There are two basic varieties of sports cars: those with the power and subtlety of a sledgehammer, and those with the precision and finesse of a scalpel. The Porsche Cayman is perhaps the archetypical example of the latter category, a mid-engined wonder that steers, brakes and attacks corners with the accuracy of a surgeon's blade.
Completely redesigned for the latest model year, the new Cayman (also offered in more powerful Cayman S form) is larger, more cosseting and more fuel efficient than its predecessor while also managing to be lighter and quicker. It's still big, big fun.
As its exterior styling makes plain, the Cayman is essentially a fixed-roof version of the Boxster roadster. That's no bad thing, though, as the latest Boxster's superb proportions, muscular haunches and aggressive air ducts make it one of the more eye-catching Porsches in recent memory. A dynamic, model-specific front fascia helps set Cayman apart ever so slightly from its drop-top sibling.
The Cayman is powered by a direct-injected 2.7-liter flat-six with 275 horsepower and 213 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, while a seven-speed "PDK" dual-clutch gearbox is available as an option. The stick is a slick-shifting unit that fosters a tight bond between man and machine, while the PDK has the benefit of slightly quicker acceleration and superior efficiency.
When fitted with the PDK, the Cayman can sprint from zero-to-60 mph in 5.1 seconds and return 32 mpg on the highway.
Porsche offers the Cayman with a wide variety of performance-enhancing options. The Porsche Active Suspension Management system, or PASM, actively regulates the damper force to each wheel based on a combination of road conditions and driving style to provide an optimum blend of roll stiffness and ride comfort.
Also available is a Sport Chrono Package, which includes dynamic transmission mounts, a performance display, a digital and analogue stopwatch and the SPORT PLUS button. When this is pressed, the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) switches to Sport mode for harder damping and more direct steering and therefore even more intensive road holding.
Other notable options include carbon ceramic brakes, a sport exhaust system and a brake-based torque vectoring system that applies stopping power to the inside rear wheel to help the Cayman's dynamics remain neutral during cornering.
Even without these impressive features, the Cayman is a revelation on a winding road. Communicative, precise steering and lightning-quick transient responses combined with the punchy, dulcet flat-six add up to a driving experience not soon forgotten.
With a Panamera-inspired sloping center console, the Cayman's interior is much more stylish than before, and the overall design and material quality now approach luxury-car levels.
The instrument cluster remains a simple, legible three-gauge design with the tach front and center in the best sports car tradition, while the right gauge is now 4.6-inch TFT screen that can be configured to display numerous different types of vehicle information.
Despite its handling prowess, the Cayman is actually a fairly practical machine - it offers 15 cubic feet of cargo room, although that space is divided between a traditional rear trunk and a frunk (front-trunk) where the engine would be in a normal car. Larger items may not fit.
As with other Porsche models, the Cayman offers a nearly endless array of interior treatments and paint schemes in addition to available luxury and convenience features. While most other automakers offer such options as part of bundled packages - forcing buyers to sometimes pay for features they don't want to get desired items - Porsche offers all of its extras as stand-alone features. This means that buyers can create unique, custom cars, although doing so can quickly get very pricey.
Standard and Optional Features
The Cayman comes standard with A/C, power windows and locks, cruise control, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, partial leather upholstery, power-adjustable seat backrests (manual height and fore/aft) and 18-inch wheels.
Notable options include wall-to-wall leather upholstery, active sports seats, a Bose surround sound system, an even more impressive Burmeister surround system a navigation system with voice command functionality and a variable-ratio steering system.
The Cayman comes standard with dual front, front knee and front side head/thorax airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Although Porsche will tell you that there's not substitute for its sporty coupe, it's at least worth taking rivals like the Audi TTS, the Nissan 370Z and the Chevrolet Corvette for a test drive before parking the Cayman in your driveway.