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Understudy no more. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Understudy no more
Porsche updates its Cayman range and creates a 911-beater.

   



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| First Drive | Jerez, Spain | Porsche Cayman S with PDK |

Porsche's Cayman has long played the understudy to the evergreen 911, but its recent raft of revisions allow the Cayman to take centre stage for the first time.

In the Metal

A presentation slide highlighting the visual changes marking out the Cayman S at its Spanish launch causes a ripple of laughter in the room, as Porsche's spokesman points out the 'extensive' styling revisions. The changes are far from extensive, amounting to new lights front and rear, mildly altered bumpers and that's about it. But why mess with a proven formula? After all, Porsche is the master at finessing its shapes as its model ranges evolve.

The result of the updates is a slightly different looking Cayman, the differences slight but effective in giving the Cayman a slightly more aggressive look that's got a few hints of the Carrera GT about it. No complaints there then. Inside, it's the same gentle evolution that Porsche undertook with the facelifted 911. There's a new centre console with improved telematics and that's about it. Again, nothing to get overly excited about, but welcome revisions nonetheless.

What you get for your Money

The Cayman S is now a genuine 911 rival. The performance and poise it features are such that unless you really need the two additional seats the 911 offers then the Cayman S is all the Porsche you need. That makes its 44,108 list price seem like something of a bargain, though you'll need to spend a bit more to complete the package. The PDK - twin clutch, two-pedal - transmission will cost you 1,920 if you want a self shifter for instance.

We'd save that though; take the standard six-speed manual and tick the box for the must-have optional limited slip differential at 737. Other than that you might want to add Porsche's cornering headlamps, PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) and the satnav system incorporating Bluetooth telephony. Figure on spending 50,000, then. Even so, it's still a bargain.

Driving it

The Cayman S has long been crying out for more power and a limited-slip differential. With the new car Porsche has finally given it both. And the result is one of Porsche's most impressive sports cars ever. It's now a serious threat to the 911 range, its extreme stability and phenomenal poise making it an incredibly competent all-rounder. The 3.4-litre engine now has 315bhp, 25bhp more than its predecessor. That might not sound like a huge leap in output, but the direct-injected flat-six feels significantly stronger than the outgoing model. There's so much mid-range flexibility that it feels faster though the gears than the entry-level 911 Carrera, its linear power delivery making it ridiculously easy to gain speed. The engine note is more characterful than in its 911 relative too, with a throaty resonance at low revs rising to a singing mechanical melody as it heads towards its higher 7,500rpm redline.

That rousing soundtrack is backed up with some serious performance: the Cayman S can sprint to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds with the PDK transmission. Add Sport Chrono Plus and its launch control function and you can reduce that to 4.9 seconds. Clever as the PDK transmission is it robs the Cayman S of some of the driver interaction that you'll get with the six-speed manual. Too often the computer second guesses you and Porsche's persistence with its strange wheel-mounted 'push-me-pull-me' shifting buttons is as incomprehensible as their operation. Paddles, one on the right for up and one on the left for down. Please...

Porsche has altered the steering and suspension slightly too, the Cayman S building on its predecessor's already tremendous ability. There's even more clarity to the steering feel, the Cayman S's rim telegraphing intimately the texture and available grip from the front wheels. It allows you to push the Cayman S harder, even on Spanish roads coated with a greasy mix of mud and rain. When the Cayman S does reach the limits of its adhesion, the resultant slide is easily caught and controlled, the optional limited-slip differential really allowing the Cayman S's chassis to deliver the killer blow to its competition - including its big brother the 911. What really underlines its superiority over the 911 is its ride; the Cayman S rides with more composure and you're more inclined to push it harder thanks to a front end that feels more keyed into the road. There's significantly less road noise too at cruising speeds.

Worth Noting

Porsche's addition of direct fuel injection to the Cayman S's 3.4-litre flat six hasn't just liberated more power but also improved its fuel consumption and emissions. The Cayman S with a manual transmission emits 223g/km of CO2 - that drops to 221g/km with the PDK option. Fuel consumption of 30.1mpg is quoted for the PDK-equipped car, that dropping slightly under 30mpg if you opt for the manual.

Summary

Porsche has fully and finally unleashed the potential of the Cayman S with the changes it has made to the range. It is now as fast as you could ever want a car to be, with the precision and poise to exploit its increased pace. Not only is it one of the best sports cars you can buy, but also one of the best Porsches.

Kyle Fortune - 4 Dec 2008



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2009 Porsche Cayman specifications: (with PDK)
Price: 44,108 (PDK adds 1,920 to that).
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 171mph
Combined economy: 30.1mpg
Emissions: 221g/km
Kerb weight: 1350kg

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman S. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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