Jerez, Spain—Motoring around the Spanish countryside in the newly revised Porsche Cayman S one thing becomes abundantly clear all too quickly: There is so little room for improvement in this finely-tuned sports car, it’s almost beyond belief. It sprints away from stoplights like a greyhound (the dog, not the bus), corners like a monorail (the kind that doesn’t derail) and feels as comfortable as a pair of Isotoners (blatant Kanye West reference).
Of course, I recognize that there may be some dissenting opinions out there. Let’s canvass them:
Some might argue that the interior should feature all manner of hides from exotic animals, a sound system so booming that permanent hearing loss is guaranteed and gadgetry so complex you’d need to be a rocket surgeon to make heads or tails of it.
Others might offer that the car’s 3.4-litre flat-six ought to be brushed aside to make room for a larger and more powerful engine. Still more might complain about the lack of a rear seat, the seriously uninspired design of the cup holders, and the fact that neither the front nor the rear luggage compartment is big enough to accommodate a tour-sized golf bag.
All of the people described above should get a hobby—and that hobby should in no way resemble driving a sports car. Perhaps scrapbooking. Maybe mah-jongg. Possibly golf.
To the uninitiated, here’s the Porsche Cayman S in a nutshell. A sleek exterior that makes the similarly-engineered Porsche Boxster S roadster look about as sexy as a bar of Irish Spring. A level of performance that makes people rethink the Porsche 911 they’ve been eyeballing for the last decade or so. And, to top it all off, a cost savings of about US $20,000 over that self-same Porsche 911.
The only question is: In a recessed economy, do you opt for the original Cayman S? You know, the 2006 model you pick up for a relative song from one of those financial wizards that helped precipitate our current malaise? Or do you select the new-for-09 version? Let’s go to the tape… and take some measurements.
For the 2009 model year, the Cayman S has received a number of small but significant upgrades. In the engine department, the 3.4-litre now cranks out 320 horsepower (up from 295), mainly due to a direct fuel injection system that also serves to boost fuel economy. (The base Cayman has been upgraded as well; it features a new 2.9-litre flat-six that develops 265 horsepower.)
In even bigger news, the Cayman S is also available with Porsche’s PDK transmission, a revolutionary bit of engineering that debuted in the 2009 Porsche 911 just last summer. No need to wax elegiac about this racing-derived 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, suffice it to say that the PDK is slick enough to make the supermodel sitting next to you think you’re Steve McQueen behind the wheel.
While the PDK is extra-quick—it scrolls through the gears faster than anyone could manage with the 6-speed manual—it also costs extra (around $4K) and is saddled with those non-intuitive shift buttons that Porsche steadfastly refuses to admit are a mistake
Thus, the purist of the pure might still prefer the triple-pedal transmission; after all, an automatic, no matter how racy, is still an automatic. (And the supermodel might not be fooled.) Having said that, the Cayman S equipped with the PDK and the optional Sports Chrono package with launch control does sprint to 100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds and top out at 275 km/h. This version also boasts a greater power-to-weight ratio than the deservedly vaunted Porsche 911.
As impressive as these numbers may be, the finest quality of the Cayman S remains its sublime handling. On one particular stretch of road in and around the region’s sherry-producing vineyards, I was becoming annoyed—not with the car, but with the road itself. You see, it was one of those classic European roads carved into the rolling hills… except it wasn’t.
While most of the corners on the classic roads are of similar radii, this sucker had corners of all angles and descriptions. Of course, many of these turns were also blind and, in that we were driving through farmland, occupied by slow-moving vehicles of various widths. The point is this: Driving this annoying road at speed required a supremely high level of confidence in the car’s ability to hold fast around precipitous contours.
The Cayman S, with its lightweight mid-engine layout, proved to be just the ticket. The steering is unerringly precise. The car has an ability to transfer its mass from one side of the road to the next with ease and grace. The suspension system has been revised to promote crisper handling; an available limited-slip differential has been added with the same goal in mind. (Net/net: This car has some seriously grin-inducing characteristics.)
To top it all off, when that slow-moving vehicle appears directly in front of you, the four-wheel disc brakes (featuring cross-drilled, vented rotors to better dissipate heat) bring the Porsche to a grinding halt with far less drama than the average Lindsay Lohan commute.
What else is there to report about the 2009 Porsche Cayman S? A new front fascia, headlights, taillights and side mirrors give the two-seater a slightly more aggressive appearance. Bigger air openings at the sides of the front grille look suitably mean. The headlights are modelled after those of the extra-exclusive Porsche Carrera GT; they incorporate the halogen headlamps and turn signals into a single light cluster.
At the back, the LED daytime driving lights create a bent staple-shaped outline that emphasizes the haunches of the car; it’s not an entirely pleasing effect, but when the brakes are engaged, the lights fill out nicely. (Long story short: The original Cayman S was so gorgeous, this was definitely a “don’t mess with success” scenario.)
Inside, the Porsche gains an optional navigation system with touchscreen display, an audio system that offers iPod and USB stick connectivity, and an optional heated steering wheel (for the PDK version). Other upgrades appear here and there, but no word yet on those cup holders.
So, to sum up in full, the 2009 Porsche Cayman S is a slightly faster and slicker version of the original—it was close to perfection before and it’s a hair closer now. With a starting price of just over $70K (U.S), it’s likely not the kind of snap decision that your accountant will wholeheartedly support. But the sports car purist in you will have no problem rationalizing it at all.