Porsche Cayman looks great and drives great, with balance, poise, and maneuverability. The mid-engine coupe is at its best blasting through canyons and back roads.
Cayman was redesigned for 2014, and not changed much since then. With four available engine versions and two transmissions, same as the 2016 Boxster, it appeals to Porsche enthusiasts with different desires and driving styles.
Cayman comes with a 2.7-liter flat six-cylinder making 275 horsepower; Cayman S gets a 3.4-liter flat-six making 325 horsepower; Cayman GTS, which has the most features and equipment, uses a 340-horsepower version of the 3.4-liter. The GTS adds a sport exhaust, adaptive suspension, and larger wheels.
Transmissions include the standard 6-speed manual or optional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic manual, called the PDK (or, if you prefer, Porsche Doppelkupplung). With the PDK and Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control, the Cayman can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, the Cayman S in 4.6 seconds, and the Cayman GTS in 4.5 seconds.
New for 2016 is the Cayman GT4, stripped down for speed. It’s powered by a 3.8-liter version of the flat six, and is aimed at owners who do track days. It makes 385 horsepower, or 45 more than the heavily equipped GTS, and uses the 6-speed manual gearbox. Acceleration from 0-60 takes just 4.2 seconds, according to Porsche.
Cayman gets 20/30 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission, according to EPA estimates, 22/32 mpg with the dual-clutch. The Cayman S is rated 20/28 mpg with the PDK, the GTS 22/31 mpg, the GT4 18/23 mpg.
The 2016 Porsche Cayman ($52,600) comes with the 275-hp 2.7-liter engine. Cayman S ($64,100) has the 325-hp 3.4-liter. Cayman GTS ($75,200) features a 340-hp version of the 3.4-liter. Cayman GT4 ($84,600) features a 385-hp 3.8-liter engine and is stripped for speed.
The Cayman might considered a coupe version of the Boxster by some, but not us. It’s a gorgeous car, although maybe not as stunning as the new Jaguar F-Type R. Its unique curves flow from the low nose over the rising front fenders, with aero angles that make it appear more rakish than the Boxster. The lines roll from the fenders onto the teardrop roof that slopes to the tail, while the flared rear fenders wrap around to touch an integrated rear spoiler on a deck that’s not as wide as the 911. Unlike the 911, there’s no way you can say its shaped evolved from an upside-down bathtub.
The physical distinction between the Cayman and Boxster is lost in the cabin, as the two are almost identical, while both are similar to the 911. The instrumentation is clean and focused on driving, as it should be in a Porsche.
There’s a tight grid of switches and buttons on the center stack that might seem busy, but we’ll take this design any day, over flat touchscreens, like in that gorgeous-on-the-outside Jaguar. It’s a pity the functional beauty of the Porsche can’t be seen from the sidewalk.
The Porsche flat six engine is a rev-happy sucker that climbs up the range evenly and progressively, and even the base 2.7-liter with 275 horsepower offers performance that exceeds the ordinary.
The electric power steering is light and accurate, taking qualities from the system in the faster 911. It lacks the feedback of the hydraulic unit in the previous generation, but it’s likely the best in this class, and contributes to the Cayman’s superb dynamic poise. The car weighs about 3000 pounds, fairly light for a sports car this size, and the mid-mounted engine results in good balance and weight distribution, keeping the handling nimble and grip good, to aid the acceleration.
The balance and aerodynamics also keep the Cayman stable at extreme speeds, not that you’ll go there or even that we tested it there. But others have, and that’s the point: stability. The base Cayman with unremarkable horsepower can hit 165 miles per hour, the Cayman S will go 175, the GTS 177, and the new lightweight 385-horsepower GT4 can take you to 183 mph. All without worry.
Do they do track days at Daytona? Maybe not, but the GT4 was tested by Porsche at the legendary Nurburgring circuit, where Porsche said it clocked a time of 7:40, matching the lap times of the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, Lamborghini Murcielago and McLaren Mercedes SLR, while being only two seconds slower than the Porsche 911 Turbo. But, while we’re at it, eight seconds slower than the Mustang Ford Shelby GT350R and 20 seconds slower than the Corvette ZR1. (GT4 is shown here at Road Atlanta.)
In addition to having less weight and more horsepower, the GT4 is about 1.2 inches lower than the other Caymans, and has a couple aero tweaks and a big rear wing to create more downforce aiding that stability at 183 mph. There are also more cooling inlets in the nose, and special mounts in the six-speed manual gearbox to reduce vibration.
The GT4 only comes with the manual transmission, but the other models offer the seven-speed twin clutch. On top of that option there’s the Sport Chrono option, which adds the transmission mounts, more aggressive electronic programming, and launch control to eliminate wheelspin from a standing start, which explains why the zero-to-sixty times we quoted are faster with the PDK/Sport Chrono. Burnouts are showy but slow.
The Porsche Cayman delivers outstanding performance and handling in a beautiful sports car. A range of models offers everything from fast to faster. It all comes down to how fast you want to go.