2014 Porsche Cayman

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The perfect car exists.'14 Cayman lead 2

Well, the perfect sports car: The Porsche Cayman.

Yes, the 911 is quicker – and faster. But mere acceleration is not what a sports car is all about. The mid-engined Cayman is inherently better balanced than the rear-engined 911.

And besides, the 911 is only quicker if you buy the 911 S. The as-it-sits 911 Carrera is actually not quite as quick as the Cayman.

Well, not as quick as the Cayman S I tested.

4.5 seconds to 60 – vs. 4.8 for the Carrera.

Plus about $30,000 left in your bank account.'14 Cayman S interior 1

But this is not merely about money, either. What the Cayman offers is priceless: Perfection of line – and the capability to hold just about any line you can throw it into. It is a surgical tool, a conductor’s baton – with which you, the driver, perform a symphony of high-performance motoring.

WHAT IT IS

The Cayman is Porsche’s mid-engined hardtop two-seater coupe  – as distinct from the mid-engined Boxster convertible and the rear-engined (and four-seater) 911.

Base price is $52,600 for the standard Cayman equipped with a 2.7 liter, 275 hp version of Porsche’s famous “boxer” flat six engine, teamed up with a six-speed manual transmission.'14 Cayman S lead

The Cayman S ups the ante to 3.4 liters and 325 hp. Base price for this one is $63,800.

At the pinnacle is the Cayman GTS – 340 hp, 12.9 seconds through the quarter mile and 177 MPH on top.

It stickers for $75,200.   

Other than its own sibling, the soft-topped Boxster, there’s just one other mid-engined sports car similar to the Cayman on the market – the Lotus Evora (base price $66,800). But the Lotus, though agile and quick, is partially (ahem!) a Toyota. Under its exotic-car skin, you’ll discover a 3.5 liter V-6 that’s pretty much the same V-6 you’d find in mom’s Camry. Being lighter than a Camry, the 3.5 V-6 delivers exotic-car performance in the Evora. But it’s still a Toyota V-6.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. . . .

WHAT’S NEW'14 Cayman full side

The ’14 Cayman gets a new body (subtle changes), updayed chassis (longer wheelbase, slightly widened track) and a dramatically updated interior that now rivals the 911’s . . . and across the board upgrades under the hood. Both engines are stronger – and the car itself is lighter.

And you know what that means… .

WHAT’S GOOD

Everything.

Erotic sights. This car should be sold under glass.

Erotic sounds. The race-car warble of a Porsche flat six bumping the redline at 7,800 RPM around 142 MPH at the top of fourth gear (don’t ask me how I know) is as close as most of us will ever get to vertical dive-bombing a Russian tank in a Ju-87 Stuka like Hans Ulrich Rudel. Deutschland, Deutschland uber allesStuka pic

Bar-none handling. The Code of the Curve – as Porsche puts it. If word gets out about what this car is capable of, they’ll make it as illegal as a catalytic converter “test pipe.”

A cabin worthy of the car – at last.

Surprisingly everyday viable – unlike the impossibly cramped and brutal-riding Lotus Evora. The Caymanhas two trunks. Gets not-bad gas mileage. And it’s comfortable in slow-pokey traffic.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Accessing the engine. Call the man.

Avoiding The Man.

UNDER THE HOOD'14 Cayman cut-away

Both Cayman engines are flat sixes – three cylinder on each side, “boxing” each other on a horizontal plane across a common crankshaft – as opposed to the more common upright “v” six and in-line six configurations.

The layout gets the weight of the engine down low – just what you want in a serious sports car. It is also inherently balanced – the result  of each pair of opposing pistons being fired at exactly the same moment. This makes the engine exceptionally smooth. And because heavy counterbalancing is not needed, boxer engines are also light – and thus rev fast and freely.

A side bennie is that they sound like nothing else, an intangible but critical ingredient when it comes to sports car design.'14 Cayman engine area

Standard issue is 2.7 liters and 275 hp – vs. 2.9 and 265 previously. A six-speed manual transmission is standard – or go with Porsche’s optional Doppelkupplung (PDK) seven-speed dual clutch automated manual. It adds $3,200 to the car’s price – but adds considerably to the car’s performance. More on that in a moment.

The S ups the ante to 3.4 liters and 325 hp – vs. 320 previously. Same transmission choices: no-cost six-speed stick or seven-speed PDK (also $3,200 extra)

The GTS rocks up to 340 hp – just 10 hp shy of the 911 Carrera (which starts at $84,300).

Same transmission choices once again.'14 Cayman  6 speed shifter

All Caymans are quick – and very fast. It’s merely a question of how quick (and fast) you’d like to go.

The base car is capable of pegging 60 in 5.1 seconds; the S in 4.4.    

Genug?

Interestingly, these times – the best times – are obtained with the PDK automated manual (in the most aggressive Sport Plus mode, which bangs the shifts off with the furious precision of Michael Schumacher on Red Bull).

It’s not a small difference, either.

The base Cayman with the six-speed manual gets to 60 in 5.4 seconds; the S with clutch worked by you does it in 4.7 seconds. The top-of-the-line GTS is also slightly less quick with the six-speed vs. PDK: 4.6 and 4.5 seconds, respectively.'14 Cayman PDK

This performance gap – in favor of the automated manual – is why manuals operated by you are falling out of favor in elite sports car circles.  (The 911 Turbo and GT3 come only with the PDK.) They shift perfectly, every time – and they are also more fuel-efficient. The base car with PDK rates 22 city/32 highway – vs. 20 city/30 highway with the shift-for-yourself six. The S with PDK carries a 21 city/30 highway tag – vs. 20/28 with the manual six-speed.

On the other hand, the manual cars are slightly faster than the PDK-equipped versions: 165 MPH all-out for the base car with six-speed . . . vs. 164 for the PDK-equipped Cayman.

The six-speed S pegs 175; with the PDK, 174.

Notice, by the way, that the PDK-equipped Cayman GTS (4.5 seconds to 60) is not the quickest Cayman. At least not according to Porsche’s own official performance stats. That honor goes to the PDK-equipped Cayman S (4.4 seconds in Sport Plus mode).       

Naturlich, both engines (which run 12.5:1 compression ratios) must have premium fuel.

ON THE ROAD'14 Cayman road 1

Having the engine behind your head – but not behind the rear axle – is where it’s at if what you’re after is handling as neutral as Switzerland. No front-engined/rear-drive car oversteer. Or rear-engined oversteer, for that matter. It’s true Porsche has dialed the ass-heavy/nose-light handling issues out of the 911 via various engineering countermeasures. But the point here is the Cayman requires no such countermeasures.

It is laid out the way a high-performance sports car ought to be laid out.

Porsche seems to know this – and concedes the point, implicitly at least, by not offering a turbo Cayman. That way, the 911 can still outrun the Cayman.'14 Cayman road 2

But – ach! – if you order the S, you can outrun the 911, as well as out-handle it. Put the $30-something grand you just saved toward gas, lawyers – or track time.

I ride sport bikes. They make you feel like an ubermensch. Or at least, not bound by the normal rules. A rattlesnake flick of the wrist, a shift of your body weight to the left, zig and zag – and just like that, you’re gone. The sail fawn-addled traffic drones fading rapidly in the rearview. Nothing can touch – much less catch – you.

The Cayman made me feel this way, too.

And not only because it moves and responds to your inputs like a sport bike. It is personal like a sport bike. Just the two seats, don’t forget. It also sits lower – and is wider tracked in back – than its bigger brother the 911: 50.9 inches vs. 51.3 inches and 60.5 inches vs. 59.8 for the 911 Carrera. There is also this big difference. The Cayman’s wheelbase is 97.4 inches vs. 96.5 for the 911. Yet the Cayman is 4.4 inches shorter overall: 172.4 inches vs. 176.8 inches. This yin-yang set-up of an inherently less twitchy longer wheelbase layout – with the engine and transaxle settled just where they ought to be – achieves the apotheosis of what a sports car should be.

And unlike the also mid-engined and also super-fun Lotus Evora, it’s also civilized. There’s room for your legs and head.

And, it’s quiet – something else the Lotus isn’t.  '14 Cayman tail light detail

Until, of course, you rouse the boxer six. Otherwise, it murmers contentedly in the background.

Wake it up – and so will you.

The ride, meanwhile – even in the adjustable suspension’s most rabid mode – will not leave your back and cheeks looking like you received a wood shampoo from Officer Not So Friendly. In fact, the Cayman is as pleasant an A-to-B tool when you need it to be as a Camry.

Except, of course, it’s a Porsche.

AT THE CURB'14 Cayman curb 1

There are a few cars I would put in my living room – if I had Jay Leno’s bank account:  The Lamborghini Miura. A ’63 Corvette split-window coupe. The Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona.

And this Cayman.

To appreciate it, you must walk around it. Slowly. Take it all in, from various angles. The rear quarter view is my personal favorite. One gains ever-growing appreciation for the subtle genius of the flow, the way one part of the car leads to the next. Also for the function – as there’s nothing purposelessly showy about anything. This is both instrument and art. A four-wheeled Stradivarius, if you like.

And I liked it very much indeed.'14 Cayman interior 2

Besides which it is fairly practical – despite what you may have read. That mid-engined layout? It makes possible a hatchback – and two “trunks.” One up front – and one in back. Combined, there is 15 cubic feet of storage capacity. About the same as you’d have in a Camry sedan (15.4 cubic feet) and almost three times as much as the 911 (5.1 cubic feet). The up-front trunk is a deep-welled thing that’s perfect for containing packages that might otherwise get jostled. The hatchback in back can handle a duffle bag – or golf bags.

If you’re creative, you’ll be surprised by how much this car can carry.

And yes, there are cupholders. Two of them, too. They are secreted behind a panel just above the glove box. Pop ’em open if you need ’em. They adjust to accommodate everything from a venti Starbucks bold to a Big Gulp. Though, really, the last thing you ought to be doing in a Cayman is drinking.'14 Cayman chrono

The new interior is revolutionary, in contrast to the mostly evolutionary changes to the bodywork. Before, the Cayman’s cabin was certainly nice – but not on par with the 911’s.

It is now.

Beautifully fitted and finished –  and  available with Porsche’s almost limitless choice of palettes and trim accents with which to personalize your Cayman. Three seats are available: base (with 10 way power adjust), race-bolstered Sport seats and 14-way Adaptive Sport Seats that adjust to suit, as you drive. A pop-up decklid spoiler. A track-day telemetry recorder that logs your best lap time and other important data. A “chronograph” stop watch/clock to time your shenanigans.'14 Cayman S gauge close up

All trims get a new main gauge cluster with 9,000 RPM centrally mounted analog tach (replacing last year’s 8,000 RPM tach), with 190 MPH speedo off to its left and a new LCD display in the pod to its right – replacing last year’s analog cluster for fuel/temp/oil pressure. The new LCD screen can be scrolled through various menus – including G forces (through all four axis, not just laterally) as well as GPS. There is a larger flat screen mounted at an incline on the much higher-end-looking (vs. the previous Cayman’s) center stack, which flows down to an integrated center console/arm rest  – under which there is a minimalist storage cubby that will (just barely) accommodate your wallet, cell phone and maybe house keys.'14 Cayman wing

Speaking of minimalist: One of the few Cayman cheap-outs is the standard-issue stereo. Which it is just barely. Four speakers, 25 watts. That’s it, baby. And it that includes the S – which gets upgraded high-capacity brakes with contrast color powder-coated calipers, the 3.4 liter engine, bi-Xenon headlights and a number of other things – but not an upgraded stereo.

That’s extra.

Three choices are available: The first step up is a nine-speaker head unit – which is bundled with satellite HD radio and also gets you an enhanced touchscreen LCD display. One notch up from this is a Bose 10 speaker system. For the the ultimate, select the top-of-the-line Burmester 12-speaker surround system. It rocks.

But, screw the stereo. Seriously. In this car, who needs it?

The boxer six makes the right kind of music, plays your own special song. Drowning that out with noise from a stereo is like putting mayonnaise on french fries.

THE REST'14 Cayman wheel

My test car – an S model with pretty much everything Porsche offers, including the $6,750 Infotainment package with the Burmester 12-speaker surround sound system, the $3,465 Adaptive Sport Seats, $2,815 Agate/Pebble Gray leather interior, $1,500 20-inch Carrera S wheels and a few other bells and whistles stickered out at $88,625.

Not cheap.

But, consider. A base 911 – not as quick and arguably not quite the 100 proof sports car the Cayman is – starts at $84,300.

The 911 S stickers for $98,900 . . . and you’re just getting started.

Again, this isn’t all about dollars and cents – or even secondarily about the money.  But the Cayman is so damned good it’s not like you’re settling. I respect the 911. You’d have to be an imbecile not to. In GT3 form, it can get to 60 in under three seconds. Lawd have mercy.

Because the 911 won’t.'14 Cayman center comnsole

That said, there is a purity of purpose embodied in the Cayman. The 911 has evolved into an exotic supercar – a schlachtschiff (Bismarck) vs. a panzerschiff (Admiral Graf Spee).

The Cayman is more like what the 911 was originally.

A sports car.

In that role, it is essentially faultless. Absolute straight-line acceleration is not the deciding metric. If it were, the 911 wins. Or maybe the new Stingray Corvette. But the Cayman gives you something they don’t – and can’t, no matter how much money you throw at them, no matter how savagely they rape the speed limit.

To understand what I mean, you’ll need to do more than read the words.'14 Cayman last

You’ll have to drive the car.

THE BOTTOM LINE

‘Nuff said. Now go get you one.

Throw it in the Woods? 

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16 COMMENTS

  1. If you were dead-set on a 987 Cayman (like I am) and the GT4 is just unattainable, what trim level would you go for? Would you avoid PASM and some of the other options? I am really digging these cars, but I also have my eye on the mkiv Supras, especially considering your article about how cars from that era hit the sweet spot with technology.

  2. Eric – I looked at the Cayman back in ’09 but “call the man” and the cost of Porsche parts kept me away; I bought an Exige S instead. But now that Lotus no longer makes the Elise/Exige for the US market, Porsche seems to have a monopoly on two-seater mid-engined cars under $100,000. Are there any others out there?

  3. I do a “Middle aged man” weekend with a friend once a year that has a Boxster S he bought used, and a couple of other invited guys and we drive through the mountains around Asheville, stay in a hotel in town and then go home to our daily grind, wives, kids, etc. after the weekend.

    The Boxster, which has many shared components with the Cayman, makes me feel like a superhero when I drive it. Four wheel drifts at will with traction control off, early throttle application for shotgun corner exits, the whole deal…it’s so stupidly refined at the edge it’s absurd.

    The last go round we went with a 550SL in tow and it wasn’t even close, the Boxster ate its lunch…and his Boxster S is the old one with only around 250 horses….it’s just stupid fun.

    I can’t imagine what the new Boxster/Cayman must be like to drive, but the Cayman wins in the looks department hands down.

  4. i love it, it looks and sounds like exactly what i would want in a car. i absolutely love the feel of a mid-engined car and as long as one can handle it and not getting it spinning like a top, the cornering can be otherworldly imo. gotta love the trunk space too. being an mr2 guy i’ve never not had enough trunk space. we always called the one behind the engine the “trunk” and the one in front of the windshield is the “frunk”.

    on a scale of 1 to “engine needs to be dropped to replace the spark plugs” how inaccessible is the engine?
    i own and have worked on supercharged MR2’s for years and the only way to get to everything without dropping the engine would involve another joint between the elbow and wrist.
    toyota address this in the mr2 spyder where many of the rear panels were bolted similar to front fenders so they could be removed and one could access to the engine bay. but then again prospective porsche owners want to spend time driving and pay someone to do the wrenching.
    i am with Eric_G, used market might be great in half a decade or so.

  5. Dear Eric,

    “The mid-engined Cayman is inherently better balanced than the rear-engined 911.”

    Amen to that.

    I have never understood the fanatical loyalty toward the 911s. I can understand overlooking the rear engine handling problem with the Bug, an economy car, but not for a high end luxury sports car.

    From a physics and engineering viewpoint, no car should ever been rear engined. Mid engined, in the rear half of the vehicle? Okay. But only in front of the rear axle. Never behind the rear axle.

    • Morning, Bevin –

      Double amen!

      My take: The 911’s rear-engined layout has become iconic, in the same way that the layout of the Harley Davidson V-twin has become iconic. Porsche (and Harley) are caught in a Catch-22. They – the engineers – know the design is not ideal. But it has come to define the vehicle. It’s what people expect.

      Therefore, it cannot be changed!

      Porsche has found an end-run by building a proper sports car – the Cayman. The tragedy is that because the 911 is their “top” model, it gets the most powerful engines while the Cayman’s straight-line performance is deliberately limited to make sure it does not shine too brightly.

      Still – and I say this as someone who has driven both cars on the track – I’d take the Cayman home every time, given a choice and money aside.

  6. Eric, I just picked up my 2nd E92 M3 6-SPD, stripper(2013′). Just pure S65 V8 goodness, no NAV, manual seats, less weight. I’m less interested in the upcoming turbo M3. How does the Cayman compare to the S65 M3? Manual tranny’s or nothing for me.

    • Hi Craig,

      One of my favorites!

      Yours is the more savage-feeling car (and I mean that in a complimentary way). It is significantly quicker – and pulls harder. The handling is also (as you know) heroic.

      But – driving the Porsche is like putting on a powered body suit. You meld with it. The personal nature of the car is – for me – a huge part of its appeal. It’s also gorgeous. The BMW is a good-looking car, certainly. But the Cayman takes eye candy to another level. You have to see the car in person to know what I mean.

  7. Eric,

    Nice review.

    Assuming cash not an issue, This car would be on my short list of cars to own. A late 80s 3 series BMW would be on my list as well.

    Porsches always held a special place in my heart. The styling and purpose of their cars are well defined and well executed.

  8. Ohhhh daddy wants one. Your acceleration description sounds like the Yamaha V-Max motorcycle, incredible but it is a one trick pony bike.

  9. I wonder if they’ll hold their value as well as non-911 Porsches usually do (or don’t)? I might be a buyer in a few years. That “call the man” warning is the only real problem… well, that and looking like Jeremy Clarkson without actually being Clarkson.

    • This one calls to me… if only I had the coin.

      And yeah: Getting at the engine might be as forbidding as working on it!

  10. You’re right. The Cayman, with either if the two engine upgrades, IS “the perfect sports car.” It’s got it all.

    When I win the lottery, this will be my daily driver.

    • Ditto that, Mike!

      I was genuinely depressed when it came time to give up the keys… it was one of those few moments when I stop to think that maybe selling out and being a good Republican shill might just be worth it….

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