Saturday, January 20, 2018

The New Cayman: King of Sports Cars

December 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured Content

When the first Porsche Cayman came on the scene in 2006, it was just the left jab/right uppercut combination that the small, 2-seat coupe sportscar market needed to wake up.  It has been 6 years since then, and contenders for the crown have come and gone, yet the Cayman, especially the late ‘R’ variant, stands alone atop the heap.  Fellow Germans have given it a shot with Audi’s TT, BMW’s Z4, and Merc’s SLK.  The Japanese have tried, too, with Nissan and their 370Z, and more recently, the lightweight Toyota/Subaru twins, the GT86 and BRZ respectively, have tried their hand.

As the competition heats up, and the 987 platform becomes a bit long in the tooth, Porsche has thrown a new wrench into the old mix.  The 982 Cayman is here, unveiled, as expected, at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and this time no prisoners will be taken.  The new Cayman is, as Porsche often does, an evolutionary development on the existing Cayman.  Without throwing the past away, Porsche has trudged diligently into the future.

Expecting the oncoming advance of foes, Porsche has thrown the preemptive volley, and advanced the new Cayman to levels not expected.  I have had the opportunity to drive the new Cayman’s sister car, the 981 Boxster, around a couple race tracks, and a bit on the street as well.  Judging by the amazing experience on offer in the low slung seat of the Boxster, the new Cayman will be a great improvement over the already amazing 987.  Supposedly, Porsche decided that there were enough differences between the new Boxster and the new Cayman that the latter deserved its own internal chassis code, thus the 982 moniker.

The Carrera moves further upmarket and further mainstream with the new 991, now built to compete more with Grand Touring powerhouses the likes of Aston Martin, and the not-to-be-overlooked Nissan GT-R.  This paradigm shift upward leaves room for Porsche to slot in an excellent sub-911 sports car, and contributes a lot to the popularity of the Boxster/Cayman platform.  It is increasingly important for Porsche to maintain the best sports car, not only for sales, but also for company image.  With the Boxster Spyder/Cayman R duo recently named the best handling car under one-hundred thousand dollars, the new car has very big shoes to fill.

The company wide change to electronically actuated steering has come with a mass flag rising by enthusiasts.  Stating a lack of “focus” and “connectivity” as their reasoning, these enthusiasts have met the 981/982 siblings with derision.  I can tell you that this derision is basely undeserved, because Porsche has done it right.  I understand the concern, and I was personally concerned myself when I heard the news, however, my concern floated away as I pushed a 2012 Boxster into turn 1 at Barber Motorsports Park.  Especially when driven hard, the steering comes naturally, and aids the driver in their efforts, yet still providing a level of feedback (though artificial) that practically trumps the old way.

Porsche is adamant to note that the new Cayman is quicker, more powerful, lighter, more agile, and more economical, making this car perfect for the frugal fun-seeker.  If we’re being frank, the new Cayman is improved visually, as well.  The new taut and creased crisp body lines compliment the driving experience perfectly.  So, everything about the new Cayman is better, right?

In my humble opinion, the Cayman, even with all of its electronic nannies, harkens back to the old days of Porsche.  The mid 1990s marked a change in the mindset of Porsche, as well as those who drove them.  Before that time, driving a Porsche was not about ultimate power, it was not about ultimate comfort, it was not about impressing your friends, it was about extracting the most from your car, and from yourself, while having the ultimate fun.  Think of the Cayman as the long-hood 911 of the present day.  It is lighter, nimbler, and more fun to drive than nearly anything else on the road right now. Driving a Cayman is about the experience, the sound, and the feel, just as driving a 911 used to be.  The King of Porsche sports cars is dead, but rather than lament the loss of our old faithful 911 driving experience, applaud the new King of Porsche sports cars, the 982 Cayman.


Photo: Porsche