Review and photos by Lesely Wimbush

Bowmanville, ON – Although the “Porsche World Roadshow” may sound like an automotive offshoot of the Cirque du Soleil, it’s a well-oiled, full-day production that offers prospective buyers the chance to sample the entire Porsche lineup performing a variety of activities. A sort of “amuse-bouche” of the highest order.

First Drive: 2014 Porsche Cayman porsche luxury cars first drives
2014 Porsche Cayman. Click image to enlarge

Well-heeled participants experienced the full range of sports cars on Canadian Tire Motorsports Park’s (CTMP) world class road course, and were astonished to learn that the luxury Cayenne crossover could hang with the best of the bush-whackers off-road.

The highlight of my day was getting up close and personal – albeit only for a few, fleeting laps – with the newly revised 2014 Porsche Cayman.  Despite the fact that every generational model of 911 was on display in honour of the legendary sports coupe’s 50th anniversary – many of us were eagerly anticipating a first chance behind the wheel of its little brother.

Sports car aficionados will argue that the 911 is the better car in every way, and indeed, for those who live with the unbridled speeds of the Autobahn there’s no question that the far more powerful 911 is the top dog. But the Cayman debuted with such cat-like reflexes and Cirque-performer balance that many questioned the wisdom of producing a car that arguably rivalled the much more expensive 911.

Certainly, it’s no match for the ferociously endowed 911 Turbo S, whose turbocharged flat-six produces a ridiculous 530 horsepower and an intoxicating wail that raises the neck hairs of any self-respecting car lover.

But the little Cayman returns with some subtle changes that make choosing between them even tougher.

Outwardly, the new Cayman boasts a more sophisticated design than its predecessor. As fond as I was of the previous model’s bulbous curves, going so far as to nickname the Peridot green Cayman R “Kermit”, I have to admit that the new, sleeker profile is an eye-catching departure from the almost cartoonish lines of the previous design.

Built on a 7-cm (2.4-inch) longer wheelbase, with shorter overhangs, larger 20-inch wheels, and larger greenhouse thanks to an extended roofline, the Cayman has grown up.

First Drive: 2014 Porsche Cayman porsche luxury cars first drives First Drive: 2014 Porsche Cayman porsche luxury cars first drives
2014 Porsche Cayman. Click image to enlarge

In fact, when parked alongside the 911, the Cayman has a more visually compelling design with its dramatically scooped flanks, black inlets and fastback outline.  The regular Cayman can be distinguished from the Cayman S by its single central exhaust outlet, where the more potent S has two. I’ve never really been a fan of central exhaust, for childish reasons that involve bathroom humour, but these are beautifully integrated into the rear fascia.

There are hints of Boxster in its integrated front spoiler and there’s a larger downforce-producing mechanical spoiler across its pert little rump.  Not only prettier than the 911, the new Cayman has blossomed into a car that’s beautiful in its own right.

First Drive: 2014 Porsche Cayman porsche luxury cars first drives
2014 Porsche Cayman. Click image to enlarge

The changes are more than visual. The chassis has been strengthened to provide 40 percent more torsional rigidity and with its intensive use of aluminum, sheds almost 30 kg (66 lb). The track is wider, and if the previous version boasted that wonderful feeling provided by the wheels pushed well to each corner – it’s now even more planted. The Cayman also borrows some of the latest technological wizardry of the 911 with the same brilliantly weighted electric-assist steering and PDK double-clutch transmission (whose long form of “Porsche Doppelkupplung” sounded so erotic when pronounced by our Belgian driving instructor that I asked him to repeat it twice), Porsche’s adaptive suspension management system (PASM) and fuel-saving stop/start function. It’s also available for the first time with Adaptive Cruise Control, and the marvelous 800 watt Burmeister stereo from the Panamera and Cayenne.

Inside, there’s nothing to suggest that you’ve settled for an entry-level Porsche. The cabin is virtually indistinguishable from the higher-end 911. There’s the same use of glorious hides, derived from cattle raised in bug-free, barbed-wireless Austrian pastures, the gleam of brushed aluminum trim and drilled pedals, and the familiar cockpit-dividing bank of switchgear.

Connect with Autos.ca