People who know me will tell you I come across as quite a happy-go-lucky fellow, who loves to laugh away most things good or bad. While it might not take much to get a chortle out of me, it does take a mighty doing for a car to amuse a bunch of serious motoring journos who have gathered from all corners of the world to have a go at Porsche’s latest baby, the all new 2013 Porsche Cayman. So does the new Porsche succeed in doing so?
Before we get to the laughing matter, let’s delve into a little bit of history about Porsche’s middle ground sportscar. The fact is that not many purists were actually happy about the Cayman coming into this world. Well I don’t blame them considering, the Cayman is actually derived from Porsche’s entry level sportscar, the Boxster but is actually meant to give you thrills more akin to the iconic 911. While that might not go down well with many who would rather choose a Boxster and upgrade to a 911, I think the Cayman slots in perfectly between the Boxster and the 911 and is perfect for those who find the Boxster too meek but can’t afford the 911.
Now I’m a pretty big Porschephile and I simply love the 911, but my obsession with the brand pretty much ends there. The Cayman has always been an amazing sportscar to begin with, but it didn’t really tingle my fantasy buds as far as the looks were concerned. For me it always ended up looking confused. While the 911 always had definite proportions with Porsche working on it subtly for every new model, the Cayman came across as a cross between the Boxster and the 911 but was pretty as neither.
But Porsche has worked hard on the new car and this time not only is it as focused a driving machine as it always was but also looks the business while at it. First glimpse of the car standing at the Dubai Autodrome left an immediate impression. The first thing that hits you is that the front is more 911ish than ever, and flows well with the more compact dimensions of the Cayman. A walk-around tells you that the styling is marked by precise lines and razor-sharp sculpted edges which emphasise the car’s low, extended silhouette with the windscreen shifted forward and the roof line that reaches far back.
Especially expressive and characteristic are the dynamic recesses in the doors, which guide induction air into the distinctive air scoops on the rear side panels and then directly to the engine. This offers the most prominent visualisation of the basic concept of the mid-engine. Overall there are a lot of minor changes all around which spruce up the looks of the new Cayman and overall the new car comes across as more independent than before and is extremely well differentiated from its predecessor.
What best way to acclimatize to a fast car than on the track. With 5.39 km of brilliant Dubai Autodrome tarmac beneath us, we had more than ample room to put the Cayman through its paces. The gracious people at Porsche even arranged for a nice slalom run which would enable us to experience the smart trickeries that the Cayman offers.
With the cars lined up, I immediately slipped into the Cayman S which is clearly distinguished with its optional but yummy 20 inch alloys. Ingress is typical of most sportscars and you really have to squat low to get in. But once in, you realize everything just envelops around you. Pressing all the buttons, making all the adjustments and I finally managed to get the desired seating position. The insides are typically Porsche offering all the luxuries you need but still being extremely driver oriented. Well that’s about all the time I had to notice the interiors before the lead Panamera headed out of the pits.
We started with a warm up lap after which I got to unleash all the fury of the 3.4 litre 6-cylinder engine. With 325 PS at the rear wheels and 370 Nm of torque, the Cayman S lunges forward with alacrity akin to a bullet. I continue my assault on the tarmac but the Cayman S refuses to flinch no matter how hard I try. While I had to be careful not to overdo it and turn into a lifelong slave for Porsche, I knew I was pretty close to my limits but barely anywhere near the Caymans. Shifting well over 7000 rpm, the Caymans flat six was playing a symphony which sounded even better than the Burmester sound system in the cabin.
The all-new chassis which boasts a 60 mm longer wheelbase made sure the car was extremely stable at high speeds while the increased track width along with larger wheels and low resistance tyres make sure you nail the apex every time you’re on the track. But there’s more to the Caymans unbelievable agility. Even the cars body is all new with an innovative lightweight body design with mixed aluminium-steel construction which has reduced weight by a staggering 47 kg.
Going around the track, the steering feels brilliant passing each and every bit of information coming from the wheels. Before entering the corner I went hard on the brakes which now have also been improved with larger front brake discs that originate from the 911 Carrera along with a better optimized brake pad design. As a result corner entry is fantastic thanks to the strong brakes encouraging late braking. The brilliant chassis has the balance of a gymnast and before you know it the corner has been demolished and you are already going hard on the accelerator garnering a fantastic exit. I could go on all day but sadly we needed to call it a day.
With track day behind us, day two took us on to the streets. And this time I went for the standard Cayman. This car was a lot less equipped and had manual seat adjustments. I was hoping for a manual gearbox but just like the Cayman S, the car came equipped with Porsche’s famed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) or dual clutch gearbox which was not a bad thing at all.
But the major difference here was the 2.7 litre flat six now instead of the 3.4 litre unit. With 275 PS and 290 Nm, the standard Cayman feels less hurried. But make no mistake, with a 0-100 km/h time of 5.7 seconds (4.9 for the S) and a top speed of 266 km/h (283 km/h for the S) it is still a seriously quick car.
While the track showed us what the Cayman was capable of when driven hard, the streets showed us how practical it can be as an everyday car. On standard 18 inch wheels, the ride quality felt brilliant, even switching to sport plus did not seem to make it uncomfortable. Of course we are talking about the butter smooth roads in U.A.E, but even in India, with the 18 inch wheels and in normal mode, the Cayman shouldn’t feel out of place. It even boasts a very respectable 425 litre boot space which is more than say, a Honda Amaze sedan.
After doing some insane speeds wherever the roads allowed we finally reached the twisty mountain roads which seemed custom made for the Cayman. These roads allowed us to explore Porsche’s box of magic tricks. The Cayman now gets the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) for the first time. This really cool (but rather expensive option) feature involves an intelligent interaction of a rear differential lock and wheel-selective brake interventions which essentially improves the vehicles steering response and steering accuracy by brake interventions at the rear wheel located towards the inside of the bend.
This along with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) significantly improved traction capabilities while accelerating out of a corner. There is plenty of grip and the car inspires a tremendous amount of confidence and before you know it you are doing some silly speeds which can easily get you into trouble. At the end of the day, the Cayman came across as a car which is just as home on the track as it is on the roads.
The Cayman is all set to arrive on Indian shores soon, but expect only the mouthwatering S variant thanks to Indian legislations not allowing the import of sub 3-litre engine cars which immediately axes the 2.7 litre standard Cayman out of contention. But more horsepower also means more money and as a result expect the Cayman S to be priced north of Rs. 85 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).
But if you have that kind of cash lying around and need a car that begs you to thrash it every time you get behind the wheel rather than a car that only marks your arrival, this reptile from Stuttgart is sure to rock your boat. The Cayman in the end comes across as a car that encourages you to drive it better and rewards you when you do. The previous Cayman wasn’t a bad car but this one’s surely a world beater and the one against which all others should be judged.