THE Porsche Cayman first saw the light of day at the 2005 Frankfurt Motorshow but it did not reach the showrooms until July the following year.
Based on the Boxster, the Cayman offered a coupé style of the mid-engine, open-top sports car. The success of the new addition meant it was upgraded constantly. In 2009 a new model arrived, which was joined in 2011 by the exciting swansong that is the Cayman R. The third generation, which was launched in Portugal last week, is a worthy successor.
In typical Porsche fashion the changes never alter the car’s inherent DNA. They are smooth and subtle but all result in significant differences over their predecessors. Being a sports car performance is a major factor, but the engineers at Stuttgart ensured it is coupled to equally significant improvements in efficiency.
If you want to deliver better performance you need to lose weight, and the new Cayman has shed 30kg of body weight. In addition, the more efficient flat-six engine increases the power output and decreases fuel consumption by up to 15%.
There has been a lot of transferred technology from the 911 into the Cayman. For instance, the engine and transmission, as well as the suspension and the electro-mechanical steering, are all from the 911 but enhanced further for use in the Cayman.
The big difference is that the Cayman is a mid-engined coupé, giving the car superb chassis dynamics with a 46% front and 54% rear weight-distribution, which is dynamically advantageous in a performance car.
Despite losing weight the use of new materials has increased the torsional rigidity by a staggering 40%, using a combination of steel and alloy. Total body weight is just 230kg, while the kerb weight is 1,310kg — the lightest in its class.
Styling continues the 911 theme, but those beautiful air intakes just ahead of the rear wheel arches are unique to the Cayman. Also, the retractable rear wing’s surface area has been increased by 40%, thus creating more downforce, all the while lending it a purposeful appearance. The car looks balanced and that’s just what it is on the road.
Leaving the dealership in Faro in south-eastern Portugal, our route took us into the country on a mixture of good urban and rural roads. Both the Cayman and Cayman S were available to drive and were equipped with the optional seven-speed PDK transmission — the six-speed manual gearbox comes standard. I opted for the S with that glorious PDK transmission, one of the first double-clutch automatic transmissions and a benchmark, in my opinion.
It was difficult to tell which of the myriad options offered were fitted to the cars we drove, but the Sport Chrono package, including the dynamic transmission mounts and carbon ceramic brakes, were a definite. I suspect that PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) and PTV (Porsche Torque Vectoring) were also part and parcel of the package I had chosen to drive.
In Sport mode and even Sport+ the ride quality was surprisingly supple, but with firmness that inspired confidence on the twists and turns of the back roads.
On day two it was a short drive to the Autodromo Internacional Algarve, a superb race circuit that has been used by F1 for testing and for the now defunct A1 championship. The circuit undulates with continual changes in elevation, and this was really the place to test the new Cayman’s mettle.
I was still in the Cayman S and with the Sport+ mode selected as I exited the pit lane. The 3.4l flat-six engine produces 239kW at 7,400r/min, with 370Nm available between 4,500 and 5,800r/min. Claimed performance is a 0 to 100km/h dash in 4.7 seconds with the PDK transmission, and a top speed of 281km/h. I cannot verify whether that top end was attainable as I was too busy keeping it all in check on the undulating track.
The level of adhesion was mightily impressive, as was the engine’s performance, but it was the gearbox and the brakes that impressed the most. Being able to push a car deep into a downhill bend with such confidence that I could brake and select the ideal gear for the exit while maintaining total control of the car was absolute nirvana.
The smaller capacity 2.7l version of the Cayman was no slouch either with 202kW and 290Nm, and was impressive around the almost 5km track. For everyday use this would probably be the option that many would select.
Scheduled for release in SA in April with competitive pricing, the new Cayman must be the best value for money sports car in SA and the third generation model is arguably the best yet.
Includes a three-year/90,000km maintenance plan.
The level of adhesion was mightily impressive, but it was the gearbox and brakes that impressed most