By Denis Droppa in Faro, Portugal
One thing Porsche has learnt from decades of building sports cars is finding the right balance between racetrack-sharp handling and on-road smoothness.
True to the family recipe the firm’s new mid-engined Cayman (the coupé version of the recently-launched soft-top Boxster) is a car which nails this elusive equilibrium.
The smooth-surfaced Algarve racetrack in southern Portugal, where the third-generation Cayman’s international media launch was held last week, was a graphic demonstration that Porsche really knows its business when it comes to making cars go fast through corners.
A REAL PORSCHE
When you feel the Cayman gently squirming instead of having a full-bore panic attack when you’ve flung it into a bend much too fast, you realise you’re at the helm of a sports thoroughbred. The fine chassis balance and talkative steering (yes, even though the power assistance is now electronic instead of hydraulic ) tells you this is a real Porsche.
But just as impressive was the composure the two-seater displayed on a bumpy, twisty public road en route to the Algarve circuit. While being firm enough to make the car charge through turns with the barest trace of body roll, the suspension also soaks up rippled and undulating tar without a spine-splintering ride.
It’s a thoroughly well-sorted chassis, and for anyone tempted to think of the Cayman as anything but a genuine Porsche, five minutes behind the wheel will convince them otherwise. Like many of the world’s great racing cars, the mid-mounted engine’s located ahead of the rear axle to create an ideal front-to-rear weight balance, while the horizontally-opposed design of the six-cylinder engines helps lower the centre of gravity.
The new car is lighter, more powerful and a lot more torsionally stiff than the previous Cayman, along with an extended wheelbase and wider track for improved directional and handling stability. An extra-cost option for improved cornering speeds is Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) which employs a rear diff-lock and wheel-selective brake interventions.
The result is a car that laps the famed Nurburgring circuit a full 11 seconds faster than its predecessor.
In power terms the new Caymans fall at the lower end of the sports-car pecking order: the basic Cayman is a 2.7-litre six-cylinder with 202kW and 290Nm while the S version is a 3.4-litre with 239kW and 370Nm. But you have to drive it to appreciate how grin-spreading such comparatively humble firepower can feel when packaged in a lithe and light-footed chassis.
Not that the car’s exactly a slouch. With its higher-revving and more powerful new engines, combined with a 30kg weight loss thanks to more aluminium in the body, the new Cayman is quick enough to register on the adrenalin meter. For the Cayman S, Porsche claims a 283km/h top speed and a 0-100km/h sprint in just 5 seconds (4.7 seconds if you opt for the PDK dual-clutch auto transmission and the Sport Chrono package which comes with launch control).
The basic Cayman gets to 100 in 5.7 secs (5.4 with PDK and Sports Chrono) and tops out at 266km/h.
EVOCATIVE EAR CANDY
Even fast sports cars can feel emasculated without a proper roar, but I’m happy to report the Cayman has a full-bodied six-cylinder symphony that injects some evocative ear candy – even more so if you choose the optional sports exhaust which growls like a pit bull at a burglar. The automatic throttle blip on downshifts – a feature on both the manual and PDK transmissions – adds a further racy edge.
In all, the Cayman may be a lighter and less powerful Porsche but it’s not a watered-down one.
Aside from its sporting credentials, the new Cayman’s fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 15 percent thanks partially to a fuel-saving stop-start function, while the boot’s 50 litres larger.
For the first time optional features like Adaptive Cruise Control and keyless entry are available for the Cayman.
Porsche hasn’t reinvented the Cayman’s design, just given it a slightly more masculine and dynamic edge. Together with larger and more aggressive-looking air scoops ahead of the rear wheel arches, the car has a longer wheelbase and wider track, which with a more raked windscreen and slightly lower roof give it a more hunkered-down appearance.
The Cayman and Cayman S arrive in South Africa in April priced at R678 000 and R838 000 respectively. -Star Motoring