Evolving a sports car can be a risky business—how do you improve upon an already successful design without taking away its greatness? Fortunately, Porsche has perhaps the most experience in the industry through its 40-plus-year run with the 911. That knowledge and skill has extended to the Cayman.
In its latest iteration, the 2014 Porsche Cayman is better than ever. It’s still light, it’s more powerful, and the technology it has gained has made it both faster and more fun to drive. It’s one of the most engaging sports cars at any price point, and, while it’s still no outright bargain, a strong case can be made that it represents tremendous value.
Why is that? Because it looks stunning, both inside and out; because it’s very quick, but more importantly, very rewarding to drive; and perhaps most of all, because it manages to carve out a place for itself in a world where it could easily be overshadowed by its bigger, older brother, the 911.
The Cayman’s first step out of the shadows and into the limelight comes from its exterior design. Like the soft-top Boxster, the Cayman’s new look is edgier, crisper, and more future-oriented than the last Cayman’s. For many, it’s the most beautiful Porsche sold today, wearing its mid-engined proportions and low-slung curves with a grace and simplicity few others can match, within the brand or without. Inside, the cabin has evolved to mirror the 911’s, with a clean horizontal dash supported by a button-centric center stack hosting a touchscreen panel and little else (though the Sport Chrono package adds an analog clock/timer to the center of the dash). The result is a modern yet simple look that exudes style without slapping you in the face with it.
Two core flavors of the 2014 Cayman are available: the Cayman and the Cayman S. The former starts with a 2.7-liter flat six-cylinder engine rated at 275 horsepower; the latter gets a bump to 3.4 liters and 325 horsepower. Either can be had with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox or Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission; whichever you choose, only the rear wheels are driven. Both models are quick, with the base Cayman clocking 0-60 mph runs in as little as 5.1 seconds, and the Cayman S shaving that down to 4.6 seconds.
Ultimate speed and power aren’t the point of the Cayman, however. Rather, it’s about the balance between engine, chassis, brakes, and suspension. The recipe for the Cayman yields a heartwarming synergy that the enthusiast longs for; it boils down to pure driving pleasure. With its inherent balance thanks to the mid-ship engine, Porsche’s renowned suspension tuning ability, and some truly beneficial advanced electronic chassis controls, the Cayman and Cayman S are the connoisseur’s sports cars.
If there’s a weak link in the new Cayman’s repertoire when compared to the previous model, it’s the steering. Gone is the near-telepathic sense of the front wheels derived from the last-generation hydraulic system. In its place is a good, but not quite great electronic power steering system. While it mostly delivers the information you want while damping out the noise you don’t, there’s still a slight pall of artificiality overlaying the sensation coming back from the road to the driver through the wheel.
Even in base form, as with all Porsches, the Cayman is well-equipped, delivering most of the electronics and information systems you’d expect of a luxury sports car. The Cayman’s real strength, however, is its extensive and granular options list, allowing you to configure a Cayman to suit your exact tastes and needs.
From Porsche Communications Management (the infotainment system) to three different types of seats and steering wheels, almost every aspect of the Cayman can be customized or upgraded. A Bose Surround Sound audio system, an even higher-end Burmester sound system, an enhanced leather package, and even a matching luggage set can also be added. There’s only one caveat to the extensive array of available features and options: the price tag can quickly climb well into the $80,000s on base models, and even eclipse the $100,000 mark for the Cayman S if you tick too many of the boxes.