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Published: 07/23/2013 - by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
The year 2006 is a significant one in Porsche history. That's when the guys from Stuttgart slapped a fixed roof on a Boxster S and named it after the home of offshore banking. But you didn't necessarily need a numbered Cayman Islands account to buy a Porsche Cayman, which was only one of many reasons Porsche-watchers began to think there just might be something more desirable than the venerable 911.
The Cayman, and more powerful Cayman S, benefit greatly from the inherent superiority of the midship engine placement (compared to trunk-mounted ones, at least) in terms of balance, weight distribution and generally getting on better with the laws of physics — not to mention luggage. We recently rattled off 10 reasons why we'd choose the Cayman over the Porsche everyone usually worships.
Until now there's only been the one Cayman. Sure, in 2009 Porsche upped the power and replaced the five-speed manual and Tiptronic gearboxes with real ones, but the 2014 Porsche Cayman represents the first total redesign of this highly desirable and somewhat affordable machine.
Fatter and Skinnier
Longer, lower, wider is an automotive design mantra that we have no trouble with, which is fortunate because that's what has been done (sort of) with the new 2014 Porsche Cayman.
Compared to the old car, the 2014 Cayman is only 0.3 inch longer, but its wheelbase has been drawn out 2.3 inches, which means the overhangs have shrunk and the already-good polar moment of inertia thingy is even better. At 70.9 inches the body is no wider, but the front tires have been pushed apart another 1.4 inches, while the rears are fractionally wider. As for the height, that's been trimmed by 0.4 inch.
The redesigned aluminum and steel monocoque at the heart of it all has been trimmed by 103 pounds, while torsional rigidity has shot up 40 percent. Some of the lost weight has been given back in the form of 30mm-wider standard tires and larger-diameter wheels, but not all of it, because the 2014 Cayman remains 44 pounds lighter.
Less Is More
Under the hood you won't find anything, of course, except room for a suitcase or two. The Cayman's hidden-under-the-package-shelf dry-sump engine has shrunk from 2.9 liters to the 2.7 liters it started with when the S-less Cayman was introduced in 2007. But this time it has the direct injection fuel system and 12.5-to-1 compression ratio that was previously reserved for the Cayman S.
And so our 2014 Porsche Cayman test sample makes 275 horsepower, 10 more than last year's larger 2.9 and a full 30 more than the original 2.7-liter flat-6. Power is up across the entire rev range, peak power comes at 7,400 instead of 7,200 rpm and the redline has been hiked to 7,800 revs. All of which only makes the Cayman's patented banshee wail that much more intoxicating.
Our six-speed manual gearbox is the base offering. It's geared tall enough that 2nd gear lasts until 75 mph and the first couple gears sometimes feel clumsy in stop-and-go city traffic. But the transmission ratios and the 3.89-to-1 final-drive ratio are essentially unchanged, so what's going on?
Last year's standard 205/55R17 front and 235/50R17 rear rubber has been jettisoned in favor of 235/45R18 front and 265/45R18 rear wheels and tires; our test car has the optional ($1,560) 19-inch 40-series equivalents. Either way the rear-drive tires are fully 1.1 inches taller, which amounts to 4 percent taller gearing. Guess how much greater 275 hp is compared to last year's 265 ponies. That's right, 4 percent.
It's as if they'd changed the rear end to a taller 3.73-to-1 ratio, but they did it with tires instead. But peak torque is actually down slightly in 2014, falling from 221 pound-feet to 213 lb-ft, the wrong direction for smooth casual upchanges with taller effective gearing.
This may explain why our run to 60 mph took 5.8 seconds (5.5 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip): good, but not excellent. Or perhaps the engine was tight; surprisingly, it was delivered to us blessed for testing with only 819 miles on the clock.
For grins we ran a 2014 Porsche Cayman S with 325 hp and the optional seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automated manual down our track. It did the same trick in 4.5 seconds (4.2 seconds with rollout). Grins indeed.
Our standard Cayman loomed large with the engine out of the equation, though. Its 19-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 tires glued themselves to the skid pad to the tune of 1.0 lateral g. They hauled our Cayman down from 60 mph in just 103 feet via the outstanding standard-issue brakes, which didn't fade or stink after seven consecutive runs.
Balance and response on the slalom was excellent, but the ESC system was a little too eager to "help," so our best run with the nanny engaged was 69.5 mph instead of the 71 or 72 mph we'd predicted.
Back Road Rock Star
Still, the standard 2014 Porsche Cayman feels mighty potent on public roads. It attacks apexes as if laser-guided and the midcorner grip through the wider track and fatter tires feels unending. On exit, the optional PTV brake-based torque-vectoring system ($1,320) allows us to put what power there is down early through the tightest bends.
All the while our 19-inch-shod Cayman shrugs off midcorner ripples as if they aren't there, and it rides fairly smooth when we get back to town, especially with the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM, $1,790) adaptive dampers in "Normal" mode. We can't say quite the same about the 2014 Cayman S with the optional 20-inch Pirellis, which seem to prefer smoother pavement.
Some say the new electric power steering has a tad less feel. But we'll take it anyway because the response is immediate as the variable ratio quickens off-center (12.4-to-1) and the EPS unit filters out annoying rough-road vibrations and kickback.
On the straight and narrow, the longer wheelbase and slower on-center steering ratio (16.5-to-1) conspire to make our 2014 Cayman stable and predictable, a more relaxed cruiser. The EPS system helps here, too, as it fends off the debilitating effects of crosswinds and extreme road crown.
Interior of Requirement
Inside, the 2014 Cayman is very well put together. The driving position is spot-on, the seats are comfy and they manage to provide lateral support without resorting to rib-crushing confinement. Ours were optional 14-way power sport seats with power added to the tilt-and-telescoping steering, and a memory that remembers the position of each.
The center stack has been cleaned up and the climate controls have been moved to a more accessible and distinct position. Our optional Porsche Communication Management with Bose 10-speaker surround system ($4,690) is the middle offering if you want navigation. You can pay $700 less for a non-Bose stereo/nav system, or $2,610 more for a higher-end Burmester setup. iPod integration is standard via a USB port and each supports A-Ha Web-based infotainment with the appropriate iPhone or Android app.
Bluetooth is standard at any of those prices, but there's no back-up camera to be had, just a Park Assist front and rear sonar proximity alert system for $860.
Switchgear reminiscent of the Panamera surrounds the new shifter, which stands a bit taller so it's closer at hand. The six-speed manual's precise clutch and shifter action are pretty special, even with the newly added stop-start system, which kills the engine to save fuel at stoplights and restarts it seamlessly before you depress the clutch far enough to reselect 1st. It also comes in handy as an anti-stall device. Don't ask us how we know.
There is an off switch for the stop-start system, but then you'll risk missing out on the rated 20 city/30 highway/24 mpg combined fuel economy, which are 1/3/2 mpg better than last year's less powerful mill. We managed 29.3 mpg on a 118-mile test loop that includes entertaining mountain roads, a dash of city and some freeway driving. Our overall 1,125-mile average with lots of dreary commuting sank to 21 mpg.
Some have grumbled that this entry-level Porsche is pricey, and indeed our test car's $70,160 as-tested price isn't cheap because of Porsche's notorious options list, which will kill your toner cartridge if you print it out. But no one said you'd be able to cross-shop one of these against a Dodge Dart. Here "entry level" means that only one earner in your household needs to be a lawyer instead of two.
But this new Cayman is, in fact, a relative bargain when you compare it to prior years. Its base price of $53,550 with destination is only $700 higher than the 2011 and 2012 editions (the Maya were right: there was no 2013), and it's just $1,200 more than Porsche was asking in 2010.
In those years the wider 235 front/265 rear 18-inch tires were a $1,235 option, so on tires alone you could say the 2014 Porsche Cayman is actually cheaper going back four years. The 2014's enhanced stability and grip, extra power, increased mpg, improved interior: It's all gravy.
Even without this insight it's clear the 2014 Porsche Cayman has lost none of its appeal. It's a much better Cayman on a number of fronts, even if Porsche engineers did hijack the extra power for fuel economy instead of raw acceleration. They know as well as anybody that the Porsche Cayman has the potential to be a better Porsche than the 911, but they're not quite ready for that to be obvious on paper.
But we know which one we like better out on the road. And if we want more there's always the Cayman S.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.