2012 Porsche Cayman R Suspension Walkaround


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Recently we've peeked at the undersides of several Porsche 911 variants, from our vintage 1985 Porsche 911 to the 2011 Porsche 911 GTS (the tail end of the 997 phase), to the all-new 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S (the first appearance of the new 991 chassis.)

But all of those, of course, are rear engined Porsches. They keep their high octane junk in what would otherwise be the trunk.

The Porsche Cayman, however,is a proper mid-engine machine. Its pancake motor sits ahead ofthe rear axle with the transmission behind and between the rear tires, just like almost every clean-sheet formula and prototype race car built in the last 40 years or so

Our Guards Red example is a 2012 Porsche Cayman R, the healthiest version to date. Alert readers will recognize that the lack of a Rotary Lift in our shop means we've been sitting on these images until the 911s finished their parade across these pages.

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To the surprise of no one that knows anything about Porsche sports cars, the front half of the Cayman (and its topless Boxster cousin) rides on MacPherson struts.

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From here, the underside of the Cayman R looks a lot like 997-based 911 hardware, because that's pretty much what it is. There's a two-piece lower arm shrouded in brake ducting, a front-mounted hydraulic rack & pinion steering unit, and lots of forged aluminum.

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The strut housing is held in place by a pinch clamp that's part of a nice-looking forged aluminum front knuckle.

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The two-piece lower control arm consists of a lateral link that's braced by a diagonal link that points forward. The bushing that lives at the intersection is the element that takes the edge off the longitudinal component of pothole strikes.

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That forward-pointing member is mostly hidden by plastic fences that shovel air onto the waiting brake rotors.

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The gaggle of pipes protruding from the steering rack is a sure sign that this is hydraulic power steering.

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The front stabilizer baris direct-acting, which is a short way of saying its connecting link mounts directly to the knuckle for a 1-to-1 motion ratio relative to the wheel and tire.

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Meanwhile, hidden just behind is a small suspension height sensor, with a tiny link that connects to the lower control arm to "read" its position at any given moment.

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Even unloaded the front spring looks short. The Cayman R, it seems, doesn't have a ton of front suspension travel.

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Four-piston fixed Brembo calipers grab onto 12.5-inch front rotors that are ventilated in the usual way and drilled full of holes. The pattern of the holes gives away the location of the internal cooling vanes.

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Those four tiny weights are there to damp out brake vibrations, and the wires lead to wear sensors embedded in the pads that are rigged to illuminate a dash warning lamp when the friction material gets too thin.

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Interestingly, the Cayman's hind quarters are held aloft by another pair of MacPherson struts. Before you get too worked up over this, know that the Cayman, even in non-R form, is a very solid-handling machine. Lightweight cars with relatively small amounts of suspension travel can get away with this, and the simplicity of the packaging that comes with this layout makes it possible to stuff a Porsche flat-six engine ahead of the drive axle.

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It's the exhaust system that causes all the trouble. Its presence leaves no space for upper links or an upper control arm.

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Strut suspension works here because there are no upper links; the upper suspension locating point sits high in the fender at the top of the spring.

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Aside from all that, you've probably never seen so much forged aluminum in a strut application. The lower ball joint is loacted by a two-piece lower arm (yellow) like we saw in front. The toe-link (green) is longer in order to dial in a smidge of stabilizing rear toe-in when the suspension is loaded in corners. Both bolt to the aluminum rear subframe via eccentric cams that allow easy adjustment.

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The two-piece lower control arm is made up of a lateral link and a trailing link (yellow) that meet at a bolted joint.

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There are stabilizer bar and its connecting link (yellow) attaches directly to the rear knuckle for a 1-to-1 motion ratio and maximum efficiency.

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This piece of iron belongs to part of the shift linkage, specifically the bellcrank that responds to fore-aft movements of the shift lever. Its weighty construction lends a dose of inertia to such shift commands, which helps the shift action feel positive and reassuring.

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Four-piston fixed Brembo calipers handle the rear stopping chores.

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The ventilated and cross-drilled rear rotors measure 11.8 inches across.

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Our Cayman R came with sticky 235/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 front tires mounted on 8.5-inch wide lightweight forged alloy wheels; together they weigh 44.5 pounds.

Out back, somewhat wider 265/35ZR19 Michelins ride on 10-inch lightweight rims and tip the scales to the tune of 51 pounds.

With the arrival of the new 991-based 911, new Boxsters and Caymans based on that latest iteration of Porsche's MacPherson strut front suspension won't be far behind. In fact they're almost here, because our European correspondent drove a 2013 Boxster a couple months ago when it was introduced in Geneva. We'll undress one for you here as soon as we lay our mitts on one.

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