2007 Porsche Cayman First Drive

2007 Porsche Cayman First Drive

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2007 Porsche Cayman Coupe

(3.4L 6-cyl. 6-speed Manual)

No S, but still super, man

Launching a car like the 2007 Porsche Cayman after introducing a high-performance model like the Cayman S presents something of a conundrum. How do you refer to it? Is the new "non-S" Cayman a base model or is it a regular edition? How does "standard," or "normal" grab you?

Our weekend thrash of the new standard/regular/base/normal 2007 Porsche Cayman on German back roads and autobahns instantly revealed that this S-less wünder retains much of the inherent goodness and finely honed driving behavior of the original high-performance, 2-seat, midengine/rear-drive Cayman S coupe. What has been lost in the S-removal process is 50 horsepower, 0.7 second of 0-60 quickness, and $9,500 in price.

Motor math
S and S-less versions of the Cayman differ primarily in the engine department. In typical Porsche fashion, nearly all of the non-engine changes to the car relate specifically to cost and weight savings made possible due to the reduction in thrust and top-speed potential.

Engine capacity drops from 3.4 to 2.7 liters, due to a piston bore diameter reduction from 3.8 to 3.4 inches. To offset the displacement loss and promote free revving, the still oversquare mill gets a 0.2 point compression ratio bump up to 11.3:1, and a lighter crankshaft with smaller journals.

Porsche's VarioCam Plus intake valve timing and lift system is carried over, as is the nifty dual-chamber intake system. The operational thresholds of both subsystems have been adjusted to suit the needs of the revised power plant.

The end result is a 50-each drop in peak horsepower and torque to 245 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 201 pound-feet at 4600-6000 rpm, respectively. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but an 88-pound drop in the Cayman's curb weight, to 2867 pounds, offsets this somewhat.

Porsche's 0-62-mph claim of 6.1 seconds is only 0.7 shy of its 5.4-second Cayman S figure. Since our recent full test of a 2006 Cayman S returned a 0-60-mph run of only 5.0 seconds, we won't be surprised if we see the Cayman come in under 6.0 seconds once we get one back at the lab. As for stated top speed, the Cayman allegedly drops from 171 to only 162 mph. Traffic during our autobahn blast limited our speed, but it was no struggle to get to and sustain 137 mph — a velocity that would see us rot in a Barstow jail had we done that while Hunter S. Thompson-ing to Vegas.

On a kinder, gentler note, Cayman fuel economy with the 5-speed manual is a braggable 23 city/32 highway. That's quite a boost over the S's 20/27 mpg rating.

Variant trannies and more
But enough about numbers: The bottom line is that the Cayman's 2.7-liter engine is highly flexible and drivable, and still gets with the slightly downsized program. Intoxicating still describes the engine note, as we found ourselves rowing through the gearbox more often than the table-flat torque peak required, just to hear that guttural, snarling-pack-of-wolverines upshift bark again and again.

Porsche provides a plethora of transmission permutations. Standard on the Cayman is the same 5-speed that comes on the Boxster. Fans of the S's Getrag 6-speed need not worry, as it's available here, too. This upgrade eats up $2,680, which seems steep until you discover that Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), a two-range adaptive damping system and 0.4-inch ride height drop, is part of the deal.

You can get a Tiptronic 5-speed automatic, if you must, for a whopping $3,210, not including PASM — that's another $1,990 here. But know first that the 6-speed manual in our Deutsche test car featured precise, short throws; a butter-smooth clutch with clairvoyant engagement feel; and ideal heel-and-toe pedal placement. Not only did it strike us as perfectly evolved for tearing around the hinterlands, but we figure that the clutch effort will be more than livable in the L.A. stop-and-go scene.

With less autobahn terminal velocity to bleed off and the aforementioned 88-pound drop in curb weight, the brakes have been slightly reworked. The still ventilated and cross-drilled rotors shrink a bit in diameter and thickness, while 4-piston fixed monoblock calipers remain. The resulting whoa still nicely exceeds the amount of go, as stopping power remains impressive, with a reassuringly rigid pedal.

Z-rated 17-inch tires straight from the Boxster are standard equipment, 205/55 up front and 235/50 out back. Eighteens from the S will run you $1,235, and sportify the sizes to 235/40 and 265/40. For those who want to go completely nuts, 19-inch 35-series tires can be conjured for $2,785-$3,175, depending on which of the four available wheels you choose.

Suspended sentences
In back-to-back driving we found the 18-inch combo to be most to our liking on the bumpy lanes that comprised most of our test course. Better able to handle midcorner disturbances, they seemed to generally hold onto the road better than the 19s. Perhaps the bigger meats excel on glass-smooth roads and at track days, but we wonder if we'd tire of them in day-to-day use.

The Cayman S's steering is one of its strong suits, and so it is with the Plain Jane Cayman. The variable-ratio rack and pinion steering box is carried over, bringing precise control and quick reflexes along with it. Indeed, we found our Cayman stable and twitchless at triple-digit speeds, with surgical and quick response through tight bends.

Base suspension settings are slightly recalibrated to the new horsepower and weight. Front spring rates stay identical to the S, while the rears drop 10 percent. Stabilizer bars at both ends shrink by the hair-thin margin of a half-millimeter each. The result is about the same fantastic cornering behavior, prodigious grip and maniacal laughter that an S provides.

Apart from the missing S, cosmetic differences on the Cayman are few. Inside, there isn't much to talk about apart from black gauge faces, as everything looks much the same from the driver seat. External differences include black brake calipers (instead of red), and black lips on the front spoiler. That's about it. Oh, I almost forgot the most distinctive difference: a change to a decidedly more biological-looking single orifice for the central exhaust port. Symmetry is not always the friend of design.

Crocodile island?
One thing is certain. The 2007 Porsche Cayman, even without the S, is no croc. And at $50,195, $9,500 less than an S, it's not as critical to have an offshore account in some Caribbean island bank to afford one either. Sure, the substitution of a 245-hp 2.7-liter flat-6 for the S's 3.3-liter mill trims some acceleration and speed, but it hasn't damaged the precise handling and pure driving thrills that this 2-seat midengine coupe provides.

Standard? Normal? Base? Regular? Porsche's 2007 Cayman, S-less though it may be, is none of these things. It may not be a Cayman S, but it's chock full of Cayman-ness.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

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