Monday, April 14, 2008

2008 Porsche Cayman Review

Introduction
When Porsche introduced the Cayman S two years ago, it left some enthusiasts scratching their heads. The bold, midengine sports car was faster than its ragtop counterpart, the Boxster, but lacked the performance of the famed 911. In all likelihood, Porsche could have made the Cayman faster, but it didn't want to cannibalize the market for its race-bred -- and more expensive -- models. The resulting Cayman was precisely tuned to fit in the gap between Porsche's entry level and flagship models.

There are two versions of the Cayman now, the base model and the S. The regular Cayman has a 2.7-liter flat-6 that puts out a respectable 245 horsepower and 201 pound-feet of torque, while the 3.4-liter in the Cayman S delivers 295 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. Despite being powered by 50 fewer horses than its S sibling, Porsche claims the base sport coupe's 0-60 time lags only by 0.7 second with manual models. Although the Cayman S comes with bigger brakes, upgraded wheels and a six-speed manual transmission, the base Cayman, which starts nearly $10,000 less than the S version, is still a fantastic drive.

The combination of the Cayman's agile, midengine platform with a stiff body makes for a superbly handling sport coupe. It's more responsive than the Boxster, yet it's more manageable than a 911. What's more, the relatively roomy cargo areas -- both front and back -- make this car almost practical enough to fit into the "daily driver" category.

Options on the Cayman can add up quickly, which throws the notion of good price-to-performance ratio out the (electronically controlled) window. Just going by the numbers, other cars such as the BMW Z4 coupe, Chevrolet Corvette and Nissan 350Z can churn out better performance for less cash. Ditto the superb new BMW 135i, which adds a backseat to the mix. But for the driving enthusiast who prioritizes perfectly balanced responsive handling, the 2008 Porsche Cayman is hard to beat.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Porsche Cayman sports car comes in two trims: base and sportier Cayman S. The Cayman comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, a CD player, cruise control, a trip computer and full power accessories. The S comes with the more powerful engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, larger brakes, metallic-trimmed instrument dials and an upgraded nine-speaker audio system.

The number of options is dizzying, particularly in regards to customizing interior trim and styling selections. Major options, however, include a variety of wheel choices, xenon headlights, power or race-oriented seats, rear parking assist, heated seats and a navigation system. Performance options include race-inspired ceramic composite brake discs and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which slightly lowers the car and lets the driver choose between a sporty but comfortable Normal ride and a full-on Sport mode with the touch of a button. The Sport Chrono package, available on cars equipped with the automatic transmission, reprograms the engine management system and electronic driver aids for even quicker and sharper responses.
Also available for the 2008 Cayman S is the Porsche Design Edition 1. This trim level/package has the same powertrain specs as the Cayman S, but has added design features such as black paint with matte black stripes, 19-inch wheels, a chrome-plated sports tailpipe and a custom interior color scheme. Porsche says it has a limited production run of 777 vehicles worldwide.

Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Porsche Cayman has a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed ("flat") six-cylinder engine that generates 245 hp and 201 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, with an optional six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons. The Cayman S is powered by a 3.4-liter flat-6 that puts out 295 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and the automatic is again optional.

In instrumented testing, a Cayman S accelerated to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat, hit the quarter-mile mark in 13.2 seconds and was able to chalk up an impressive 60-0-mph braking distance of 106 feet. Predictably, the regular Cayman went from zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, dropped the quarter in 14.2 seconds and came to a stop from 60 in 112 feet. EPA fuel efficiency estimates for a manual-equipped base Cayman are 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway. The Cayman S gets an estimated 18/26 mpg with the six-speed manual.

Safety
The Cayman comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control and torso- and head-protecting side-impact airbags.

Interior Design and Special Features
Like other Porsche models, the Cayman's array of interior controls can be initially confusing, especially the audio and climate control systems. (Navigation is just a pain). On the plus side, the gauges are large and easy to read. Seating is comfortable and supportive and the cabin affords a surprising amount of headroom and OK legroom. The new, optional leather sport bucket seats, which Porsche describes as racing seats that recline, are reinforced with lightweight carbon fiber and reduce the car's weight by as much as 20 pounds. The hatchback body style offers more cargo capacity than the Boxster, with 9.1 cubic feet in the rear and a front trunk (or "frunk") that brings total storage capacity to 14.5 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions
The 2008 Porsche Cayman is made for the enthusiast who equates fun to drive with amazing handling. The base and S models take to corners similarly, although the greater engine power in the S version gives it the edge when it comes to acceleration. Braking is solid and firm, without feeling overly grippy. For potential buyers looking for a more versatile ride, we highly recommend the optional PASM suspension package. The Normal mode meets the demands of practical daily driving and handles bumps in the road without sacrificing performance, while the Sport mode takes thrill-seeking weekend drives to a whole new level with a stiff, agile setup that works beautifully, provided the pavement is fairly smooth.

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