Corner-carving Mentalist: The Cayman

The Boxster’s hard top sibling is back firing all cylinders, ready to shell-shock the other compacts in the sports car segment — and this time, the 2014 Porsche Cayman S looks as dainty as can be



By (George Kuruvilla)

Published: Tue 4 Feb 2014, 1:33 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:07 PM

When the Porsche Cayman was first launched in 2006, there was an air of awkwardness around it. Some thought it to be just a Boxster with a fixed roof (which it was, although Porsche claimed otherwise). And to be frank, it wasn’t the fairest of them all. Some thought it to be a wannabe 911, but it was neutered before showing greater potential, all to prevent it from eating into the 911’s slice of the pie. Regardless of how it was looked at, it was heralded by publications the world over for being a feisty little roadrunner.

This 2ndgeneration is based on the new Boxster, launched in 2013. It has a tough task ahead of it, besides shaking off that last-season look, it also has to tighten up a few screws to further its chassis’ corner-carving abilities. We take on the great-grandson of the VW Beetle, pondering whether it will outgrow the shadow of the 911 or slip away from it.

DESIGN & AESTHETICS

The Cayman has been categorised as a compact sports coupe, but it’s really just a low slung sports car with a hatchback. With a length of 4,380mm, 1,801mm width and 1,295 mm height, it has quite the petite frame and is very much comparable to the original 911 from 1964. A lot of that length is taken up by the 2,475mm wheelbase — a 60mm extension over the old model. The slipperiness achieved though seems baffling, drawing up only a 0.30 in the wind tunnel.

The restyled headlamps are inspired by the Porsche racing heritage of the 60s and 70s, a variation of which can be seen on their supercar from 2005, the Carrera GT — a car that shared last moments with Fast and Furious actor, Paul Walker. The clear glass bi-xenon lamps have a stacked arrangement and feature dynamic range illumination that increases beam throw on the highways and does the opposite in the city.

The proportionally large intakes have blacked out slats on the S model as compared to the colour-coded ones on the base model. Integrated into it are circular fog lamps and LED daytime running lamps. As smooth as the fixed roof rises from the front fender to the apex, it drops down elegantly to meet with the edge of the boot, unlike the Panamera’s roof that looks a bit like a growing tumour. There is a rear wing that self-deploys at 120 km/h and retracts to blend seamlessly between LED tail lamps that, by the way, are a showcase of futuristic lighting technology. The base Cayman starts off with a large singular exhaust pipe but on the ‘S’, it is a centrally framed dual tube stainless steel variety for more ‘vroom’.

What keeps the Cayman S rolling are lovely dual-tone 10-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels covered in 235-section rubber upfront and 265-section at the rear. About 44 percentage of bodyshell is aluminium — mostly found on the doors, the luggage lid at the nose and rear hatch. But at 1,425 kg, it is a bit porky when compared to the 1,100 kg Lotus Evora. Good thing is, about 95 per cent of it is recoverable — meaning that it’s not just a mile cruncher, it cares for the environment too.

Entering and exiting needs some getting used to, as the roof is low slung and the seats are even lower. Once inside, you’ll notice that the Cayman has a driver-oriented interior architecture, allowing for sufficient space and movement for its two occupants and that all controls fall into hand and to your feet easily.

Like in every Porsche, taking centre-stage in the instrument cluster is the rev counter with an embedded digital speedometer. On the left is the analog speedometer and to its right, a fully customisable 4.6-inch TFT screen displaying vehicle settings, warning alerts and even, a navigation map. It is a brilliantly executed feature.

Porsche offers three types of steering wheels: a plain-Jane 3-spoke, the same with multi-button functionality, and the sports steering wheel with beautiful 3-twin spoke finished in aluminium with solid alloy paddle shifters to accompany it. The upswept centre console and the 7-inch multimedia screen seem to have been ripped directly off the Panamera we tested a couple of weeks ago. Another good thing, we say!

Like the steering wheel, seat choices start from sport seats, to sports seats with 14-way power adjustability and even proper racing buckets. All of which are heavily bolstered and might seem a little constricting for the first time user, but you get used to it.

The interiors are flawless. Even those who are less inspired will have a change of mind once they get driving.

POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE

The seemingly invisible direct injection 3.4-litre flat-6 ‘boxer’ engine is mid-mounted and can only be seen from under the car. It is a bit of a champion in the output department, producing 320 bhp at 7,400 rpm and 370 Nm of torque between 4,500 and 5,800 revs. Boosting power is VarioCam Plus technology, which works a bit like Honda’s VTEC, adjusting the valve timing and lift. Besides being an efficient motivation, it also has a real emotive side from the sounds of it. The engine sits less than a foot behind you and creates a resonance in the cabin by mixing induction and mechanical noises — pure joy!

Hooked to the motor is a 7-speed PDK gearbox, Porsche’s very own lightning-quick dual-clutch transmission. The first six cogs have a sporty ratio while the 7thgear is a tall one for cruising. If you like to be all butch about it, there is a precise 6-speed manual on offer, but the PDK is simply better in traffic, it’s quicker off the line and even more fuel-efficient.

In launch control, with the engine howling at 6,000 revs, you can rip from a standing start to a 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds (4.9 seconds if you do it yourself) and it will hit 160 km/h in 10.7 seconds. The 281 km/h top speed is impractical for this region but is a number that raises your bragging rights.

Engage sport mode and both the steering and throttle become sharper; the gearbox algorithm changes to help it hold gears longer and shift quicker. The optional Sport Chrono pack adds display digital and analog stopwatch, launch control and motorsport derived gearshift strategy with overrun down shifts. But for the go-faster trick around a circuit, you need to opt for PASM which reduces ride height by 10 mm, adds Porsche Torque Vectoring, dynamic engine mounts and rear differential lock — all of which improve traction and corner-exiting speeds greatly. The Cayman S is a revelation of a driver’s car. Period!

The Cayman S has powerful 4-piston aluminium monobloc calipers all around, supported by 330 mm disc rotors upfront and 299 mm rear rotors. Being a Porsche, the rotors are cross-drilled and the calipers painted. They put a stop to speed like an anchor to a ship and feedback from the brake pedal is so precise, you can judge your distance by the metre.

Environmentalists would imagine that a car offering such performance would be a monster mill of pollution but it is anything but. With a fuel economy of 8.0l/100km on a combined cycle and with CO2 emissions as low as 188 g/100km, even Masdar City could endorse this. The largish 64-litre tank allows for great range but let me remind you: this one drinks 98 Octane petrol.

FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY

In a car that has the interior smaller than a sleeping pod, you wouldn’t need much air-conditioner of a high tonnage to cool the space and yet they managed to equip the car with dual zone climate control.

The Cayman in terms of cargo space is your double-edged sword. It has two very usable boots, one with a 150-litre capacity upfront where the engine usually sits and the other, under the wide-opening hatch at the rear offering 275-litre space. Sadly, you can’t fit a regular sized suitcase without breaking something in here.

The basic sound package gets you a 7-speaker 285 Watt and for the brand conscious customer, there is a Dh11,230 option of a 12-channel, 12-speaker 821-Watt Burmester audio system. We say stick to middle ground i.e. the 5.1 channel 445-Watt 10-speaker Bose audio system — it does more than suffice.

The 7-inch infotainment screen is a very functional unit and may not have a fancy rotary knob like BMW’s iDrive but the menu is intuitive and user-friendly.

If you are planning to be silly by drag racing and drifting, you would want a car that addresses the safety hazards involved and the Cayman S is almost bullet proof — figuratively speaking, of course. It has ISOFIX mounts for fixing child seats, adaptive cruise control that regulates speed on its own, a speed controller, a tyre pressure monitor, a whole bunch of airbags and even parking sensors. No rear camera is offered, but if you need one driving this dinky car, we think you need to get back to driving school.

There are plenty of other options like a GSM phone module, garage opener and TV tuner, but these are best avoided to prevent the emaciation of your wallet.

VERDICT

The 2014 Porsche Cayman S is the most honest of sports cars that will introduce you to the art of driving like no other. The spritey throttle response, razor-sharp handling and unadulterated exhaust notes make a mockery of other sporty cars. It is even priced right, enough to make it desirable yet affordable. And the best part is... it has most definitely gathered distinction over the 911 and Boxster models. Our advice, take it to a winding road and let it rip!


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