Test Driven: Porsche Cayman R (9/10)Posted: December 8, 2011
The Porsche Cayman has been heralded as one of the best handling cars money can buy. Sure it is the “baby” Porsche, but these days even the little ones have gotten pretty serious. The Cayman R is to the Cayman line as the GT3 is to the 911 series, so solid performance is a given. Porsche was offering test drives of various models during Concours Weekend, but once I saw the Cayman R on the list I knew where to place my priorities (Video after the jump).
Looking at the facts the Cayman R offers more power than a 996 Carrera (of which I am familiar) while weighing a few hundred pounds less, and I was well aware of it’s handling prowess as well. I had been itching to get my hands on one of the newer 300hp+ Boxter/Cayman for a long time, and here I was about to experience the best one of them all. Needless to say when my name got called off of the waiting list for the 3:30pm drive I was beyond thrilled.
Getting in the car I began to realize how nice and focused it is. The seat was a legitimate, high-end racing bucket that gives a snug and supportive, yet comfortable feel. I also noticed the presence of a clutch pedal at my left foot, a very pleasant surprise considering I was told all of the cars were PDK equipped. The representative riding along with me quickly proved to be very cool, and agreed to film the test drive for me. Once all was situated we headed out.
After just a few minutes a few things become abundantly clear about the Cayman R. The steering has loads of feel and is lightning quick to react to inputs; we’re talking telepathic here. The engine reacts promptly to even the slightest touch to the gas pedal with a nice throaty sound. The gear change has a crisp and precise action to it, and the clutch is nice and grippy with a lot of feel to it. The whole car just has this tight feel and it is really like you are part of a living machine. Porsche has a very special way of making their cars, and the Cayman R is right up there with the best of them.
The first leg of our drive consisted of very normal 55mph cruising in moderate traffic. The car showed great road manners, despite it’s hardcore nature, and the ride quality was actually very livable. My co-driver asked if I thought the Cayman R could be an everyday car, I said I would rather have something a bit more normal for that task, however it really could be used that way if desired. Also, I should point out that the Cayman R will return some pretty respectable fuel economy due to its lower curb weight, something most cars with this sort of performance tend to lack. Under normal everyday conditions, the Cayman R excelled as much as any other car of similar size would.
We went up into the hills a bit and turned around to head back; this is where the real fun began. I pulled a U-turn and went back down the hill the way I came so I could dodge slower traffic on the normal route. The road was wide open so I gave it the business. The Cayman R takes off very quickly with a loud howl as its flat six revs higher and higher. Shifts are crisp and immediate due to the short throws of the gear lever, this manual transmission is nothing short of phenomenal, really. The car gains speed quite quickly at full throttle. Obviously it doesn’t feel insanely quick like the much more powerful SLS AMG I had driven that morning, but when you look down at the speedo you will find yourself well outside the legal limits nonetheless. It has a hard pull to its acceleration, but it doesn’t go so fast that you can’t enjoy it. I felt that it had the right amount of power for the experience it offers. It is a pure driver’s car to be enjoyed and savored, not some overpowered tire shredder that leaves you wondering what just happened.
Charging down the hill, I got to test the brakes as we approached the stop sign at highway speeds. The braking performance is incredible as expected, the most important thing on any fast car. I was blessed with largely open roads for much of the trip back, and got to really stretch the Cayman’s legs into the license-losing realm. It was good, very good. The beautiful naturally aspirated powerband gives you more and more glorious horsepower the higher you let the revs climb. The handling is astounding, allowing me to take turns on a normal two lane road at very high speeds with no need to touch the brakes at all. The Cayman R is very comfortable with it’s own capabilities; it will go around sweeping corners at 110mph just as easily as it will at 55mph. It offers a truly spectacular driving experience in all regards, but especially so for those who are willing to take advantage of open that roads given to them by circumstance.
Porsches all have a special something about them that makes them feel organic. Throughout the drive, I couldn’t help but compare the Cayman R to the Lotus Evora S, and I must say that I prefer the Porsche for that intangible, unquantifiable reason. The Cayman R just feels completely alive and offers an unbelievable driving experience. I have driven much faster cars than this, but straight speed is not the Cayman’s game. The Cayman R is all about the whole driving experience in all of its aspects. It is so finely tuned to be great at various types of driving, and to offer a maximum level of fun for the driver in the process. I have been very lucky to have experienced all sorts of different sports cars, but I will tell you, hand on heart, that this Cayman R is among the best cars I have ever driven. It offers the full package in a way that will intoxicate you, and I cannot ask more than that from any car.
Here’s the video from the drive (NSFW language in some parts):
WoM Score: Cayman R
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Practicality(2), MPG(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 1
Final Score: 9/10