Less is more? Not in this instance…
May your God spare you the Porsche bore. In clumps they can be found, huddled over pints of muddy ale discussing the finer points of Stuttgart’s finest. Subjects always include whether a proper Porsche can ever be cooled by water, or whether a relationship with a friend could survive their purchase of a Porsche with an open roof, automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive or some apocalyptically awful combination of the three. They’ll tell you they’ve never driven a 911 Turbo that was as good as the standard car upon which it was based and that wide-bodied 911s strike at the very heart of what made the 911 great in the first place. More than anything else, they will tell you that, when it comes to Porsche sports cars, less is more. That is the phrase without which no one can hope to bluff their way through an evening with the Porsche bores.
But now you will be able to say you have found the exception to this once-presumed immutable rule. It is the basic Porsche Cayman. How we loved to say with the previous generation that you didn’t need the big engine and firmer suspension of the ‘S’ model, or the limited slip differential from the options sheet. Well now you do. By the standards of the Cayman S (if by no other), about which you may remember I became quite giddy two months ago, the entry level Cayman is a disappointment.
Powered by a 2.7-litre engine that actually has fractionally more power than the 2.9-litre motor in the previous Cayman, what it lacks is torque. And it is torque that brings the Cayman to life.
In normal driving you won’t know what you’re missing. The Cayman is just as sweet to steer as its more muscular brother, with a gearchange of equal and exemplary quality. The engine is so smooth it seems implausible that it has six separate combustion chambers all individually igniting their mixtures – I’ve driven electric cars with motors not appreciably smoother than this.
But who ever bought a Cayman to drive normally? You can’t get a tan as you can in a Boxster, or show off to your mates as you might in a 911, or load up your family and head off on holiday or the school run as you can with a Cayenne or Panamera. The Cayman’s great strength is that it’s really good for driving.
And that’s where this cheaper version falls down. The fact that it’s not quite so quick in a straight line as the ‘S’ is the least of its problems. More serious is that the lack of torque has the effect of making the car feel slightly overgeared, but this can always be mitigated by changing down. What’s less easy to solve is its failure to make the chassis come alive. The torque of the bigger engine, ideally coupled with that differential, allows you to make the most of the car’s phenomenal traction, flinging you out of corners in a way this Cayman can’t. Mid-corner, too, there’s the power to influence your direction of travel and, if you take your Cayman to the track as many will, do vast skids. The basic car just understeers.
It seems mean to sound critical of a car I still liked very much and perhaps I’d not have put it this way had I driven it before the Cayman S. Still, I must report as I find. If you are about to take this plunge and plan to buy the standard car because some Porsche bore told you less is more, please take the word of another: not this time, it isn’t.
Engine: 2.7-litres, six cylinders
Power: 275bhp @7500rpm
Torque: 214lb ft @4500-6500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 165mph