Words by Carl S. Cunanan Photos by Bert E. Casal
The Cayman and the Boxster had a rare awards sweep in 2013, earning accolades for both power and dynamics, and are now truly being recognized for the stellar performers that they are. Knife-like handling in a brilliantly balanced package have always been in their wheelhouse, and the use of the latest in engine and transmission technology has pushed these two into a level of desirability and sheer fun that holds its own against the big brother that is the 911.
The two cars are unusual in that because they use such similar platforms they can be judged almost as one, yet they have such different histories. The Boxster was looked at previously, and wrongly, as the little, less powerful Porsche, kind of like the 914 and 924 of years past. Yet, that was wrong because the Boxster was so well-balanced and had such amazing handling that it would have been top of the line in almost any lineup. It kind of took the purposeful hard-top Cayman to come in and make people realize how good the whole thing was. Now you can go to a track and say that the Cayman is the best-handling thing on the roster, and you can have that in a drop-top too.
The current Cayman and Boxster made big leaps forward with their last redraw, and with that took the 2013 Car Of The Year Award from Vehicle Dynamics International. They were called “The best-balanced cars on earth in terms of overall performance, handling, price and fuel economy.”
They also made major headway in terms of engine power, with their 2.7-liter flat six DI powerplants interrupting BMW’s eightyear title run for the 2.5 to 3 liter class of the International Engine of the Year Awards. The engine in basic Boxster tune delivers 265 hp at 6,700 rpm and 315 hp for the Boxster S. For the Cayman and the Cayman S power goes up to 275 and 325 hp respectively at 7200 rpm. For the Boxster maximum torque of 206.5 lb ft comes in from 4,400 to 6,500 rpm, and goes all the way up to 272 lb ft at 4500 rpm for the Cayman S. This allows a good amount of in-gear flexibility that really allow you to play with the agile little cars, especially when you’ve checked all the performance options and the car uses all that grunt to help keep you sideways.
The new Cayman is truly ready to step out of the shadows of the 911, this in spite of the fact that it has more in common with it than ever. An increased amount of aluminum alloy makes up over 40% of the body, and the car tips the scales a claimed 60 pounds less than the previous model in spite of weightier pieces of new equipment and larger wheels.
The award-winning engine got light too, in the sense that the old 2.9-liter powerplant was replaced by a 2.7. New technologies are definitely coming to the fore, as it was this new one that broke the BMW dominance of the class in the engine awards.
The Cayman has more muscle with less weight, but it still doesn’t deviate from being a handling-oriented car. Running the Cayman S on track is a joy, best done with clean lines and smooth exits if you want the best lap times. You can take a good amount of speed into the corners as the car stays pretty sticky, but don’t tap the brakes or you lose momentum. The engine is great, but it wasn’t meant to make up for tentative right pedals.
We have always been a fan of the PDK double clutch system, and while we truly, dearly love the manual shifters from Stuttgart, the doppelkupplungsgetreibe really is better than we are. Its two manual clutches and seven gears allow almost no time in between shifts, making onlookers think you have the world’s fastest extremities when you are charging deep into corners all the while shifting several levels at a time. The PDK is tuned for the Cayman, and allows a higher level of play than that on, let’s say, the new Macan. In manual mode and with PSM (Porsche Stability Management) off, it is quite fun to get the car sideways in controllable drifts. The car won’t upshift because it is reading steering input angle and yaw angle and it senses what you are trying to do, and an upshift would bring forth a drop of revs and power that you just don’t want. In other words, it is acting like a manual only better. Better. Stronger. Faster. Also cheaper, because the new PDK will coast if it senses you want to when you get off the gas at speed.
The car, like more and more of the cars we will be seeing on the roads, is a more well rounded vehicle. It can do several things well, even though its main mission is clearly driver enjoyment and speed. A good driver can string together some clean corners and good exit lines and carry all that speed into a great lap time, making the most of very precise steering and incredible handling. You can also choose to play a bit, letting the car break traction a bit and drift with either two wheels or four. This may or may not have a positive effect on your lap time, that would depend on what kind of driver you are. That’s the point. Porsches sports cars are actually becoming more flexible, more forgiving.
Every few years, if not more, the car magazines of the world come out with a list of cars that they say will topple the Porsche 911. You will often see a cover photo with a 911 surrounded by a bevy of other cars, all with a viable reason why they are positioning for the throne. In reality, it is perhaps the Cayman that is heir apparent. It has arguably (some say obviously) better handling than the 911, and now the limitations of motor size as determined by mid-engine platforms are fast becoming a thing of the past. It may well be that the 911 is positioned as the classic, historic car of Porsche while the Cayman moves further forward as the true sharp edge of the Stuttgart sword.
Engine: Flat-6, 3436 cc, dohc 24V, VarioCam Plus, 7-Speed PDK
Max Power: 325 bhp @ 7,400 rpm
Max Torque: 272 lb ft @ 4,500 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 4.9 sec.
Top Speed: 280 km/h (174mph)
Fuel Mileage: 8.92 km/L City, 12.75 km/L Highway
Price as Tested: PoA
+ Knife-edge handling and balance, now has more oomph both from horses and computer-guided playfulness
– Not enough hours in a day to spend with the car
Editor’s rating: 10/10