2014 Porsche Cayman 2.7 First Test
The perfect Porsche?
Back when I first started driving sports cars, it was de rigueur to don a pair of driving gloves before you purred away in your MGB or Triumph Spitfire or Alfa Romeo Spider. Well before today's 2014 Porsche Cayman.
And no, I don't mean those big, fat Nomex racing gloves. These were sewn of feathery-thin, oily-soft leather and frequently offered through small, eighth-page advertisements in the backs of magazines like Motor Trend. The really nice ones, with string backs, were rather pricey for a high school student like me, so mine were actually cheap golf gloves bought at the pro shop of the local public course. They're probably now so deep in a landfill they'll soon be discovered by Chinese archeologists.
But the worn-out little devils came to mind as I settled into the Cayman. Who would need driving gloves here? The whole car's a glove. You slither into it like putting fingers into a glove - right leg, right arm, butt, left leg, left arm. Once in, everything -- each lever and button -- is just a slight, instinctive hand motion away. Maybe there are a few domesticated-racecars like Caterham cars and the Ariel Atom that would fit you even more intimately, but those aren't exactly available at a local dealer where you can relax in classic Herman Miller lounges and sip espressos while they're serviced.
However, the instant the Cayman's 275-hp, 2.7-liter flat six blats to life, and you toggle its liquid-shifting 6-speed manual transmission into first and sharply begin move away, the car is no longer a glove. It's an extension of your nervous system.
Car journalists often write sentences like that. "It's an extension of your nervous system". Other popular lines we like to use are "your brain compresses against the back of your skull" under acceleration and "your retinas detach" while braking. Look, we make our living being outrageous exaggerators. And I hope you're not gullible enough to think any of it actually happens. Even under really hard braking you rarely see more than 1 g; want to know what 1 g feels like? Look down. Big deal.
But here in the Cayman -- cross my heart -- the car actually feels something like an extension of your nervous system. Think turn and it turns. What we have here, friends, is a sizzling, world-class sports car. Outside of Lotus' offerings and the upcoming Alfa Romeo 4C, there isn't a coupe on the road like it.
Still, some -- including me -- have reacted a bit coolly towards this second-generation Cayman. The original version was slightly less powerful (265 hp from a bigger, 2.9-liter engine). We know all that. But it had a skip in its step that's subtly restrained here (and other than its occasional appearance in VW Golfs, missing in most modern German cars). Outside, the Cayman appears bigger boned, stronger, squarer; inside, it's adopted the no-nonsense, somewhat-confusing, business-jet swath of switches down center console of the 911 and Panamera. To paraphrase Louis Ruf (the only Porsche 911 tuner worth his Bratwurst in my opinion) there are two types of Germans – the Bachs and the brooding Beethovens. The Cayman's soundtrack has changed from J.S.' "Brandenburg Concerto" to the heavy-steps of Ludwig's "Moonlight Sonata." What drowns-out such lofty musical allusions though, is the screech of tires at a test track.
After correcting for temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity, the car hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, whooshed past the quarter mile 13.9 seconds, nailed 1.06 g's while cornering, and stopped in a brief 101 ft. Now cover that sentence with your hand. Already you can't remember them, right?
What you won't forget is the car's acrobatic versatility at the limit. Usually, we can peg a test car's driving character pretty quickly while Figure-Eighting it. 'It over-rotates between braking and cornering.' 'It understeers.' 'It's too loose accelerating onto the straight.' These are the sentences I'm muttering to myself on the first lap. And then the car will usually do these same things over and over again, lap after lap afterwards.
Here, you can propose just about any handling trait, and then go demonstrate it. Understeer – here it is. Oversteer – how about this much? Lurid slide -- ask and you will receive. You can pinpoint the spot where the car flicks from braking to cornering. Or put it over there instead. No, this car's shifts certainly aren't PDK toggle-tap fast, but they involve your whole body -- specifically your feet, which massage the clutch pedal and blip the throttle like playing a pipe organ. It's hypnotic. You can't stop lapping.
Counterbalancing all this performance magnificence is the car's egregiously Porsche-scale price of admission. Base price: $53,550, as tested, a hefty $70,160. That's a chunk of change that could get you a very nice new Corvette. And worse, if you don't check several of the option boxes, the resulting blanked-out buttons seem to be strategically positioned to make you look like a complete cheapskate.
But my advice is to assuage your guilt by contemplating the truly crazy $64,750 base price of its 325-hp (4.2-sec 0-60) big brother, the Cayman S. Sure, it's faster. But a recent example we tested topped-out at more than $100,000. A hundred freaking thousand dollars for a Cayman? Pardon me, but the base Cayman is just as magnificently crafted, just as dead-bolt solid, and nearly as life-altering to drive, at least in a corner.
All of which should remind us to never question the axiom 'Less is More.' I don't, and so much so that I won't mince words here: this base Cayman, with a little 2.7-liter engine, is Porsche's Best Sports Car. Hyperventilate all you like about it, 911-philes. If I were driving this car way back in my formative sport-car years, those golf/driving gloves would have quickly come off and been tossed in the glove box.
I'd want nothing between my hands and this car.
|2014 Porsche Cayman|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$70,160|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||2.7L/275-hp/213-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve F-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3059 lb (45/55%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||172.2 x 70.9 x 50.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.9 sec @ 102.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||101 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.06 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.3 sec @ 0.80 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||20/30 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||169/112 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.82 lb/mile|