2014 Porsche Cayman S
2014 Porsche Cayman S
2014 Porsche Cayman S. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

“Hey, nice 911!”

Unexpectedly, I got that about a half-dozen times from admiring passersby.  Even the guy on the toll bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx gushed, “Oh, man, love the 911! You give me the title and I’ll let you across the bridge for free!”

“Thanks. But actually it’s a Cayman (a Cayman S, to be specific), not a 911.” (And I’ll pay the toll, thank-you very much…).

Whatever… the Cayman S is a looker and people definitely notice. Porsche cognoscenti will know that the most obvious difference between the two cars is that the 911’s engine sits behind the rear axle, while the Cayman’s engine is located behind the driver, but in front of the rear axle. The former is rear-engined, the latter mid-engined, in other words.

Additionally, the former largely sits on its own chassis, has its own sound and driving characteristics and really has been the flagship Porsche for half a century. The latter is effectively a Porsche Boxster coupe, now in its third generation and sporting a new chassis for 2014. It arrives with less weight, longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs, larger wheels and sharper, sleeker styling.

And if you know what to look for, there’s no confusing these two models (the 911’s visibly longer, for a start), but I get the similarity, too.

Why were we in Manhattan? We drove a Platinum Silver 2014 Cayman S from Ottawa to New York City and back for the 2014 New York International Auto Show, opting for (and savouring) a less-travelled route through the Adirondack Mountains. Here you encounter the kind of roads where cars either delight you or depress you; it’s all twists and turns as highways follow the meandering paths of mountain rivers, climb the modest Adirondack peaks then blast down the other side, and offer the occasional straightaway where you can take the opportunity to make short order of trundling service truck or similar.

These are roads where you get to drive your car, feel the g-forces, shift your gears, enjoy the rasp of the exhaust, and focus singlemindedly on the route ahead. “Smokey” is a ubiquitous presence in the Adirondacks, however; New York State’s finest diligently keeping the lid on such elemental desires.

It’s still great fun, though. Making 325 horsepower from its flat-six cylinder engine mated to the optional seven-speed PDK (double-clutch) transmission, the Cayman S can zip from zero to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, possessing driving dynamics that are a perfect fit for roads of this type.

The Cayman S base price is $72,900, in case you’re wondering (a base Cayman starts at $59,900, a thousand more than a Boxster). Compared with the base Cayman, the “S” gets the more powerful 3.4L engine, larger wheels (19-inch versus 18-inch) and slightly larger front brake calipers. But basically, it’s about the extra 50 hp.

Our car arrived with many options (the Porsche option list is legendary; you can double the price of your car with it) resulting in a price of $95,653 plus fees. This without the new-this-year automatic cruise control, but with the also-new torque vectoring system with rear locking differential (PTV), active suspension (PASM) and Sport Chrono Package.

2014 Porsche Cayman S front seats & dashboard2014 Porsche Cayman S centre stack
2014 Porsche Cayman S front seats & dashboard & 2014 Porsche Cayman S centre stack. Click image to enlarge

The Cayman S is a dream to drive, its new electromechanical power steering system imparting a satisfying immediacy to the experience that matches the outgoing hydraulic setup, in my view.

The ride is smooth and quiet; the suspension firm but not jarring, the responsiveness immediate without surprising. It’s very much an extension of your body and your desires.

The PDK transmission is likewise sharp, precise, quick, but I must admit to a personal ambivalence about this gearbox that I thought I had overcome. There’s no doubt the PDK gets the most performance out of this car. It’s faster – not just quicker shifting, but with it the Cayman S it produces better acceleration numbers – and you get better fuel economy. It’s clearly a more modern, technical and sophisticated piece of technology than a manual shift.

Which you can do – shift, that is – via the paddles or floor mounted shifter. Put it in manual mode and gear changes are are lightning quick; tap the brake and downshift as you approach a corner and the throttle blips as the car sets up for exit. It’s all surgical in its precision and almost cerebral in its execution.

Of course, it’s not physical… and there may be the rub for some drivers. Your legs and arms and feet simply aren’t joining in, and it is, therefore, arguably not as much fun as shifting manually. So for this article at least, I may have changed my mind about the PDK.

Connect with Autos.ca