG and Lotus Evora could be deemed its direct rivals and on this level, the Porsche could be seen as expensive, especially if you are besotted with ticking options. In truth, however, the Cayman S operates in an entirely different league which renders these cars as mere heel-snappers and makes the price argument more interesting. Firstly, consider that a Mercedes Benz SLK 55 AMG costs R999,000 ($90,500). The Lotus Evora costs R900,000 ($81,500). Such is the competence of the Cayman S that it allows us to start making comparisons to other inspirational sports cars such as the Jaguar F-Type (more expensive); and dare I say it, the entry-level 911 Carrera (a lot more expensive). You do the maths.
The Cayman S has many positive features, a lot of which are on the options list. I would strongly recommend to any potential buyers to purchase the Cayman S PDK with the optional Sport Chrono package as well as the Porsche Active Suspension Management. This will ensure you own a car at the height of its accomplishment. The Sport Chrono Package will include interior detailing such as analogue and digital clocks, a stopwatch/timer for recording your lap times and a g-Meter for displaying how brave you are in the corners. But, more important than the interior changes is the fact that the optional Sport Chrono Package enhances the engine, gearbox and chassis to deliver the sharpest and most rewarding driving experience. In Sport and Sport Plus modes the damping is hardened, the steering is more direct and the throttle blips on the shifts down the gears.
The Porsche Cayman S has oodles of competence and this makes it a very difficult car to fault. Using the contrast of its weaknesses would have made an easier conclusion for me but I’ve failed to find a kink in its character, its engineering and its value. The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists have also noticed this, as the Porsche Cayman S sits pretty in the line-up of finalists for the 2014 Car of the Year. I would award it the title without a doubt.
The Cayman S is good… possibly too good. And while Porsche may be attempting to attract buyers of competing products, I fear that the Cayman S may not be too content playing second fiddle any more. Murmurings of a more powerful Porsche Cayman GTS breaking cover add to my argument.