10 Ways the 2014 Porsche Cayman Is Better Than the 911

With Physics, Finances and Fuel Economy on Its Side, the Cayman Lacks Only Fame


  • 2014 Porsche Cayman - Action Front 3/4 - 2

    2014 Porsche Cayman - Action Front 3/4 - 2

    The Porsche Cayman is considered the entry-level Porsche. But in many ways it's better than the 911. | March 27, 2013

26 Photos

It's the worst-kept secret in the automotive world: Porsche doesn't want its midengine Cayman to post better performance numbers than the vaunted rear-engine 911. Correction, Porsche won't let the Cayman drop-kick its bigger, more illustrious brother. Ever.

 

So when we asked Dr. Martin Constien, team leader for engine development, the difference between the 2014 Porsche Cayman S's 3.4-liter 325-horsepower flat-6 and the base 911's identically sized but 25-hp-lustier mill, he said: "Basically, nothing. They're the same."

 

"So...why the different power numbers?"

 

"Because the Cayman cannot outperform the 911. It's our entry-level car," he said with German matter-of-factness. Like we were idiots for even asking such a stupid question.

 

But as we were snaking along a twisty two-lane in the truly spectacular 2014 Porsche Cayman S, we realized, in some ways, the Cayman is better than the 911. This, without Porsche even trying.

 

1. Less Pretentious
The Porsche 911 is a prestige car.

 

Let's be honest: The average 911 buyer is a suit-and-tie-wearing, power-brokering status type more concerned with a perfect business deal than with a perfect heel-and-toe downshift. Sure, there's a core group of enthusiasts who drive the 911 the way it was meant to be driven. But a high percentage of 911s will see more duty trundling in traffic than thrashing on a track.

 

Many Cayman buyers got a Cayman not because they wanted a Porsche. But because they wanted a Cayman. The Cayman says I bought a Porsche for performance. The 911 says I bought a Porsche for the women.

 

2. More Visceral
The 2014 Porsche Cayman sounds better than the 911. It's simple mechanics. The Cayman's midengine platform puts that wailing, high-revving flat-6 directly behind your head, whereas the 911's engine is aft of the rear axle, muffled by extra bodywork and useless rear seats.

 

While direct injection serves to make Porsche's boxer-6 sound even goofier and less alluring at idle than it ever did before, there's no denying this engine transforms into one of the most glorious-sounding mills in the world as it approaches its 7,600-rpm redline. The much-written-about, much-fantasized-about Porsche wail? Believe the hype; it's mesmerizing. And it's that much better when the engine is literally inches from your ears.

 

Order the optional sport exhaust if you want an even more ear-tingling, truly heavenly soundtrack.

 

3. Better Weight Distribution
Unlike in the 911, Porsche placed the Cayman's engine in the correct location. In the middle. Just like a Formula 1 car. With a 46/54 front/rear weight distribution, the Cayman is, at least in theory, a superior sports car platform.

 

Not that there aren't benefits to the 911's rear-biased 39/61 setup. Bulldozerlike straight-line traction, for one thing, which gives the 911 unreal wheelspin-free acceleration.

 

But the Cayman's midengine setup endows it with a low polar moment of inertia because the majority of the car's weight is closer to its center. In non-jargonspeak, it means the Cayman reacts more quickly to driver inputs, and it's more maneuverable and more nimble.

 

4. Confidence
It's what driving fast is all about. Early Porsche 911s were known for scary lift-throttle oversteer. It wasn't uncommon for enthusiastic owners to find themselves backward in a ditch. Over the last six decades Porsche engineered away most of the 911's evil tendencies, while still retaining its ultra-late trail-braking ability, which helps it turn in with a powerfully effective bit of rear rotation.

 

But doing this requires quick hands and some driver skill. A little rotation is fine, but if the 911's tail comes around too quickly, physics say it's harder to catch.

 

And there's no arguing with physics, even if you're Porsche.

 

The Cayman, though, delivers confidence in spades. Go back to that low polar moment again. When something unexpected happens in the Cayman (say, you've braked too late and are still going too fast as the car begins to rotate), there's no engine in the back of the car trying to pull it around to the front.

 

Porsche tuned subtle understeer into the Cayman's chassis, too. So even when you're red misting you're less likely to have an end-swapping experience.

 

So here's the thing: Both the 911 and the Cayman are fantastic driving machines. But the Cayman's slightly more predictable, more linear and more forgiving responses make it the better choice for a spirited run on an unfamiliar back road.

 

5. Lighter
At 2,888 pounds with the six-speed manual, the base Porsche Cayman is 154 pounds lighter than the base 911 with its seven-speed manual transmission. The 2,910-pound Cayman S comes in some 165 pounds lighter than the Carrera S.

 

There aren't gigantic differences, but "light makes right" isn't just a saying. It's true. You can feel the difference. This helps with the Cayman's tossability, whether on a track or road. That weight difference makes it a little bit easier to manhandle when it approaches, or exceeds, its limits.

 

It also means you'll spend less money on wear item like tires, brake pads and clutches.

 

6. More Potential
There's no doubt Porsche is restraining the Cayman. That's what happens when you give the baby Porsche the better platform.

 

If Porsche were to give the Cayman S the same power and grip as the 911, it would trump its big brother in every test of speed. The possibility of Porsche ever allowing this to happen? We've got a better chance at a date with Kate Upton.

 

7. Smaller
The new Cayman's wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer than the outgoing model, which, surprisingly, means it's about an inch longer than the 911's. This is one reason for the Cayman's superb ride quality.

 

But it is still the smaller car of the two, by 4.4 inches in overall length. Lighter, shorter, better weight distribution: These all add up to make the Cayman an easier-to-drive sports car.

 

8. More Luggage Space
Maybe it's not sexy to talk about luggage space in a sports car. But it can be important, especially to those who use the car as a daily driver or for weekend getaways.

 

Porsche made the most of the Cayman's limited space. Its 5.3-cubic-foot front trunk is larger than the 911's 4.8-cubic-foot frunk. But the Cayman goes one better with the handy 9.7 cubes of space aft of the engine, for a total of 15 cubic feet.

 

To be fair, of course, the 911 owner does have the option of folding down the rear seatbacks to form an instant luggage shelf. But the Cayman's rear cargo area is accessible via a hatch, which makes placing large items behind the front seats far easier.

 

9. Better Fuel Economy
Less weight and less power usually add up to better fuel economy. That's true with the Cayman versus the 911, although the differences are small. The PDK-equipped base Cayman has an EPA rating of 22 city/32 highway mpg. The more powerful Cayman S gets 21 city/30 highway. The 911 Carrera fitted with the PDK gets 20 city/28 highway/23 combined, while the S version manages 20 city/27 highway/22 combined.

 

Will you base your Cayman vs. 911 purchase on fuel economy? Probably not. But it's just one more area where the Cayman trumps the 911.

 

10. Cheaper
Sure, this is an obvious win for the 2014 Porsche Cayman. But it's also damn compelling. And the price difference between the Cayman and 911 isn't just petty cash. It's significant. The 2014 Porsche Cayman starts at $53,550 (including $950 destination), while the Cayman S starts at $64,750. But the base 911 rings the cash register at $85,250 and the Carrera S a whopping $99,850. That's right: Nearly $100,000 for a 911.

 

Which begs the question: Is anything the Porsche 911 offers worth $20K-$35K more?

 

Only if you're in it for the women.

 

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Comments

  • sharpend sharpend Posts:

    A Cayman GT3RS would destroy most 911s. Too bad Porsche will never make a car that would make them great instead of merely 'good enough.'

  • yooshin yooshin Posts:

    Interesting read and some good points. Now back to shopping for my CPOed 997..

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    The 911's tendencies for bass-ackwards into ditch oversteer doesn't come down to where its engine is located, rather it's because earlier 911s had pretty primitive suspensions. It wasn't until they moved to the multi-link rear that they were able to tame the car. The 911's weight distribution is also an advantage in braking and acceleration. The 911's CoG is slightly lower than that of the Cayman (last time I checked), but the Cayman's polar moment of inertia is significantly tighter. That means the 911 tends towards stability while the Cayman is more tossable. I'd wager that up until you get to the tightest corners, the 911 can still hang with, and be superior to the Cayman. That's why it's successful on most race tracks. Once you get to autoX levels or canyon levels of narrow and windy, the Cayman has an advantage.

  • protard protard Posts:

    It's all about how much they improved the Cayman's looks. It was kind of a lump before, a half-effort. Now it's genuinely desirable for more than just its excellent driving dynamics. I would be tempted to replace my 911 (which sees regular track duty) with a new Cayman, were it not for the fact that you can't put a couple of small kids in the back of a Cayman like you can a 911.

  • Mostly agree the 981 is the better platform, although I would be wary of claiming an equal power/grip cayman would trump the 911 in every category, the 911 has the weight dist. advantage in standing start and slow corner exit acceleration situations assuming equal gearing, and it may have more stable braking behaviour in some situations. It's never an all out win for any car in every single test of speed, there are always compromises to be made with every vehicle choice , but I think it can be said the Cayman is probably the best choice most of the time.

  • Mostly agree the 981 is the better platform, although I would be wary of claiming an equal power/grip cayman would trump the 911 in every category, the 911 has the weight dist. advantage in standing start and slow corner exit acceleration situations assuming equal gearing, and it may have more stable braking behaviour in some situations. It's never an all out win for any car in every single test of speed, there are always compromises to be made with every vehicle choice , but I think it can be said the Cayman is probably the best choice most of the time.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    Is the 911 really more attractive to women?

  • drerx8 drerx8 Posts:

    I love the Cayman and there is no denying its abilities and the points in this article are well made...however...a big portion of the purchase is that which can't be measured on a test track. The prestige of a 911 is worth a big portion of admission cost. I plan on shopping for a used 991 hopefully ...my R230 SL is nice...but 911 is waiting.

  • autoboy1 autoboy1 Posts:

    The 911 has more room in it for very tall people and small kids can fit in the back seat for short trips. This was enough for me to buy the 911, but I got mine used where the price difference is much smaller.

  • cjasis cjasis Posts:

    911 owner here who LOVES both the old Cayman and the new Cayman (in as much as I can love the new car without driving it). I can't really disagree with much in this article EXCEPT for the comment about the useless rear seats. There are a lot of us 911 owners that need those small seats to fit our young kids. Those seats make the purchase of such a great, every day sports car a reality for many of us.

  • >> Is anything the Porsche 911 offers worth $20K-$35K more? Only if you're in it for the women.<< ...in which case the extra $20-$35K is just a starting point!

  • markstudy markstudy Posts:

    I like your 10 points... and I especially identify with your line- They bought the Cayman because they wanted a Cayman. Personally, I didn't care if it said Honda or Porsche on the back I just love the mid-engine design. I THINK YOU CONCLUSION IS FUNNY... because 95% of the public can't tell a 911 from a Cayman. And while filling up at the gas station, even car guys have trouble (I got mine without the badge on the back, looks cleaner an easier to detail). I'd say its safe to guess 99% of women can't tell a 911 from a 987 Cayman. LOL (PS I think that's why they changed the look of the 987 which looked too much like a 911, to the new 981 which gives Porsche a little more separation between the two models)

  • carmageddon carmageddon Posts:

    I've owned five 911's and one Boxster S. Let's say your criterion is something the author of this article leaves off his list: which car is more fun to drive. Since this is the only reason I drive Porsches, you can tell by my buying habits which model I think leads in the driver happiness category. While the mid engined cars are objectively "better", the rear biased cars are measurably more entertaining. And my "scary" '81 SC is far more fun than my 997. Caymans are Porsche sports cars so by definition fantastic; they're just not going to provide as many grins as their unbalanced predecessors. Oh and by the way, about that "useless" back seat? I've used it in every 911 I've had both for for luggage and in a pinch, for (admittedly uncomfortable) passengers. When the missus tells you we're taking the family hauler on date night because we have to pick up junior on the way home, in a Boxster/Cayman you're out of luck. Think of the 911 as the family sports car.

  • pc123456 pc123456 Posts:

    My question, which nobody seems to be asking, is why the 911 costs so much more than the cayman? The engines are very similar, the interiors are not that much different, yeah, the 911 is a bit bigger, but manufacturing costs must be not too far away from each other. Is it all just prestige mark-up for the 911?

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    The 911 just looks "right", even if it is technically the wrong design. The back seats are a useful and novel. It would come down to which is more fun to drive, which I think could not be answered by reading about them. I've occasionally read the word "anodyne" to describe the new Boxster and Cayman, but (bad as it sounds)maybe that's only in relation to how unflapple Porsches have become.

  • lovcars1 lovcars1 Posts:

    Good, succinct article. The point was well made. The 911 is for prestige--more for that I have a nuclear weapon in my arsenal although I'll never use it (probably)

  • drjoe356 drjoe356 Posts:

    Herr Ruf is currently addressing the power deficit in the Cayman by transplanting a slightly modified 3.8 engine into the Cayman for those feeling the "Need for Speed".

  • ks55 ks55 Posts:

    I would really like to see the current 911 in a completely stripped out form and unlike typical Porsche ......for less money. My thought is a 3.0 liter, manual fabric seats, no sunroof, no back seats, no nav, PDK only (its faster), only red, white black, yellow colors, simple stereo, no rear wiper, fixed rear wing sort of like the 2.7RS of 72 or so.......but a complete stripper to help more people get into the car. The same idea could be applied to the Cayman but with a 2 liter flat four or VW /Audi 2.0 T inline four cylinder. I had a 2007 Boxster 2.7 for about 2 yrs. but would only be tempted again if they offered a more affordable entry.

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    @Ks55, I totally agree with your wish and support a stripper model 911. Make it the quirky choice with rear seats for the blue-collar enthusiast stretching his budget, but optioned can become a luxury GT. And launch the Cayman into halo-hood.

  • kinga21 kinga21 Posts:

    Say what you will about the Cayman's polar-moment-of-inertia advantage over the 911, but the fact remains tail force is where it's at in practical road course and GT driving. Just look at that big rear wing on a F1 car. It only opens/relaxes mid way on a long straight. Otherwise, it's tail-down force the rest of the way around the circuit (and that includes Monaco). This is what makes the 911 worth the extra money, truly effectively-balanced driving performance. Otherwise, Porsche would not build the 911, iconic looks, backseat and sunroof aside. They had it right in 1949, and haven't changed the core model's weight distribution layout since. The laws of physics never change.

  • joeb25 joeb25 Posts:

    I love mine, it's a great car !!! The PDK is excellent too..

  • klop, jack klop, jack Posts:

    911 is one of the best performance cars in the word for a reason. Vic Elford in his book "Porsche High-Performance Driving Handbook" explains it best. In short, 911 has best weight distribution for acceleration (even out of the corner) and best weight distribution for braking. On 911 tight low speed turns can be taken at higher speed than on a mid engine car. Finally, a light nose allows for a very quick turn in. If you know how to control overseer (which you should if you buy sports cars to go fast, not to show off) 911 is actually safer than a mid engine car. A mid engine car will start loosing cornering traction evenly, which means that if it started to slide, it will continue sliding until enough energy is lost. This behavior is ok, if you have enough room to slide to the outside of the turn on a wide race track. But what if it happens on a tight mountain road? 911 in the same situation will start over-steering (i.e. it will actually start turning even tighter) which can be controlled by a driver of a reasonable skill level without using any more room on the road than was originally planned. Also, while 911 is indeed more likely to start over-steering than a mid-engine car, 911 over-steer is more predictable. The same low polar moment that allow a mid engine car to feel so nimble, can potentially cause difficult to predict snap over-steer if you lift off too abruptly or drive over a patch of wet pavement. Finally, my perception is that most people who buy 911 buy it for rear engine and the performance it offers, not for status, while those who by Cayman buy it because they wanted Porsche (for status) but could not afford 911 or were too scared that 911 would be too dangerous to drive. In other words, 911 is for performance, and Cayman is the one for women. ;)

  • tinydirt tinydirt Posts:

    Go for the Cayman. Women don't give a damn what kind of car you drive.

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