2014 Porsche Cayman. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
Options: 19-inch Cayman S wheels – $1,790; Convenience Package – $1,030
I call to your attention a line from the pricing summary. Have you ever seen such a thing on a Porsche press car?
I think not.
The mythical base model Porsche Cayman. No S. No PDK. No turbo. No all-wheel drive. No magic dampers. No crests on wheels or seats. Almost no unnecessary options. Just pure unadulterated flat-six mid-engine rear-wheel-drive glory. Just a Sports Car (or #sportscar for the modern digital world).
Normally that options list is a paragraph unto itself. Here we have only a wheel upgrade and a couple of modern amenities in the Convenience Package – heated seats and auto climate control. I could live without these two, but I like the big wheels.
Between the superb wheel selection and striking Racing Yellow paint (no cost! Black, white and Guards (Guards!) Red are the other no-cost colours), the Cayman is exotic right out of the box, but at a decidedly unalienating $63,805.
But enough of this silliness about features and colours, here we have the Porsche Cayman in its essentially most raw and unadorned character, a driver’s car in its natural state. So how does it drive?
Like you’ve just discovered every single driver’s car cliché at the same time.
The experience starts by getting into the driver’s seat, which requires a bit of plunge, but you settle into a moderately bolstered sport seat covered in durable feeling leather. Manual adjustments fore and aft and tilt put you within reach of all three pedals and the tilting and telescoping steering wheel. The rim is covered in leather, contoured for ideal hand position, and the spokes are hard black plastic. The only distraction on the steering wheel is that golden badge at its centre. Behind it are a series of pods with tach front and centre, speedo to the left and digital info screen on the right.
Let your right elbow settle on the padded armrest and your fingers will be over a panel of mostly blanks and buttons for the Sport mode (yes, please), traction/stability control (a little from column A, a little from column B), spoiler (douchebag mode, no thanks) and auto start/stop (sure, why not – it won’t slow me down where it counts). Reach up and the shifter for the six-speed manual transmission seems to rise into your hand without moving. Take your foot off the full-size dead pedal and press down the clutch.
Wait, where the hell does the key fob go?
Oh yeah, it’s on the left. Wacky Porsche…
Anyhow, twist the fob in the left-handed slot and the Cayman’s 2.7L horizontally opposed six-cylinders fire up with Porsche’s signature raspy bark. It’s a screeching growl like a dry cough that turns into a full punk-scream racecar when you put your foot down.
Spend some time just slotting the gears home, the leather and metal shifter a thing of simplicity yet subtle tastefulness. It’s a short shifter, offering visceral contact with the mechanism, but well-situated gates that are easy to master. Light enough to be easily quick, but enough weight to balance the unconscious enthusiasm you’ll throw into it when pressing on. Just ahead of the shifter are a bunch more buttons. You won’t care about those. There’s a screen, too.
Wear the thinnest-soled shoes you’ve got, because the pedals will talk to you if you listen. With your feet.
The clutch, like the shifter, is neither heavy, nor hollow. As you release the pedal, you feel clearly as power from the engine starts engaging the drive shaft. The power isn’t overwhelming, as seems to be the sole point of so many cars these days, but it is plentiful.
The S model’s 325 hp and almost 272 lb-ft are a tantalizing lure to climb the price charts, but the impeccable handling is there for the taking even in base trim. Objective testing by various outlets confirms this. Car & Driver found no difference from base to S model in braking and skidpad tests. The seven-speed dual clutch PDK further speeds up shifts, but denies you that scintillating connection between frantic engine and power delivery.