Porsche Cayman S — Sports car perfection

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Porsche may have upstaged its iconic 911 with its second-generation Cayman. We discovered the 2014 Cayman, which falls under the flagship 911 in the German's sports car hierarchy, to be a wonderful companion in any situation whether cruising the Interstate from point A to point B or tackling a serious stretch of winding rural-road blacktop.

With a starting price about $35,000 less than the 911, the all-new Cayman offers everything the iconic Porsche can muster in terms of performance — up to a point — and handling, not to mention curb appeal with its new stunning design and proportions. We say up to a point because Porsche has reserved its latest and greatest and biggest engines for the 911.

But if you compare apples to apples, (Cayman comes in two trims) the base 2.7-liter horizontally opposed flat 6 producing 275 horsepower and 213 pound-feet of torque and the S trim 3.4-liter six making 325 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, then the Cayman makes a strong case for being the best of the best.

The new Cayman rides on a chassis with a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase at 97.4 inches and with the wheels pushed out by 1.6 inches at the front and 0.7 inches at the rear. Overall length has been increased 1.4 inches to 172.4 inches. While the Cayman was given a larger presence, it was losing 55 pounds thanks to a diet of aluminum that includes the hood, doors, front fenders, floors and rear hatch. It now boosts a slimmed down curb weight of just 2,976 pounds in Cayman S trim.

If you want a thrilling driving experience, but desire a less invasive price than commanded by the 911, you have come to the right place. The smaller engine delivers performance measured at 5.8 seconds from 0-to-60 with a quarter mile time of 14 seconds at 101.4 mph. Its base price is $53,550. We think this performance will be satisfying for most people. But if you want all that Porsche has allowed the Cayman to offer, move up to the Cayman S. Performance with the 325-horsepower engine has been clocked at 0-to-60 in 4.1 seconds with a quarter mile time of 12.6 seconds at 112 mph. Braking time is equally impressive — 106 feet from 60 to 0. Starting price is $64,750.                                                                                

Both engines can be purchased with either the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Purists will want the shift-it-yourself transmission, but we prefer the automatic, which ticks off quicker shifts than humanly possible with the manual. And if you want to track through the gears, steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters are available. Published times show the Porsche, in either engine configuration, is faster through the gears with the automatic. The downside — the automatic is a rather pricy option at $3,200.

For those people who like to make as few trips to the gas pumps as possible, the base Cayman is rated at 20 mpg city, 30 highway with the six-speed and 22/32 with the automatic. The Cayman S comes in at 20/28 with the manual transmission and 21/30 with the automatic.

We found the Cayman's slot-car-like nature tremendously rewarding on our favorite stretch of rural winding road we use for comparison testing, measurably enhancing our perceived driving skills. We found the car very responsive and well-balanced through the twists and turns and the electric power steering impressively accurate.

The interior is of typical Porsche design, an intimate, but not uncomfortable place to live even for weight-challenged people, with a handsome, high-mounted center console design, striking color combinations and high-tech displays. The 14-way power seats in our test Cayman S allowed us to get the "just right" driving position.

Unfortunately, interior storage space is not a strong suit with few places available to stash stuff. And cargo space is limited despite the two-trunk design. The front compartment measures 5.3 cubic feet and can accommodate a small duffel bag. The rear area under the hatch has a bit more space measured at 9.7 cubic feet.

With the Cayman as with all Porsche vehicles, the base price is just a suggestion. Options are many and there are some so worthwhile that you will find yourself checking off at least a handful of boxes. The four most costly options on our test car were the Infotainment package at a whopping $6,730, Agate Grey/Amber Orange leather interior at $2,815, 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels at $2,730, and 14-way power sports seats at $2,320. Options raised the price of our test car to $88,835. Another Cayman we drove came to a shocking $101,200.

Base price: $53,550; as driven, $88,835
Engine: 3.4-liter flat 6
Horsepower: 325 @ 7,400 rpm
Torque: 272 foot-pounds @ 4,500 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Seating: 2
Wheelbase: 97.4 inches
Length: 172.4 inches
Curb weight: 2,910 pounds
Turning circle: 36 feet
Luggage capacity: 15 cubic feet total
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 28 highway, 20 city
0-60: 4.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Corvette Stingray, Nissan 370Z, Audi TT RS

The Good
• Outstanding performance
• Impeccable handling
• High-quality interior

The Bad
• Interior storage space limited

The Ugly
• Options are many and expensive