2006 Porsche Cayman S
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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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For those lucky enough to have driven a Porsche Boxster down their favourite back road on a cool summer evening, it’s easy to think motoring just doesn’t get any better than that. I certainly have been seduced by this roadster’s irresistible charms. The newly redesigned Boxster S is my hands-down favourite car and I want one bad. As Homer Simpson once said (although he was referring to a beer), “I’d step over my own mother just to get one.”

So the burning question was, as I picked up the red 2006 Porsche Cayman S tester, “Why would anyone want to put a roof on a Boxster?”

As it turns out, the Cayman is much more than just a Boxster with a lid. The 3.4-litre flat six puts out 295 hp, which is 15 more than the 3.2-litre six in the Boxster S. Torque is a stout 251 lb-ft at 4400 rpm, trumping the Boxster’s by 15 lb-ft. The 24-valve, DOHC six also uses Porsche’s VarioCam Plus variable valve-timing technology, which heretofore had only been seen in the 911. In fact, a full 50% of the Cayman’s mechanical bits are pulled from the 911.

2006 Porsche Cayman S
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In the flesh, the Cayman is a sexy beast – much more so than in the photos I had seen. The aggressive snout, curvaceous rear haunches and dramatic fastback roofline make for a striking presence. It certainly garnered gawks a-plenty from those lucky enough spy my bright red tester, which at the time was the only Cayman in the country.

So it passes the visual test with flying colours. How about its dynamic attributes?

2006 Porsche Cayman S
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Slide in the driver’s seat and all is familiar. The Boxster’s all-new interior (for 2005), upgraded with a few Cayman-specific trim bits, looks and feels great – especially in this tester’s tan leather. The controls are all perfectly placed, and with a few minor adjustments, it’s easy to dial in the optimum driving position.

It’s cozy in there with the low roofline, and a sunroof is not an option. Rearward visibility is not great, but better than a Boxster with the roof in place.

Fire up the flat six, head out on the road, and the Cayman S is everything you’d expect and more. It feels like a Boxster S that’s been eating its Wheaties. The 3.4-litre six spits out a more guttural snarl, and the six-speed tranny, in concert with the quick and progressive clutch, make for a divine combination. And of course the Boxster’s magical blend of chassis communication and sublime balance is thoroughly intact.

This mid-engined sports car responds faithfully to any minute input, and treats the driver to a scintillating conversation with all four contact patches. It doesn’t so much steer as rotate on a central axis, which just happens to line up with your butt. If you’re receptive to the information the Cayman feeds you, and can respond in kind, this car offers a driving experience like few other four-wheeled conveyances.

2006 Porsche Cayman S

>2006 Porsche Cayman S
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Whether you’re pushing hard or just running to the corner store, every outing in the Cayman is a motoring event. Porsche claims the Cayman S reaches 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, and tops out at 275 kph. It certainly feels that quick, while delivering more mid-range punch than the Boxster S.

Keeping all this forward momentum in check are vented and cross-drilled discs, clamped by four piston calipers. Borrowed directly from the 911, the front discs measure 318 mm and the rears 299 mm. If these binders are not enough for you, Porsche offers ceramic units for $11,400! The Standard wheel size is 18 inches, although this car wore the optional $2,170 19-inchers.

My tester also had the $2,790 PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) which consists of electronically controlled shocks that give the sports car a reasonably comfortable ride under normal driving conditions, but firm up when you start to push. With PASM in sport mode, the suspension buttons down, throttle response quickens and the stability management system (PSM) allows for more sideways fun before it intervenes.

2006 Porsche Cayman S
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Also on the options list was the $1,290 Sport Chrono package that features a chronometer/stop watch sprouting from the top of the dash. It works in conjunction with the PASM, but its main raison d’etre is to enable the driver to time laps on a race track by flicking a lever behind the steering wheel. It all seems a bit daft and gimmicky to me.

I recently drove a similarly equipped 911 S Cabrio at Mosport, and believe me, the last thing on your mind while flying down the track is looking for the starting line or some other marker and trying to activate said lever at the exact instant you cross. I found myself much more interested in setting the car up for the rapidly approaching Corner One.

The Cayman S is a natural bridge between the Boxster S and the 911 Carrera Coupe. You are, however, limited to just two seats and there will be no all-wheel-drive versions, as Porsche saves that tech for the 911.

If you prefer the Cayman’s more comfortable ride and neutral (read: better, divine� perfect?) handling to the more rear-weight biased feel of a 911, then this car could be as far as you’d ever need to climb up the Zuffenhausen ladder. And rumour has it (although Porsche would never confirm this) the Cayman S is actually quicker than the base Carrera coupe through the North circuit of the famed Nurburgring.

2006 Porsche Cayman S
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The Cayman’s rear hatch is a welcome bonus, as it provides extra room you won’t find in the Boxster. Including the front trunk, the Cayman offers 410 litres of storage space in which to stuff your stuff.

Base price for the Cayman S is $83,900, but as with all Porsches, check a few option boxes and the bottom line swells dramatically. This specimen was just under 96 grand.

As a rule, coupes are usually cheaper than their drop-top stablemates, but in this case, Porsche is charging a $6,000 premium over the Boxster S. Yes, the Cayman is a more aggressive animal, but one gets the sense the pricing is less about value and more about positioning the Cayman higher up in the Porsche pecking order.

And while we’re bitching about money, the Cayman S is only $59,695 in the U.S.. That translates into a 10 grand hit for us Canucks.

2006 Porsche Cayman S
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Porsche claims the Cayman is 2.5 times structurally stiffer than the Boxster, which would naturally make the Cayman a sharper tool on the track. This may be true, but without having the two side by side, I’ll have to reserve judgment. I’ve never felt the Boxster to be lacking in structural rigidity, as the little roadster is stiff as a frozen flounder. The real world difference is likely considerably less than that figure would suggest.

If push came to shove, I’d still go for the wind-in-the-hair and spine-tingling engine sounds the drop-top Boxster S serves up, even though the Cayman S is a faster and arguably even more capable in the twisties.

I guess the Cayman S is now my second favourite car.

Technical Data: 2006 Porsche Cayman S

Base price $83,900
Options $10,950 (Preferred Package (heated seats, wheel caps, auto-dimming mirror, rain sensing wipers, Bose sound $3070; Bi-Xenon Headlamp Package $1630; PASM $2790; 19″ Carrera S Wheels $2170; Sport Chrono Package $1290)
Freight $1,085
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $96,035 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 2-door, 2-seat sports coupe
Layout transverse mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 3.4-litre flat six cylinder, 24-valves, DOHC
Horsepower 295 @ 6250 rpm
Torque 251 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Tires 235/35R19 front, 265/35R19 rear
Curb weight 1340 kg (2950 lbs)
Wheelbase 2415 mm (95.1 in.)
Length 4372 mm (172.1 in.)
Width 1801 mm (70.9 in.)
Height 1305 mm (51.4 in.)
Cargo capacity 400 litres (14.1 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.3 L/100 km (23 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 8.7 L/100 km (32 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Assembly location Uusikaupunki, Finland

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