Saturday Road Test – Porsche Cayman S

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2014 Porsche Cayman S

In a word – Perfekt

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – In my 11 plus years of test driving cars the ones that stirred my soul are the few that call to you from the driveway.

They are restless beasts not at all happy dozing in the early summer sun like econo hatchbacks.  All have traits that appeal to those who feel a day behind the wheel on exquisite country roads is something to be savored. Yet many have little quirks that hold them back from the top spot on the honor roll.

A few, and I mean a very few, are perfekt – or German for perfect. Enter the Porsche Cayman S, in this case covered in an eye catching Aqua Blue metallic.

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It seemingly gains entrance to your brain and nervous system and like a good professor urges you to hone your skills to a heretofore unimaginable level.

The six-speed manual shakes hands as I will soon with a car buff friend I have known for more than 50 years. It is like you have shifted this stick for a lifetime, yet you are heading down the street for the first time.

The multi-adjustable leather clad seats grab you all around, the large signature Porsche tach stares you in the face from the center pod, the sport steering wheel is right sized, and all controls come readily to hand and have a high quality feel.

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Yet you are stuck in town traffic and the 3.4 liter flat six that is mounted just ahead of the rear axle wants you to enjoy its 325 horsepower at 7,400 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque that surfaces between 4,500 and 5,800 rpm. Top track speed is a soul stirring 175 and the run from 0-60 crops up in just 4.4 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package. Porsche says “forward thrust is measured by your heart rate.”

Yes it is fast, but what sets the Cayman apart from the rest is the engineering and design that tickles your funny bone on wonderful “Porsche” roads, like Route 9 from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia to Cumberland, Maryland. Scissor sharp bends abound with steep grades and generally light traffic – perfect for giving the Cayman a workout worthy of your military basic training instructor.

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The electromechanical steering system gives superb feedback about what the rubber is up to as the six emits a snarling testosterone satisfying sound as the Cayman carves up the countryside. From the rear, the exhaust system joins in the mechanical symphony. The German word for exhaust? “der Auspuff.”

Soon it was time for the Cayman to turn heads during a pit stop at the one and only store in the West Virginia valley town of Paw Paw. (Love that name.)

The total experience is exactly what lovers of sports cars dream about. Shift, clutch, engine, seats, controls, in short, everything that matters is perfectly sorted out and hits all the nerve endings of those who firmly believe that cars are more than mechanical devices for heading to the supermarket for margarine.

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You simply have to drive one to fully appreciate what the crafty German engineers have been up to. In fact, the Cayman has made this writer’s short list of cars that enthusiasts simply have to drive before they enrich the coffers of the local undertaker.

Is it cheap? Of course not! Does Brad Pitt accept a movie role that pays minimum wage?

The test car came with $23,875 worth of options, many of them performance oriented, with the notable exception of the $6,730 Burmester High-end Surround Sound System with 821 watts and a dozen independently controlled speakers.

I will fess up and admit that the mechanical sounds were so enjoyable it was only toward the end of the test week that I finally turned the system on and must rate it as one of the best I have heard, and I am picky about sound.

At any rate, all those options raised the price to $88,625. A base Cayman goes for $52,600 but I think it would be hard to find one on a dealer’s lot.

So, you may ask, would I take a well optioned Cayman over a 911? After winning the lottery, I would have to drive them back to back.

Due to the intrinsic handling virtues of a mid-engine car I might well go with the Cayman. Yet, no one could argue that this would be one of those rare and lovely times in life when there is no wrong answer.

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say I have been a fan of Porsches since I first rode with my step-dad in his 356 model too many years ago. He owned a number of them over the years, and despite my being lured away by such vixens as the ’63 Corvette split window and the Triumph TR-4 over the years, my heart always came back to Osnabrueck, Germany.

And yes, I even loved my 914!

Notes:

If one were to drive the Cayman in a daily commute, as nice as the stick was to work with, I would choose the 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK), which features a manual and an automatic mode. For two reasons: Gearshifts take place in milliseconds with no interruption in the flow of power and it delivers even faster acceleration. And how many cars can you own that have a  Doppelkupplung?

The test car came with a Sport and Sport Plus mode that changes engine dynamics for performance driving. I loved the Sport Plus setting for even more “intense” road holding and the throttle-blip function on downshifts.

Here is one reason the handling is so great. Sensors record all wheel and body movements. This enables intelligent adaptation of damper stiffness for the selected mode, optimizing contact between each individual tire and the road for even less roll and pitch.

All of the electric goodies work to produce not only outstanding handling, but a ride that is firm but not rigid.

The instrument pod to the right can give you “g” read outs.

Passengers will never guess that the engine is just 11 inches behind them.

There was no charge for the “Smoking Package.”

You will want to pop for the 18 way adjustable Adaptive Sport Seats Plus. They are grabbers.

 

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