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Basic instinct. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Basic instinct
The entry-level Cayman may not be a trackday special, but it's a value-for-money way into real Porsche sportscar ownership.

   



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| First Drive | Berkshire, England | Porsche Cayman |

In quick succession we've had a chance to sample the new Porsche Cayman S and Boxster S, both featuring a new engine, along with far reaching updates to the core car. Those updates have now been applied to the entry-level Cayman and its engine has been enlarged.

In the Metal

It was tempting to make a beeline for one of the Caymans featuring tasty optional alloys available at the launch, but to get a true feel for the entry-level model we opted for the vanilla-flavoured silver example you see here. In this guise, the styling is attractive rather than dramatic and quite colour sensitive. As in the S models, the regular Cayman features new twin-lamp headlights as well as the use of LEDs in the distinctive tail lights and daytime running lights at the front. The Cayman is distinguished by a - frankly oversized - rectangular exhaust outlet and its standard 17-inch alloys.

Although the Cayman S has more equipment as standard, the regular version feels just as special on the inside, with a distinct sense of high quality to every switch and material. The modest updates include a new centre console and the infotainment system has been upgraded with many more sophisticated options available should your pockets be deep enough.

What you get for your Money

In comparison to its predecessor, the new Cayman features a larger engine (up from 2.7-litres to 2.9) producing more power and torque (up 20bhp and 20lb.ft respectively). Despite this, fuel consumption remains largely the same in the manual model, with big reductions in emissions and fuel consumption when you compare the old Tiptronic S variant to the new dual-clutch PDK transmission.

That seven-speed gearbox is an option, as is a mechanical limited slip differential, new infotainment system, bi-Xenon headlights with dynamic cornering function and the Sport Chrono Package, which includes launch control on PDK models. The Sport Chrono pack is good value at £520, which is why over 50% of 911 buyers tick its box on the options list. It's worth remembering that all Porsche customers in the UK receive a free experience day at the impressive Porsche centre in Silverstone.

The great thing about the Cayman is that it doesn't need to be weighed down with options to feel complete. The base price is £36,101, which is actually marginally down from the previous generation thanks in part to the recent VAT reduction. The new Cayman S costs about £8,000 more.

Driving it

It's been said by many cynics that the Cayman is a car for those that can't afford the Porsche 911. However, after five minutes behind the wheel of a Cayman few will wish to be elsewhere. It just feels right, from the low-set driving position to the tactility and weighting of each and every control. The standard six-speed manual is an absolute joy to use and the flat-six engine you share the cabin with makes a wonderful wail, encouraging you to use all of the rev range and blip the throttle on downshifts.

Despite the unlikelihood of many Cayman buyers bringing their car to the track, its brakes (upgraded with the facelift) are strong enough for the task, giving you the confidence to really push on. Do so and you'll uncover the Cayman's party piece: its brilliant, real-world ride and handling balance. Communicative steering lets you know how much grip there is at the front, while the car is so well balanced you sense slides as they are about to happen rather than react to them. Even on the limit of adhesion there is little fear to driving the Cayman hard, as its layout endows it with unerring traction. The Cayman S ably demonstrates how this chassis can deal with extra power, but the Cayman's 2.9-litre engine still gives it a good workout. As a bonus - on the Cayman's smaller wheels - ride comfort is improved, making this a car you could use everyday and for long journeys without any chiropractor-related bills.

Worth Noting

In its presentation of the Cayman, Porsche pointed out that, at 261bhp, the new car has more power than the original 911 Turbo. That got us thinking how it compares to the 1974 supercar in other aspects. Surprisingly, the Cayman is larger in virtually all dimensions - height excepted. It's also about 100kg heavier unfortunately, though obviously packs a lot more passive safety in. Although the Cayman betters the 911's maximum power marginally, the Turbo boasts more torque, yet the Cayman actually outguns it in a sprint from rest and has a higher top speed. You can be damn sure that it uses less fuel while doing that too. That's progress for you.

Summary

Whereas the Cayman S has evolved to be an alternative to the hallowed 911 - rather than just an understudy to the Porsche icon - the Cayman sticks with its remit of offering buyers a value-for-money way into Porsche coupé ownership. The 'entry-level' tag is only relative, as you're still buying a 261bhp, rear-wheel drive sportscar with 165mph capability and the talent to excite the keenest driver. Yet, the Cayman is such an accomplished machine that it deals with the drudgery of the daily commute with consummate ease too. In short, it's a Porsche to the core.

Shane O' Donoghue - 27 Feb 2009



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2009 Porsche Cayman specifications:
Price: £36,101 on-the-road (€90,785 in Ireland)
0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
Top speed: 165mph
Combined economy: 30.1mpg
Emissions: 221g/km
Kerb weight: 1330kg

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Cayman. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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