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A middle-of-the-road approach can lead to greatness. Here’s proof

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Of late, steering wheels have substituted handlebars in my life. The reasons shall not be mentioned here because the highlights of my terminal case of idiocy need not be made more public than they already are.

Nonetheless, it’s come to a point where I unconsciously reach out for a seat belt if I so much as sit in a chair. So it’s a bit of a surprise when motorcycles cross my brain, which has shifted position due to the G-forces, midway through a superfast corner at the Dubai Autodrome. My exact thought is, “This might be a car, but #&@^$! it deserves clip-ons and rear-sets.” That’s the new 2013 Porsche Cayman S for you.

Now, balance is a tricky thing to achieve, as any Shaolin monk will tell you. But once achieved, it makes the difficult look easy. Like shooting an apple off a child’s head while doing a handstand. Or going through a corner so fast, the driver is reduced to a blob of wobbly jelly. The rear mid-engined Cayman S, it seems, has achieved balance in a manner that no other car has. It’s not so much about the power, although the horsepower allows the Cayman S to reach the eye-widening speeds it corners at. All you remember long after you get out of the car is the mind-boggling balance.

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The base Cayman is a staggering car in its own right, but what we’ll get here in India is the Cayman S. It carries a 50bhp advantage over the Cayman and 80Nm more torque to twist your neck in corners. The chassis controls its 320bhp, 1320kg kerb weight and each of its four wheels in a manner that gives the Cayman S more poise than an army of ballerinas put together. Every component in the car seems to work at a level of harmony that can be an example to humanity. And at the centre of this mechanical harmony sits the driver.

Once you sit in the car and fire it up, the Cayman S seems to plug directly into your nervous system. Six furious pistons suddenly become extensions of your right foot, pinning you into the seat as the Cayman S growls past 100kph in 4.7seconds and roars on to 200kph in 17seconds. Your left foot becomes a massive anchor, hauling it down to an insane entry speed. The front wheels seem to be connected directly to your eyes; where you look is where you go.

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The fully loaded Cayman S has technology that Ferdinand Porsche himself would scratch his head over, so you’ll have to rely on Google for detailed explanations. But what I can tell you is that you can feel the difference these systems make and it’s all for the better. People say the new electromechanical system isn’t as awesome as the older hydraulic one. I say it’s still pretty awesome for everyone except perhaps hardcore racers.

The optional power steering ‘Plus’ system offers extra assistance at low speeds. The optional Porsche Torque Vectoring system brakes the inside rear wheel in a corner to allow faster turning. The optional Sport Chrono package gives you a couple of nice buttons that make the Cayman S even more hardcore. The seven-speed PDK gearbox (optional, of course) is telepathic and reacts as soon as you think. Most importantly, the Cayman S is now longer, wider, lower and lighter than before. And of course, all of these elements fuse to create the Cayman/driver alloy that is so unique in its feel. Thank God, this is not optional.

The Autodrome’s club circuit features a fun uphill chicane that plunges down into a fast banked left-hander. On this particular section, Porsche’s intentions are staring you in the face: the Cayman is a car that hasn’t made up its mind whether it wants to go left or right. So Porsche’s made sure it can go either way whenever it wants, at whatever speed its driver can muster. It’s so addictive, it’s easy to forget that brilliant motor.

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The 3.4-litre boxer is as Porsche as the Pope is Catholic. It sounds typically boxer-raspy and has more power than any rational person would ever use anywhere, with power flowing to the rear wheels in a wide, strong current. And in keeping with Porsche tradition, it’s incredibly usable too. It does 50kph in sixth gear, as docile a commuter as any. At other times, it’ll slam your head into the headrest as you plant the throttle at 160kph in third gear. It’s easy for you to be overcome by the car’s incredible handling or the fantastic motor, but again, it’s the way everything comes together in this car.

The Cayman S is a car that wants to be used, and you can use, thoroughly. Proof is the fact that you can get really close to its 283kph top speed without much effort. Trying that in a 911 is like pinching an unknown beautiful woman’s backside – you never know what her reaction might be, but you will most likely end up getting punished. The Cayman, on the other hand, is your girlfriend – both of you enjoy it. Anyone can get into this car and go really fast and have fun. If it had 500bhp, you’d be too busy running for your life to have fun. It’s the finely engineered balance of power and handling that makes the Cayman such a sensational car.

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The Cayman is an example of balance whichever way you look at it. It’s got a mid-engined layout. It sits between the Boxster and the 911. Sure, it doesn’t make your hair stand on end (quite literally) as is its topless cousin’s prerogative. Or make driving a car a hair-raising event (for very different reasons) as its senior does. But all the while, you know the 911 is looking out for the Cayman S over its fat haunches. What the Cayman S does does, is offer an experience that’s all its own, a pure driving orgasm. That, and the air of an underdog. The Cayman S knows it’s good, probably the best at what it does. It also knows Porsche will never declare it to be the best.

In my opinion, you shouldn’t buy this car for the way it looks. However, my opinion regarding aesthetics has a knack for being far from generally accepted truths, so a pinch of salt is advised. The Cayman looks a bit grown up and its face seems to have been Panamera-ised to make it look more like any other Porsche than ever before. The flanks and the rear are typically Cayman – just better designed than before. The darker colours don’t do it justice, though. The cabin has a high-quality, typical Porsche ambience and overall, there’s nothing I can find fault with. A word of buying advice is in order here: get one in a bright colour and with the optional 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels. It only seems to be the right thing to do. If you have enough coins in your piggy bank, that is.

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Thanks to our incredibly stupid duty structure, the Cayman S with a decently ticked options list is going to approach an approximate one crore, maybe even exceed that number. That is, and always will be, a lot of money for a car. However, if you had the money, there are a lot of stupider things you could do.

Like me, you could find the most painful way to descend a flight of stairs and not be able to wear a helmet because of a stitched-up face – and I don’t even have the money. But when apexes on the track or roundabouts on the road feel the same, you know a car is special. What’s taken me aback is the fact that I wouldn’t mind swapping handlebars for the Cayman’s steering wheel anytime.

(Words: Kartik Ware)

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Porsche Cayman S

The numbers
Engine: 3436cc, flat-six
Power: 320bhp@7400rpm
Torque: 370Nm@4500-5800rpm
Transmission: 7A
0-100kph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 283kph
Price: Rs 95 lakh (estimated)

Pros - Handling ecstasy, pure driving fun, your driver will have a lot of fun
Cons - Will be too expensive in India, ground clearance will be an issue on our roads

The verdict
Incredibly capable, yet incredibly friendly. We’re all out of superlatives for this one. Rating 8/10

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