Porsche Cayman S

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Porsche Cayman

Road Test

Porsche Cayman S with six-speed + PASM

Driven September 2006

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The mid-engine configuration creates a balance that pays huge cornering dividends, keeping the car poised and neutral at ever-increasing speeds. The brakes are also superb, with plenty of feel and a graduation to the bite that optimises the Cayman's ability to stop not just quickly but smoothly.

If you test drive both Cayman and Cayman S together, you'll inevitably find the standard car's shortfall in grunt disappointing, but it is still quick enough to frighten most of us. And that supreme level of stability means this remains a stunningly rapid point-to-point, regardless of what it may lack in straight-line speed.

The aural drama is all there too. Flat-six hollering behind your head is compelling stuff, one of those sounds you never seem to tire of. The lack of power makes no dent the satisfaction you get from this, and it's only a matter of time before you start concentrating on other things anyway. Like listening out that perfect pitch in the powerband, or the seamless hum of a smooth heel-and-toe downchange.

The Cayman is a car that, admittedly through force of circumstance, has eschewed power in favour of the finer points of Porsche's dynamic genius. and it's nothing short of a triumph in this regard.

But what about those two big problems? They're not immediately obvious when you're driving a Cayman, but you'd struggle not notice them if you were actually about to buy one. They are, in particular order, the BMW Z4 Coupe, and, rather awkwardly, the Porsche Cayman S.

The problem here comes back to the pricing. The Cayman is stuck in a financial no-man's land, neither cheap enough nor expensive enough to meet the fiscal and/or vanity requirements of likely buyers adequately.

Not only is it more than the same-power Boxster, but it's also a piss-on-your-chips £5,000 more than the 3.0 Z4 Coupe, which is faster to 60mph, has more power and a lot more torque.

The basic Cayman also comes with a five-speed gearbox as standard against the Beemer's six, and doesn't get Porsche's PASM, an active damper system that vastly improves comfort and dynamic ability. This you definitely want, together with a six-speed 'box.

Luckily, you can buy both as a package for £1,426, but that drags the price to almost £38,000. Then things really get confusing.

Although it's still a big leap to the £43,930 'S' model, people with enough wedge to buy the £38k car will struggle to see the sense in not digging a little deeper for the kudos and performance of the 'S'. The basic Cayman is full of brilliance, but Porsche's pricing strategy won't help it prove this.

Matt Master

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