2009 Porsche Cayman
MSRP
$50,300 - $60,200
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2009 Porsche Cayman Expert Review:Autoblog

The following review is for a 2008 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.


2008 Porsche Cayman S – Click above for high-res image gallery

To many, the Porsche Cayman is just a look-alike twin to the drop-top Porsche Boxster. While it shares a platform, underpinnings, and even engine choices with its two-seat sibling, the Cayman performs a decidedly different role and delivers even more gratifying performance. Porsche dropped off a top-of-the-line Cayman S in the Autoblog Garage. It offers a more powerful engine and larger brakes over the standard Cayman model. Follow the jump to read our impressions on the Porsche Cayman S after we held the keys in our hands for a week.



All photos copyright Michael Harley / Weblogs Inc.



To understand the Cayman, you have to know a bit about the Porsche Boxster and the 911, as the relationship between the three is much deeper than the badge. In the early 1990s, Porsche penned a modern-day reincarnation of its first production car, the 356. Engineered from the ground-up to be a convertible, this all-new roadster (type "986") would offer a mid-engine design and seating for just two. Most importantly, much of the engineering work would pave the way for the first water-cooled mainstream 911 (type "996"). With the new Boxster and 996 sharing mechanicals, Porsche would save tens of millions in design, tooling, and manufacturing.

The first Boxster models arrived in 1996. With a 2.5-liter flat-six mounted seemingly inaccessible in the middle of the car, they were underpowered but offered world-class handling (in fact, with the prices of these early models falling, a new class of "Spec Boxster racing" has emerged). To the angst of many Porschephiles, from the A-pillar forward the early Boxster was indistinguishable from the new 911. That changed in 2005 when the Boxster was significantly updated inside and out (enough changes to justify a new type number, the "987"). It was that revised vehicle that formed the platform for the soon-to-arrive Cayman. Arriving in 2006, the closed-roof Porsche Cayman (type "987c") offered a more powerful engine, and a chassis that was 100 percent more rigid than the Boxster. This stiff platform allowed Porsche engineers the freedom to recalibrate the suspension for a sportier ride and even higher performance.

The placement of the all-aluminum engine not only differentiates the Cayman from the venerable Porsche 911, but it defines the vehicle's handling traits. Many will argue mid-engine placement is paramount for optimal handling, braking, and acceleration (witness the McLaren F1, Ferrari Enzo, and more recent Audi R8). With both passengers and the engine situated between the axles, weight distribution on the Cayman S is split 45% front, 55% rear. The curb weight, even with a full complement of safety equipment and six airbags, is listed at just 2,976 pounds. The Cayman S in our garage was lightly equipped (for a Porsche) with a base price of $59,100. A few select packages (Preferred, Xenon, Sport Chrono, etc...) and custom silver seat belts pushed it to a semi-reasonable $65,780, depending on your perspective.

Designed with a low center of gravity, the Cayman squats especially close to terra firma parked in the driveway. Once you climb into the two-seater and semi-fall into the driver's seat, the cabin is accommodating. Without the drop-top machinery found in the Boxster, the Cayman's expansive hatch adds an airy feel – especially at head level. However, the Cayman will never be confused for a large car. Even with the seat all the way back to the rear firewall to accommodate our six-foot two-inch frame, our left leg was a bit cramped on the dead pedal. During an overnight trip, our carry-on bag and laptop both fit in the front luggage compartment, but our camera pack was forced to the hatch. Space and storage is at a premium. As expected, when we started the car we quickly forgot about all of that.

Twisting the conventional key located in Porsche tradition to the left of the steering column, the engine springs to life. Modern engine electronics have tamed all rough-running personality out of the flat-sixes of yesteryear, so even when cold it settles down to a smooth idle. Located immediately behind the passenger seats, tucked under thick carpet, some insulation, and a steel panel, is a water-cooled horizontally-opposed "Boxer" six-cylinder engine with Porsche's VarioCam Plus. In the Cayman S we were driving, it displaces 3.4-liters and is rated at 295 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque (the standard Cayman makes due with a 2.7-liter 245-hp powerplant). Redline is a joyous 7,300 rpm.

As some real sports cars still thankfully offer an honest-to-God stick shift, the transmission on this Cayman S is a 6-speed manual with triple synchromesh in first and second, and double synchromesh on the other gears. With the precision of a surgical tool, the shift knob glides into position effortlessly. Around town, the Cayman is as docile as a Volkswagen Rabbit. However, when the tachometer needle is forced to the right side of the dial, the sprint to 60 mph takes just 5 seconds as the Porsche continues to a top speed north of 170 mph.

The sound of the Cayman S at wide-open throttle is a triumphant symphony of exhaust, intake, and valve-train at full song. When the throttle pedal is depressed into the carpet, the intake initially snarls and then you hear the exhaust picking up its note. Once the engine spins above 3,500 rpm, the mechanical noise of the engine takes charge. Keeping in mind that the reciprocating engine mass is only about 18 inches away – the engine is entirely located within the passenger compartment under that cover – the noise emanates from within the cabin. The flat-six isn't the smoothest engine on the market, but it sings an enthusiast's tune. Frequent trips to redline are positively addicting.


The Cayman S wears four bright red four-piston monobloc aluminum calipers chomping down on cross-drilled and inner-ventilated rotors. Even when asked to perform stops that defy the laws of physics (off-camber, decreasing radius, with the outside wheel in a patch of gravel), the Porsche puts the correct wheel down and bleeds speed without any drama. If you need help, and you rarely will with sticky fat Michelins clawing at the ground, ABS is there to assist. The "Big Red" brakes can absorb tons of heat, so fade isn't even in the Cayman's vocabulary. Brake feel, modulation, and pedal position are excellent. Porsche does brakes perfectly.

Porsche does something else even better – steering feel. Even with the standard wimpy thin-rimmed steering wheel in hand (a thicker contoured wheel is optional), the feedback and response is exemplary. Porsche has fitted the Cayman with a variable-ratio rack-and-pinion system that alters steering ratios once they exceed 15 degrees off-center. On and above highway speeds, the car is perfectly stable and it needs zero input to hold a steady line. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the tightest curves only require the smallest bit of hand shuffling. The rack works exactly as advertised.

Tossing a Cayman S back-and-forth on a desolate mountain road is one of life's greatest pleasures. To ready the Porsche, hit the "Sport" button on the dash to change the throttle mapping. This also increases the threshold of "PSM" (Porsche's thankfully non-intrusive stability control). The most glorious roads will keep you busy flicking the gearshift between second and third, watching the engine pull towards redline, before falling off drastically under full braking. The steering wheel, weighted well under your fingers, will transmit subtle impulses from the front tires back to your hands as the road surface and traction changes. With nearly indiscernible body roll, the suspension absorbs the undulations and irregularities as it confidently keeps all four tires planted on the pavement, even as the rears strain to break free. Downshift, blip the throttle, and repeat over and over again. You will be spent before the Cayman breaks a sweat.

While this review of the Cayman reads like one long-winded accolade, we did uncover some tarnish. With the twisty roads miles behind us, we found the non-adjustable suspension fairly harsh (Porsche offers its multi-setting "PASM," but our Cayman did not have it). Matters only worsened when we were stuck in traffic on LA freeways. With our low stance minimizing visibility around us, the short wheelbase oscillating numbingly over freeway expansion joints, and with minimal sound insulation to keep the din at a palatable level... the Porsche was completely out of its element. We were suffering, and the Cayman S was, too. To avoid future misery, we made it a point to take the longer and more involving "scenic routes" on future excursions. The new approach kept man and machinery very happy.

After a week with the two-seater, it was perfectly clear to us. The Cayman wasn't designed to be a comfortable daily driver, a family transport, or a cargo hauler (your Porsche dealer will gladly sell you a 911 or Cayenne to fill those roles). It was never intended to be the quickest from a stoplight, the fastest car on the road, or capture the shortest stopping distances. The German engineers had something else in mind when they spawned the Boxster... Their objective was to create a vehicle that would evoke driving passion. A throwback to a lightweight, two-seat, rear-wheel drive, short wheelbase sports car. Damn the price, we were smitten by the Porsche Cayman S.



All photos copyright Michael Harley / Weblogs Inc.

Major upgrade with new engines, transmissions, suspensions.

Introduction

2009 marks the first redesign of the Porsche Cayman. But wait, you say, it looks like last year's car so where's the redesign? To the naked eye it's only in the ends of the bodywork and some wheels. The primary changes are to the engines and transmissions, and upgrades to suspension and other systems, in short, to the primary ingredients that make a Porsche a Porsche. 

Porsche styling rarely changes over time. The basic shapes of the 914, 924 (and 944 and 968), and 928 were always the same, as have been the Boxster and Cayman, and, of course, the 911. Adjustments are made over time for technological and performance improvements, or government mandates, hence the evolutionary appearance changes. Underneath it's a different story, however. 

The 2009 Porsche Cayman gets a 265-horsepower 2.9-liter flat-six, replacing last year's 245-hp 2.7-liter engine. The 2009 Cayman S features a 3.4-liter engine, now boasting 320 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, a dramatic increase over the previous 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque and just 25 horsepower shy of a 911 Carrera. Both 2009 Boxster engines are more efficient than last year, and if every Porsche car in the world was switched off no measuring equipment would detect a change in C02 levels. 

Transmissions are upgraded for 2009. A six-speed manual now comes standard on both Boxster models, and Porsche's newest, most sophisticated, seven-speed double-clutch gearbox, called the PDK, replaces last year's six-speed Tiptronic automatic. For the first time, a limited-slip differential joins the performance option list. 

Among colors and interior trims alone there are thousands of combinations so exclusivity is well within reach; Porsche's line of Exclusive options and paint hues to order merely expand the realm of possibilities. They also expand the budget since you can get almost anything on a Cayman but doing so can as much as double the price. 

You can argue the Cayman is merely a fixed-roof Boxster but we disagree. The Cayman has its own feel and character, and resets the Boxster's benchmarks a notch higher. It can serve as a luxury grand-touring car for two with heated and ventilated leather seats, Bose sound system, and navigation system. It can serve as a sports car with superb driving dynamics, wonderful sounds, and excellent driver involvement. It can serves as an entertaining commuter car with decent mileage, a view out, dual trunks and drive-everyday-versatility. It can serve as a weekend racer with adjustable suspension, advanced drivetrains, and racing-style brakes. Its two trunks offer significantly more cargo space than the Boxster does. Plus, the Cayman is one of the best-looking sports cars on the road. 

Potential Cayman shoppers may also look at the Audi TTS, BMW Z4, Lotus Exige, Nissan 370Z or GT-R, Mercedes SLK AMG and maybe the Chevrolet Corvette or Dodge Viper. 

Lineup

The 2009 Porsche Cayman comes in two models with options sufficient to make every single car different. Custom colors and leathers aside there are five types of seats and 10 upholstery hues, 17 production paints and nine wheels of different shapes and sizes. 

The Cayman ($50,300) uses a 265-hp 2.9-liter flat six with 221 lb-ft of torque and six-speed manual transmission replacing the previous five-speed. A seven-speed automated manual double-clutch gearbox (PDK, or Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) is available ($3,420). 17x7 front and 17x8.5-inch rear alloy wheels are standard. 

Cayman standard features include Alcantara-center bucket seats, manual climate control, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, trip computer, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, anti-theft immobilizer, and active rear spoiler. 

Options include bi-Xenon headlamps with cornering lights ($1,560); self-dimming mirrors and rain-sensor ($690); park assist ($530); rear wiper ($360); roof transport system ($400); Aerokit ($4,990); various painted and aluminum trim exterior upgrades; PASM active suspension management ($1,990); limited-slip differential ($950); Sport Chrono packages that allow for timing segments and making adjustments to car systems ($960-$1,320, plus $500 for a painted face dial); sport exhaust ($2,500); sport shifter ($765); automatic climate control ($550); luggage partition ($270); heated steering wheel ($180); interior paint and seatbelt trims (to $1,580); leather upgrades (to $2,225); aluminum, Makassar wood, carbon fiber and Alcantara interior trim packages (to $2,150); painted instrument dials ($690); Porsche Communication Management with navigation ($3,110); Bluetooth ($695); sound system inputs and upgrades (to $1,690); 6-CD/DVD changer ($650) and XM radio ($750). 

Factory paint colors list to $3,140 (paint to sample $4,315); wheels (varies to $3,675) may be painted and equipped with Porsche crest centers; seat choices (up to $5,080) include sport seats, power adjustable, carbon-fiber race-style, heating ($500) and ventilation ($800); multiple choices in steering wheels, and leather upholstery (to $1,510, or to sample for $1,750). 

The Cayman S ($60,200) adds to performance with a 320-hp, 273 lb-ft 3.4-liter engine and six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK ($3,420) optional. Standard wheels are 8- and 9-inch by 18 alloys, brake calipers are painted red, and instruments have aluminum colored backgrounds. The S gets upgraded an audio system and HomeLink as standard, and wheel choices are cut to seven since 17-inch wheels are not offered. 

Cayman S options are similar to the standard Cayman with one major exception: ceramic composite brakes ($8,150) with drilled, vented discs and yellow-painted calipers are offered only on the S. 

Safety features on all models include front airbags and head-and-thorax side airbags. Electronic stability control (PSM), antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (ABD), tire pressure monitors, traction control (ASR). 

Walkaround

The Cayman looks the road-going equivalent of a race car, no surprise given Porsche's success on the world's racetracks. Yes, it has wipers, lights and street-worthy tires but the overall impression is a shape designed to most efficiently cover the working parts and two people. 

The hood, front fenders and doors are similar to those on the Boxster, but the remaining bodywork is different. Some refer to the Cayman as a Boxster hard-top but this in inaccurate on many counts, both cosmetic and mechanical, and therefore unfair to either car. They have different missions and appeal, illustrated perhaps by no better means than Porsche offers a fixed hardtop for the Boxster. 

A Cayman somewhat resembles the animal it shares a name with (a crocodilian reptile), especially in the tail that slopes down below the hips formed by the rear fenders. From the head of the windshield the top surface nearly duplicates a droplet, the low-drag aerodynamic shape found in everything from blimps to dry-lake speed cars. You could run a straightedge from the top of the rear window to the rear spoiler and barely fit a thumb under it, the sides protected with ridges to direct airflow and stiffen the hatch frame. 

Aerodynamically, the Cayman is a slippery car. The least aerodynamic model, the Cayman S with PDK, has a coefficient of drag of 0.30 and less than two square meters of frontal area. A rear spoiler ahead of the back bumper breaks airflow to keep the car on the ground, and at 75 mph the spoiler rises for increased stability in high-speed turns. 

Horizontal rows of LED tail-lamps reminiscent of the Carrera GT frame the rear end and a central exhaust outlet, one for the Cayman and two for the S, nestles between small-scale diffuser panels. 

At the front the headlight clusters also remind of the Carrera GT and the classic 550 of decades earlier. A horizontal LED light tube serves parking light duty, the signal is in the light cluster, and rounded fog lights are in the outer grilles. The wider center grille bottom sweeps up to define the inner edges of those outer grilles, with a spoiler lip on each side. 

In profile the Cayman is enhanced by fenders and roofline gently merging together, this particular aspect vaguely familiar to Maserati and Aston Martin owners. The line defined by the door bottom sweeps upward aft of the door, becoming the rear edge of the vertically-slatted engine compartment air intakes, and almost mirroring the line along the side window that sweeps the quarter window to the roofline. 

An optional rear wiper parks vertically on the left side where it least-disturbs the driver's rear view and adds the least wind noise. Aerodynamics will clear most water at speeds above 40 mph but the wiper is handy for reversing and urban driving. 

Interior

Physics and the ergonomics of car control define the Cayman interior, the basic design unchanged in racing Porsches save removal of the radio, carpeting and air conditioning and addition of a roll cage and seat harnesses. 

The Cayman cabin is appropriately finished, neither as austere as some sports cars nor as overtly luxurious as expensive GT cars, yet you can push to either extreme as wishes and option budget allow. Trim can be ordered in wood, aluminum, carbon fiber, suede or painted. Multiple sizes, styles, and materials characterize steering wheel choices, with or without redundant controls, and it even has a pair of concealed cupholders. They're on the passenger's side. This is not the best car for sipping a cappuccino on the way to work. 

The standard seats appear simple and restrained compared to the skeletons or over-embroidered armchairs on some sports cars yet they do an excellent job holding you in place while allowing free movement of feet, arms, and head. Manual fore/aft and cushion height with electric recline are standard and longer-legged drivers might appreciate the extra adjustments offered by the power seat option. 

Even with manual seats we got a pair of 6-foot, 4-inch individuals inside without scuffing heads, knees and elbows. There is plenty of daylight room for feet to move around despite the compact dimensions. 

The steering wheel is manual tilt/telescope, the handbrake an easy grasp on the left side of the console. The gas pedal is floor-hinged for easier heel-and-toe shifting, and a good dead pedal for your clutch foot. The shifter falls readily at hand and slips into the gear desired every time, a hefty detent preventing getting reverse when you downshift into first for a tight corner. On PDK cars the floor shift works conventionally and the upper-spoke steering wheel shifters both downshift (pull toward you) and upshift (push away). 

The driver faces a three-pod instrument panel dominated by an 8000-rpm tachometer with inset message and digital speed display. A compact speedometer is left, coolant and fuel level to the right, with the bottom segment of each relegated to information displays. On PDK cars the gear display is in the right dial. You may order painted instrument dials to match or counterpoint exterior paint, including the Sport Chrono stopwatch if you order it. 

Any control you might use frequently while driving is on a steering-column stalk. The headlight switch is on the left, next to the ignition switch, and all others are in the center panel ahead of the shifter. These are grouped with suspension and transmission controls (on cars so optioned) along the bottom. Climate controls are located above and are easy to figure, and audio and navigation controls are above those. 

All those systems are fairly easy to decipher and effective in operation. Unlike our experience in other Porsches, including a Boxster with a near-identical interior, the iPod plugged into the Cayman was disconnected each time the key was switched off and we had to physically unplug and reconnect it to be recognized. 

Outward visibility is quite good, the blind spot to the right rear the sticking point. It isn't large enough to hide a car in a lane adjacent but obscures cars coming onto the freeway in the blind spot. Fortunately the Cayman is small enough you can angle yourself enough to see and still remain in one lane. 

The standard radio antenna is embedded around the periphery of the windshield glass and makes for a sleeker exterior. It never bothered us, but a mast antenna may be specified. 

Cabin storage is relatively good. The glovebox handles routine paperwork and manuals, door pockets beneath the armrests handle wallets, smokes, remotes, sunglasses, and so on; the passenger has a supplementary tray adjacent their seat. Smaller items will fit in the bin ahead of the shifter, with coins and MP3 players under the center armrest where the optional connection points are. Seatbacks have coat hooks and fully-carpeted space if you don't have the seats all the way back, and immediately behind the occupants are two deep wells, and a net and bar where you could place a laptop bag without worry about being beaned in a hard stop. 

Despite the race car shape there are two trunks in the Cayman, a deep squarish well up front and a wider shallower bin at the back, both released by key buttons or next to the driver's seat. Like the cabin these are nicely finished, and the rear trunk gets leftover cabin air so put the ice cream there for the ride home. 

There is no spare tire on board but there are provisions to keep you moving. Unless you buy a roof rack there isn't room for a spare. 

Driving Impression

Porsche's flat-six engine design essentially built the company around the iconic 911, and the latest iterations are employed for 2009 Caymans. With direct fuel injection and higher compression ratios, the standard Cayman gets a slight bump in size to 2.9 liters and delivers 265 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque while the Cayman S retains its 3.4-liter capacity and now rates 320 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Note these horsepower ratings are up 10 from the Boxster versions of the engines, primarily because the Caymans are rated at a higher 7200 rpm. 

Either engine bristles with authority for the first seconds after a cold-start and then settles into a hum set off by the slightest ticking characteristic of direct-injection engines. The over-square engines rev easily to 7500 rpm and develop peak outputs between 4400 and 7200 rpm, yet despite that the flexibility and power-to-weight ratios mean you can drive very conservatively and effortlessly if you like; once the engine was fully warmed up we obeyed the upshift light on an S, accelerating in sixth gear from 35 mph on a mild grade. So it can be quite calm and pleasant in the Cayman. 

Porsche figures say 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds for a manual Cayman and 4.6 seconds for a Cayman S PDK in Sport Plus mode (4.8 seconds in normal mode), so every Cayman has more than adequate acceleration and will clear at minimum 163 mph. These cars aren't built on a more-is-better approach to speed, but rather a superlative combination of speed, handling, and brakes that allows all of the performance to be used. 

All Caymans get a six-speed manual standard for 2009, and gearboxes don't come much better. First through third gear ratios are spaced for maximum acceleration, and fourth through sixth are tighter than normal to maintain acceleration at higher speeds; you will not find yourself cruising the freeway at 1400 rpm like a big-bore sports car. Clutch and shift action are on the light side, the Cayman happier with a relaxed driver than one slamming through gears. 

The alternative is Porsche's new double-clutch PDK gearbox, with a wider overall ratio spread across the seven speeds but always one available for maximum thrust. This is a sophisticated box that will run fully automatically or under full manual control. You have to learn how to best get it in motion, both forward and backward. Tight parking maneuvers are a bit more challenging, and it really isn't built for idle-speed creeping. But it delivers extremely fast gear changes with no brutality. It also rates a few miles per gallon higher on the highway cycle, though any Cayman delivers good fuel economy for a car that merges in 5 seconds and capable of 165 mph. 

New for 2009 is the option of a limited-sip differential. The Cayman doesn't have serious issues getting its power to the ground, yet for optimum performance there is always a choice, and the limited-slip joins the lineup including a sport shifter, sports exhaust system, composite brakes, and so on. 

About the size of a personal pizza, the brake discs don't look that big, especially lurking inside a 19-inch wheel, until you realize the typical 2,900-pound car has brakes more the size of a dessert plate. Cross-drilled, vented and equipped with multi-piston calipers the brakes are magnificent: pedal reaction is instant, braking force directly related to how hard you push the pedal, fade non-existent, and stops short and stable with minimal nose-dive and the rear stays flat. Credit not only the brakes but the low, rearward weight bias and sticky tires. Note that all Caymans have the same diameter brakes but the S gets red-painted calipers. 

Porsche's composite ceramic brakes are an option on Cayman S (at close to 10 percent of the purchase price) and identified by yellow calipers. They are among the best in the world and take many pounds of unsprung weight off the front end, but unless you have 19-inch wheels and frequently drive on track the performance of the standard brakes is the envy of most motorcars. If you're not sure you need the ceramic brakes, then you don't need them. 

As with the other controls the steering is moderately weighted and uses little assist; it's easy to steer the Cayman around your garage without starting it. Response is quick and predictable, the relatively thin-rimmed wheel telling your hands all you need to know and nothing you don't. Effort is never so light you'll be palming the wheel in complete turns and never so heavy you feel like you're working hard. Caress the car like a person and it responds accordingly; be a ham and your date will know you didn't take Porsche's driving school. 

With the stiffness enabled by the fixed roof's triangulation the Cayman is very rigid. There's no flex or twist to speak of so the shock and spring rates can be kept firm without upsetting occupants and roll stiffness keeps the car balanced while letting each wheel do its own work. The addition of Porsche's adjustable shock damping (PASM) allows the comfort for everyday or rougher road use with the taut suspension desired on a track and lowers the ride height; you will need a fairly smooth public road to find yourself going noticeably quicker with PASM set in Sport mode. 

Keeping the engine, the heaviest part in the car, in the middle and down low results in a low center of gravity, and this means transitional response (changing direction left to right or acceleration to deceleration, for example) is superb. Not only do the performance tires deliver considerable grip for ultimate cornering speed, you feel a fraction of the typical weight transfer on winding roads. One of our favorite ribbons of real estate was accomplished a good 5-mph faster than in a front-engine sports car, and in the realm of automotive dynamics that's a runaway. 

And this was done with the Cayman's PASM in standard ride mode and the stability management system in the default On position. This system is very well programmed to give a driver some leeway in vehicle attitude; if you feel it reining you in on a public road you're trying too hard and if you feel it on a track it means your line or speed can very likely be adjusted for the better the next time around. 

We wouldn't be out a limb calling the Cayman the best-handling Porsche ever built and one of the world's best. Whether it has the fastest lap times, test figures or sales demand, we can't think of a better handling, better driving sports car. And neither could Porsche driving instructors we queried. 

The Cayman S comes with 18-inch wheels and tires an inch-plus wider than the 17s on the Cayman; either can be had in a range of 18- or 19-inch wheel styles, all with the same tire width. We would be hard pressed to change from the 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires because while the 19s might look better or work better on track, the 18s offered great handling, a relatively quiet, good ride, were very easy to find the limit of and recover once we found it, and are significantly less expensive and offer more choices at replacement time. 

People look at you in amazement when they ask about the roof points and you answer ski rack, like no one in their right mind would drive this to a ski run. But why not? With a decent set of winter tires on 17- or 18-inch wheels, the engine's weight over the drive wheels, superb manners for the winding road that leads to most ski areas, seat and steering wheel heaters, heated washers and mirrors, and no room for your ride-bumming boarding buddies, why wouldn't you?

For those driving the undulating, winding road we would recommend the bi-xenon headlight upgrade. The standard lights are quite acceptable for most purposes but the wide area of the main beam has a very narrow vertical band, and if the road is angled or on a hill the edges become less defined. Using the fog lamps helps, but the bi-xenons are better. In fact, along with PASM and perhaps power seats, it's the only option we'd add to an S to make the purest, driver-centric Cayman. 

Summary

The Porsche Cayman leaves other sports cars chasing intangibles. It responds to driver inputs in the same manner as a race car but it doesn't bounce over bumps or wear you out with an oppressive ride. It is comfortable, nicely finished, entirely livable in traffic and will accommodate your need for modern conveniences. And the Cayman will delight on a winding highway with sounds to match Salzburg's best, balanced handling, and a driving experience unfettered by technology, insulation or excuses. 

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Los Angeles. 

Model Lineup

Porsche Cayman ($50,300); Cayman S ($60,200). 

Assembled In

Uusikaupunki, Finland. 

Options As Tested

PASM ($1,990); PCM 3.0 w/extended navigation ($3,110); automatic climate control ($550); heated seats ($500); Bluetooth ($695); Bose sound system ($990); universal audio interface ($440); auto-dimming mirrors and rain sensor ($800); metallic paint ($710); floor mats ($90). 

Model Tested

Porsche Cayman S ($60,200). 

*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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