Used 2009 Porsche Cayman
Edmunds' Expert Review
Although depressingly expensive, the 2009 Porsche Cayman more than makes up for it, thanks to its stirring performance capabilities and the soul of road-going Porsches of days past.
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.
trim levels & features
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.
performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
By now you should know all about the wonders of the dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, a version of which is now offered for the 2009 Porsche Cayman and 2009 Porsche Cayman S. This box of wonders (and also gears) has variously been credited with raising the dead, changing the world of transmissions forever and ever and making a heavenly crème brulée.
That's pretty high praise for what is essentially just two gearboxes packaged into one box — one shaft full of gears is connected to clutch A, and the other shaft of gears is connected to clutch B. The magic comes from the way those two clutches swap drive power between them. Think of it like tossing a ball back and forth between your two hands — except that there's no ball or hands and no delay going from one to the other.
The dual-clutch automated manual transmission typically supplants a conventional automatic, and it delivers the convenient action of an automatic with the fuel-efficiency and drivetrain response of a manual. Also, dual-clutch systems tend not to embarrass their operators like the herky-jerky automated single-clutch transmissions do (we're looking directly at you, BMW SMG).
Predictably then, we will use the rest of this story to sing our hosannas to the Cayman's seven-speed dual-clutch unit, which we find easy to use, responsive and all-round excellent even if we'll never, ever, ever be able to pronounce its German name: Doppelkupplungsgetriebe.
All right, Porsche won't make you pronounce the name when you order it up (for a hefty $3,420 charge). In fact, with sports car sales at subterranean levels, it'll probably be happy if you call it anything at all. Even Porsche shortens the name to "PDK" in casual conversation.
Here's the headline for the PDK-equipped Cayman S: It's the quickest Cayman of them all. It's quicker from zero to 60 mph by a full second than the 2008 Cayman S equipped with the old Tiptronic automatic (4.8 vs. 5.8 seconds). In fact, the 2009 Cayman S PDK is fractionally quicker to 60 mph than either the 2008 or 2009 Cayman S equipped with a manual transmission.
So we can see you're not surprised that the seven-speed PDK car is quicker than the old automatic. That's because the dual-clutch doesn't waste any time with upshifts, and there's essentially no interruption in torque delivery. Also the PDK incorporates launch control as part of the $1,320 Sport Chrono package. No special protocol or incantation required; just press the stability control button on the center stack, hold the brake pedal down and mash the throttle. A telltale "launch control" message lights up in the gauge cluster and you're off.
Like all dual-clutch transmissions on the market, the PDK can be set to either manual or automatic mode. To shift gears, you use the lever on the center console or the buttons on the spokes of the steering wheel. If we have one complaint about the PDK, it is these buttons — essentially rocker switches, really. Press the top portion of either the left or right button and the transmission upshifts. Press the bottom portion of either button for a downshift. We never got used to this and were saved the embarrassment of blowing up a motor a couple of times only by the electronics, which knew we didn't actually want a downshift to 3rd when we were topping out the engine speed in 4th gear. Shift paddles would be better.
While the arrival of the PDK option is the biggest headline grabber for 2009, Porsche has also substantially updated the engines of both the Cayman and the Cayman S.
There are hundreds of detail changes that start with the simpler, stiffer block and include new intake and exhaust systems. While it will get little attention, the camshafts are now driven directly from the timing chain for less weight, the bucket-style tappets save 10 grams each and the oil pump varies output with load to reduce pumping losses.
The most compelling result of all these ministrations is, of course, more power. The Cayman's horizontally opposed six-cylinder increases its displacement from 2.7 liters to 2.9, and it pumps out 265 horsepower at 7,200 rpm (up 20 hp) and 221 pound-feet of torque at 4,400-6,000 rpm. The extra horsepower comes pretty high in the rev range, so the Cayman doesn't feel like an all-new car in day-to-day driving, yet a version with a manual transmission will sprint to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds compared to 5.8 seconds for last year's car.
The 3.4-liter flat-6 in the Cayman S gets a direct-injection system, and this helps raise peak power to 320 hp at 7,200 rpm (up 25 hp from last year), while peak torque increases to 273 lb-ft at 4,750 rpm (up 22 lb-ft). Again, since the horsepower and torque peaks arrive at higher engine speeds, the car doesn't feel transformed when you're just trundling around town.
For our drive across southern Spain, we had only a 2009 Porsche Cayman S with PDK at our disposal, and we likely wouldn't have chosen our little Smurf Blue number with the little fixed wing on the back. That's because our Cayman S PDK — loaded up with ceramic brakes, "sport design" 19-inch wheels, PASM electronic damping control, navigation system, carbon-fiber trim, a TV tuner (not available in the U.S.) and the Sport Chrono package among other items — would list at just short of $1 billion, give or take. (We don't have all of the pricing for the options, but we'd estimate our tester would be actually somewhere in the range of $90,000.)
Is it worth it? Yes it is, assuming you have $90,000 to fritter away on a two-seat coupe. Once inside the cabin, the Cayman S PDK feels exactly as we remember every previous Cayman S feeling, which is to say fantastic. It still has utterly telepathic steering, a rousing engine note and an achingly beautiful rear end.
Porsche says that it has lowered the recommended tire pressure in the rear to soften the ride and also retuned the springs, dampers and antiroll bars. It's hard to feel much difference, although we'll say that the Sport setting for the dampers is very sporting indeed, and makes the Cayman a handful on undulating roads.
Other Unnoticed Things
Porsche calls the '09 Cayman the second generation of the model. OK, sure. But true to Porsche form, it takes a Porsche fanatic to notice the differences to the body. The headlights are of a different design, although their surrounds look essentially the same. The front fascia has a more pronounced sucker-fishlike mouth. And LEDs now find their way to the taillamps. Otherwise, the car looks like, well, a Cayman.
Porsche is also proud that it has simplified the button-crazy navigation system — now with only 16 buttons! There are a few new entries for the options list, but the only performance one is the mechanical limited-slip differential.
Porsche's competitive soft spot has always been its premium pricing. You can almost hear the Nissan fanboys furiously doing the performance vs. price equation as it relates to the Cayman and 370Z. It's a battle Porsche can't win, of course, and everyone knows it.
What a buyer gets with the 2009 Porsche Cayman S (which starts at $61,150 with destination charge) is the most focused, pretty, nimble, purely enjoyable Porsche on the road today (excluding specialty models such as the 911 GT3). None of the updates made to the 2009 model change that basic fact.
And given that the PDK replaces the automatic transmission and not the conventional manual, the Cayman has become fractionally more focused on its sporting mission than the outgoing model. We'd probably still opt for the six-speed manual and spend our $3,420 on some of Porsche's other options.
What the PDK Cayman represents, though, is the perfect Porsche for Southern California. It's involving enough when you get to thrash the car on a canyon road, but it won't work you over on the hell that is the 405 freeway.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2009 Porsche Cayman Overview
The Used 2009 Porsche Cayman is offered in the following submodels: . Available styles include 2dr Coupe (2.9L 6cyl 6M), and S 2dr Coupe (3.4L 6cyl 6M).
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