Full 2009 Porsche Cayman Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Porsche Cayman sport coupe gains significant updates. Both six-cylinder engines get a power increase, while the optional automatic transmission is now Porsche's advanced PDK double-clutch automated manual. The base model's manual transmission now has six gears versus five, and all transmissions have a standard hill-holder feature. Front and rear styling has been given a minor design massage, while the interior now features a modified center control stack and new welcome convenience features.
Porsche doesn't like criticism. For the Porsche Cayman, its designers and engineers addressed almost every complaint, omission and secret desire we had for its two-seat sport coupe. Last year, we would have told you that the automatic transmission was unimpressive, the base model wasn't powerful enough and the interior controls were poorly laid out. The Cayman also lacked satellite radio and an iPod jack, and our softer editor types probably secretly yearned for their butts to be cooler and their hands warmer, too.
Porsche addressed all of it for 2009. The lone remaining complaint was excessive options pricing, and we're guessing Porsche's executives can live with that as they dance around in piles of money. Therefore, with all those other complaints taken care of, we'll unveil new ones this year to see just how far Porsche will go to appease our wishes. We'd now fancy houndstooth upholstery, an onboard Xbox and somewhere to stow a pogo stick.
For now, let's go over some of those welcome changes made to the 2009 Porsche Cayman. Both six-cylinder "boxer" engines were upgraded. The base model's displacement jumps from 2.7 to 2.9 liters, and output climbs to 265 horsepower. The 3.4-liter mill in the Cayman S gets direct injection and is now good for 320 hp. The base car's manual transmission has been given an extra cog for a grand total of six. However, the big news in the performance department is the introduction of the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (double-clutch gearbox), or PDK, should you not sprechen Deutsch. This seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is capable of operating in full automatic mode or with gearchanges ordered up by the driver via wheel-mounted buttons. Regardless of which mode you use, shifts are incredibly quick and smooth. PDK also produces better acceleration and fuel economy compared to last year's automatic and manual transmissions.
If you place last year's Cayman next to the 2009 version, you may be able to tell the visual differences, but don't feel bad if you can't. The interior is also mostly unchanged, but the center stack has been redone to incorporate Porsche's new touchscreen interface and larger display. Those aforementioned wish-list features were added (including ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel) as well as an upgraded navigation system.
For all this talk of 2009 changes, the fact remains that the Cayman was a pretty remarkable sports car before Porsche addressed these relatively nitpicky issues. As the Cayman's handling is simply fantastic, it's impossible to recommend anything else if going around corners is your No. 1 priority. If it isn't, the retractable hardtop Mercedes-Benz SLK and 2010 BMW Z4 are worth considering. The guttural Chevrolet Corvette might also pop up, as would the bigger BMW M3. Size could therefore be an issue for the Cayman, but given its sports car intent, we'd ask Porsche not to log that as an official complaint for fear it would show up with a rumble seat next year.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Porsche Cayman is a two-seat sport coupe available in base and Cayman S trim styles. Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, partial leather upholstery and interior trim, a trip computer, a universal garage opener and a four-speaker stereo with CD player. The Cayman S adds a more powerful engine, 18-inch wheels and a seven-speaker sound system.
The options list is incredibly long, allowing buyers to customize their Cayman. The more practical choices include larger wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, ceramic composite brakes, adaptive suspension dampers, bi-xenon headlights, parking sensors and auto-dimming mirrors. Inside, you can fit the Cayman with automatic climate control, a power seat package with driver memory, sport seats, heated and ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel. Electronic upgrades include a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice commands, Bluetooth, a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system, satellite radio, a six-CD changer and an iPod interface. The Sport Chrono package adds an analog and digital timer and adjustable vehicle system settings. And then there are more frivolous add-ons. There are numerous interior trim choices (metal, wood), several steering wheel choices and made-to-order color choices for exterior paint and interior leather.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Cayman is powered by a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed (or boxer) six-cylinder engine that produces 265 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque. The Cayman S features a 3.4-liter boxer-4 that makes 320 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Both come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and Porsche's seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automated manual transmission is optional. Estimated 0-60 acceleration is about 5.8 seconds for the Cayman and 5.2 seconds for the Cayman S -- PDK-equipped cars are a hair quicker. Official EPA fuel economy estimates aren't known as of this writing, but the Cayman is actually quite frugal for a sports car.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, side thorax airbags and side head airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Porsche Cayman's interior boasts premium materials and proper sports car seating, particularly if you ante up for the optional full power seats. The oversized center-mounted tachometer conveys the Cayman's high-performance DNA, although the analog speedometer's tiny numbers and huge range make it more decorative than functional -- the trip computer's digital speedo readout is more useful. Some controls are a bit fussy, but this year's new redesigned center control stack is much friendlier; the touchscreen navigation system is a particular improvement.
Sharing much of its cabin with the Boxster roadster, the Cayman is hardly a spacious environment. Legroom is tighter than in other two-seaters and 2+2 coupes, while the small greenhouse can feel a bit confining. On the upside, the standard seats are remarkably comfortable and supportive -- the optional sport seats really aren't necessary. In regard to trunk space, there are 9 cubic feet available in the rear hatch (located behind the engine and cabin), and a front trunk expands total storage capacity to 14.5 feet. Despite this impressive total, though, both compartments are awkwardly shaped.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2009 Porsche Cayman handles superbly, managing to feel glued to the road and light on its feet at the same time. Body roll is basically nonexistent, and the variable-ratio steering -- lightened a bit for '09 -- is among the best systems on the market. With the optional active suspension, the Cayman rides amazingly well for a sports car.
If you didn't know the 320-hp Cayman S existed, chances are, the base Cayman's 2.9-liter motor would never have a negative word thrown at it. Both are capable and impressive -- it just depends on how demanding you are as a driver and how willing you are to throw down $10,000 for an extra 0.6 second of 0-60 acceleration. The new PDK transmission is a revelation, providing faultless automated-manual shifting performance for those who would rather not row their own gears. We're not fans of the wheel-mounted buttons, though, preferring the paddle shifter designs found in other vehicles.