2014 Porsche Cayman moves to the pole: Motoramic Drives
Plopping an engine smack in the middle of a car has a magical effect on handling – even if it means sacrificing a back seat. So while Porsche is most famed for a rear-engine, two-plus-two sports car, its signature 911, it has managed great things with a pure mid-engine coupe with just two seats: The Cayman.
The magic continues with an all-new, third-generation Cayman. Snobs may consider the crocodile-named coupe a junior member of the Porsche family. But with this redesigned version, they’ll be forced to admit that the Cayman handles as well as the far-pricier 911, and in some situations better.
Add a strikingly reworked body and cabin, and the full gamut of Porsche performance technology, and the Cayman has evolved into one of the world’s greatest sports cars, regardless of price. That status shone with million-watt clarity on the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in southern Portugal, the devilish high-speed circuit where Formula 1 teams have tested their machines.
First off, the Cayman is lovelier than ever, reshaped to play up its classic silhouette and alluring, deep-cleavage rear fenders. There’s no confusing this two-seater with the more-demure 911.
Like a supermodel’s cheekbones, the Cayman’s aluminum-skinned doors have been dramatically hollowed. Those dynamic recesses draw more than your eye: They direct intake air through chunky door scoops and into the flat-six engine tucked behind the driver and passenger. The rear hatch glass is wider, highlighting the Cayman’s broadened, road-sticking stance, including the S model’s 1.6-inch wider front track – the distance between the front wheels – and a nearly half-inch stretch at the rear. The wheelbase grows by 0.6 inches, another boon to high-speed stability.
The Cayman’s roof is subtly lowered and stretches farther to the rear, where it meets a finely drawn aluminum lip that forms the pop-up rear spoiler. That spoiler has 40 percent more effective area than before. That helps pin the Cayman to the asphalt at speeds that peak at 165 mph for the base model, and a lusty 175 mph for the Cayman S.
The Cayman’s sense of visual lightness is no David Copperfield illusion. An aluminum diet for the body trims about 66 pounds, putting the base Cayman at 2,882 pounds. Its main rivals, the Mercedes SLK, BMW Z4 and Chevy Corvette, are porkers in comparison, weighing 300 to 400 pounds more.
At the same time, the Cayman’s redesigned aluminum chassis is 40 percent stiffer, allowing the suspension, wheels and tires to perform without wasted motion and energy. Hans Jürgen-Wöhler, Porsche’s director of the Cayman and Boxster lines, says the Cayman, remarkably, is more than twice as stiff as the new Boxster convertible, and far less twist-prone than the 911 as well.
Natural balance is a given, with the mid-engine layout putting 46 percent of weight over the front axle and 54 percent at the rear. Less natural, but just as effective, are Porsche’s computerized handling aids, including the driver-selectable Porsche Active Stability Management suspension and optional Porsche Torque Vectoring. That torque vectoring system monitors handling forces and applies individual brakes to help pivot the Cayman around turns. Cayman S models add a limited-slip differential to maximize grip at the rear wheels.