Used 2012 Porsche Cayman Coupe
Edmunds' Expert Review
Arguably the purest expression of the original Porsche design, the midengine 2012 Porsche Cayman provides thrilling performance and handling that more than make up for its tight cabin and pricey options.
The 2012 Porsche Cayman has deep roots and soaring capabilities. Porsche's midengine architecture can be traced all the way back to the Porsche 550 racecars of the 1950s. Mounting the engine amidships is the ideal location to help balance a sports car's weight, steering feel and handling response -- and ultimately driver confidence. This is one of the reasons many driving enthusiasts actually prefer the midengine Porsche Cayman over the iconic rear-engine Porsche 911 Carrera.
The liftback Cayman coupe shares much of its genetics with the Porsche Boxster convertible, including its mid-mounted, horizontally opposed six-cylinder (flat-6) engine driving the rear wheels. For 2012, there are four models from which to choose. In order of increasing levels of performance these are Base, S, S Black Edition and R. The latter two are new for the 2012 model year. Each offers a thrilling driving experience, but only partly because the engine resides right behind your shoulders.
The 2012 Porsche Cayman S Black Edition is more than just a monochromatic treatment of the Cayman S, although that is what is most striking about it. The Black Edition is limited to just 500 units and combines a host of optional equipment that would otherwise prove more expensive in a comparably equipped Cayman S.
The 2012 Cayman R model, on the other hand, strips the already svelte Cayman S of 121 pounds of weight in an effort to sharpen handling and quicken acceleration. Essentially a fixed-roof version of the Boxster Spyder, the Cayman R doesn't come with notable features like air-conditioning (you can still add it and its 26 extra pounds if you see fit) to demonstrate the case for addition by subtraction. This lighter, meaner Cayman is engineered and designed to meet performance targets, not comfort goals. As such, the Cayman R might be a step too far unless a lot of track days are in your future.
Indeed, the 2012 Porsche Cayman might be too hard-core (and of questionable value) for many drivers. If that's the case, then the BMW 1 Series M or Chevrolet Corvette Z06 might be better everyday coupes. And if you want a similarly dedicated sports car that offers all-wheel drive, then there's the Audi TT RS. All are fantastic cars, but if you want to own the purest vision of a Porsche sports car, there is no substitute for the 2012 Porsche Cayman.
2012 Porsche Cayman configurations
The 2012 Porsche Cayman is a two-seat coupe available in base, S, S Black Edition and R trim levels.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, summer high-performance tires, cruise control, air-conditioning, six-way adjustable seats (power recline, manual fore/aft and height adjustment), a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Cayman S adds a bigger engine, 18-inch wheels and red-painted brake calipers.
Should you wish to double the base price of the Cayman, Porsche will happily oblige you with a seemingly endless options list. Within popular packages such as Convenience, Infotainment (with or without a Bose audio upgrade), Design and Design Sport, you'll find items such as adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a navigation system, satellite radio, a seven-speaker sound system, larger wheels and tires, and aerodynamic kits.
The Sport Chrono package adds a lap timer, adjustable driver settings and, with PDK, launch control. Then there are the numerous customization choices that will cover just about any interior surface in leather, Alcantara, aluminum, carbon fiber, wood trim or exterior paint.
Many of the items in these packages can be added separately along with different wheel sizes and designs, a limited-slip rear differential, adaptive suspension dampers, ceramic-composite brakes (S and R only) and rear parking sensors. Inside options include fully powered seats, three different sport seat designs, heated seats, ventilated seats, a sport steering wheel with PDK shift paddles, a heated steering wheel, voice controls, satellite radio, a six-CD changer and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system.
The Cayman S Black Edition includes all the features of the Cayman S and adds another 10 horsepower, black exterior paint, black 19-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, a sport steering wheel from the 911 Turbo, black-painted twin exhaust tips, Porsche Communications Management (PCM -- including Bose upgrade and satellite radio), Bluetooth, universal audio interface, and model-specific badging on the headrests and door sills.
The Cayman R is a stripped-down version of the Cayman S. Here you'll find 19-inch wheels, the limited-slip rear differential, a lowered sport-tuned suspension, lightweight sport seats, the sport steering wheel (with or without PDK) and exterior-paint-matching interior trim. It ditches air-conditioning along with a few trim pieces, while the four-speaker sound system is a no-cost option. (The air-conditioning and audio can be added back.) Most of the regular Cayman's options are available on the R (including climate control), but certain luxury items like the ventilated seats and Bose stereo are not available. If those lightweight seats with the nonadjustable backrests are not to your liking, the regular sport seats from the Cayman are available.
Performance & mpg
The 2012 Porsche Cayman is powered by a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder (flat-6) that produces 265 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Like every Cayman, it is rear-wheel drive and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. Optional is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission known as PDK. According to Porsche, the Cayman should go from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with the manual, while PDK returns a truly impressive 20/29/24.
The Porsche Cayman S gets a direct-injected 3.4-liter flat-6 good for 320 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Porsche estimates it'll go from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. Surprisingly, fuel economy is the same as the regular Cayman with PDK, and only 1 mpg less on the highway with the manual.
Both the Cayman S Black Edition and the Cayman R get a version of the S engine cranked up to 330 hp. The Black Edition should hit 60 mph in about 4.8 seconds. In Edmunds testing, the Cayman R (with PDK and Sport Chrono) reached 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. Both return the same fuel economy as the regular Cayman S.
The Cayman comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, side airbags and side curtain airbags.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2012 Porsche Cayman handles superbly. It feels glued to the road and light on its feet at the same time. Body roll is virtually nonexistent, and the variable-ratio steering is among the best. The new Cayman R is even more capable thanks to its lowered ride height and retuned suspension. However, the R does ride stiffly, and Porsche doesn't offer the optional adaptive suspension for it.
If you didn't know the 320-hp Cayman S existed, chances are the base Cayman's 2.9-liter engine would never get a negative word. Both motors are capable and impressive, so 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 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 standard wheel-mounted shift buttons, though, and we prefer the optional shift paddles — they're well worth the extra money.
We've yet to drive the new Cayman Black Edition, but during a recent test of the Cayman R, we observed that it's just a set of sticky tires away from knocking down the 911's door. Ultimately, the reason you'll buy the Cayman R is because you absolutely, positively need to have the ultimate Porsche Cayman, even if it's by only a small amount.
The 2012 Porsche Cayman's interior boasts premium materials and proper sports car seating. 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 the present center control stack is much friendlier than before, especially the touchscreen included with PCM and/or the navigation system.
Sharing much of its cabin with the Boxster roadster, the Cayman is hardly spacious. 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, and 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 cubic feet. Despite this impressive total, though, both compartments are awkwardly shaped.
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Features & Specs
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When the 2012 Porsche Cayman R turned up at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show painted Fruit Roll-Up green, we hoped that the test cars at the press drive would be available in other colors.
When we showed up at the demanding Circuito Mallorca RennArena in Spain, we did, in fact, find colors that a discerning owner could live with for more than one year of the lease contract. This is a legit issue because every time we get in any Cayman, we like it so much that we could happily drive it for a year straight, stopping only for food, waste disposal, fuel, maybe some sleep, and the occasional oil change. But that green.
The 3.4-liter flat-6 in the $66,300 Cayman R adds 10 horsepower, peaking at 200 rpm higher than the engine in the $62,100 Cayman S and $61,800 Boxster Spyder. It retains the same 273 pound-feet of torque that arrives at 4,750 rpm. The big news, however, is the 121-pound weight loss over the standard Cayman. In fact, the Cayman R, fixed roof and all, is only 44 pounds heavier than the Boxster Spyder.
And for sheer hard driving, the premium paid for the "R" hardtop is justified by the knowledge that you've got the most focused model the company makes — at least as far as physics is concerned. Porsche brought us here to prove just that.
Wouldn't you know it, the Cayman R setups we most wanted to test ended up painted "Peridot Metallic" — a.k.a. Fruit Roll-Up green. Hues aside, the Mallorca track very soon showed us what configuration was best should one want to spend weekends on racetracks. Roughly 45 percent of all U.S. Cayman buyers opt for the $3,660 dual-clutch PDK seven-speed and also grab the Sport Chrono or Sport Chrono Plus option, so we started with that version.
Besides the 55 added pounds of the PDK transmission, our first car lacked the $8,150 optional ceramic brakes. On the tight Mallorca track this wasn't optimal, but the conventional stoppers never let us down. Even in Sport Plus, downshifts are sometimes slow enough that we had to anticipate the shift, which shouldn't be necessary. Then, after five or six hot laps, we had to slow our pace as pedal feel from the conventional brakes began to suffer. Put all that together on club day and you lose ground.
We then grabbed a greenie with ceramic brakes and the manual transmission and the clouds parted to show us the light. Between the gears being right there exactly as we envisioned (thanks some to the shorter-throw $765 sport shift option) and the all-day late braking from the 13.8-inch ceramic rotors, laps were noticeably quicker. But on a more relaxed and faster track, we'd have a harder time arguing against the PDK. In any case, you'll want the ceramic brakes unless you just want to use the Porsche Cayman R for posing at fashion shoots.
Eberhard Armbrust, Cayman vehicle dynamics leader, took us through the balancing-act changes that have gone into the Cayman R. There is no Porsche Active Suspension Management available. Rather, there's a specifically calibrated set of Bilstein dampers and higher-rate springs that lower the R 0.8 inch relative to the Cayman S.
Negative wheel camber front and rear has been increased to improve turn-in response while cornering. Standard wheels are the forged 19-inchers from the Boxster Spyder, which, at 8.5 inches wide front and 10 inches wide rear, add half an inch of width over the Cayman S wheels and drop 11 pounds of rolling weight (24.8 pounds each vs. 22 pounds each).
The rear antiroll bar is larger in diameter, while the new front spoiler and 42-inch-wide fixed rear wing decrease front aerodynamic lift by 15 percent and rear lift by 40 percent. Thrown in standard is a proper limited-slip rear differential with 22 percent locking action under power.
With the weight-loss program, the effective center of gravity for the Cayman R versus the Cayman S dips 0.9 inch lower. Distribution of the 2,855-pound claimed dry weight of the Cayman R with a six-speed manual remains 44 percent front, 56 percent rear.
Hurry Up and Weight
The 121-pound reduction is a result of bits removed from several spots. Exterior door panels are in aluminum as on the 911 GT3, GT3 RS and Boxster Spyder, which shaves 33 pounds. The next biggest items are the 26.5 pounds dumped by losing the climate control unit and 26.5 more lost by using composite sport bucket seats. Then subtract those 11 pounds for the wheels, 9 pounds without the radio and 15 pounds by losing the dash cupholders and using Boxster Spyder-style inner door panels with pull-strap openers.
Though acceleration isn't its most important attribute, Porsche claims the Cayman R is quickest to 60 when equipped with the PDK transmission. Using Sport Plus mode on a car equipped with the Sport Chrono package will yield a 0-60 run of 4.6 seconds, according to Porsche. But Porsche is known for its conservative acceleration claims so we wouldn't be surprised to see test numbers that are quicker still.
Nonetheless, as was reaffirmed at the Mallorca circuit, the Cayman R is best in transitional moments in 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears. It's into and out of the corners where this chassis and powertrain do what they're designed to do best.
Nice Moves, Questionable Voice
As we sliced around the track, the dynamic benefits recounted to us by Armbrust were obvious. There were some clear understeer tendencies if we ever braked too late and got the line a little wrong, but with practice and stability control switched off, the Cayman R showed us its goods in later laps. Steering feel and turn-in are as exceptional as promised. We might be tempted on track days to upgrade to a suitable race tire, as the standard Bridgestone Potenzas — 235/35ZR19 (87Y) front, 265/35ZR19 (94Y) rear — seemed a tick overmatched under this relentless beating.
On a long loop of Mallorca's inviting two-lane coastal and mountain roads, the Bridgestones were great. Also, on the road, choosing manual or PDK is just a matter of taste. However, the new sport steering wheel — now equipped with proper paddles — could be improved by fixing the paddles to the steering column. Then Porsche will have completed a proper PDK interface.
Aiding in achieving the higher power peak of 7,400 rpm is the Cayman R exhaust system with a larger-diameter exhaust section between the catalysts and mufflers. Still, this Porsche flat-6, like all factory Porsche exhausts, maintains the tradition of miserable sound. There is a $2,810 sport exhaust option, but it sounds only marginally better and is louder in muffler-bypass mode.
The Cayman Riddle
If we praise the Cayman family so much, then why does it leave Americans flat? In 2010, Porsche sold only 675 Caymans and 647 Cayman S models. What gives? It can't just be because our perfect Cayman R would end up costing just short of $90,000. That's an old excuse and the Cayman is still brilliant — arguably a better performance car than the 911.
So it must come down to image. Is the Cayman doomed to be the hairdresser's car with a roof? We hope not, because the Cayman R is stunning to drive. Even its new Bilsteins are comfortable enough for everyday use. The worldwide plan, once 2012 Porsche Cayman R deliveries begin in mid-March, is to have 25 percent of total Cayman volume be Cayman R. That's a total of 1,500-2,000 units annually until this generation of Cayman finishes its life sometime at the end of 2012.
With these meager numbers, Porsche will never build the Cayman we want most — the 3.8-liter Cayman RS. And we'll certainly never see one in Fruit Roll-Up green.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2012 Porsche Cayman Coupe Overview
The Used 2012 Porsche Cayman Coupe is offered in the following styles: R 2dr Coupe (3.4L 6cyl 6M), 2dr Coupe (2.9L 6cyl 6M), S 2dr Coupe (3.4L 6cyl 6M), and S Black Edition 2dr Coupe (3.4L 6cyl 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Porsche Cayman?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.