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Car Review

Porsche Cayman 981 review

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Published: 02 Jan 2024
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Buying

What should I be paying?

So, to the nitty-gritty of buying a 981. And on the whole, there’s very little not to recommend it. The cars are solidly built and are so far free of the sorts of reliability gremlins that’ve unfairly caused 996 and 987 prices to crater.

The direct injection engines can leave sooty deposits on the reverse of the valves if the engine is rarely allowed to get properly warmed up – i.e. someone’s bought the car to pose in and only deployed on short trips. This can cause smoke on start-up and eventually a misfire or loss of performance if allowed to accumulate. An endoscopic engine exam and cleaning process can clean it… for a price. Or you could give your Cayman the ol’ Italian tune-up. Get it nicely warmed through, and give it plenty of revs. Or why else buy a car that sounds best at over 7,000rpm?

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The best way to preserve residual values is regular servicing. You’ll see various acronyms in the adverts: FSH for full service history, FPSSH for full Porsche specialist service history, and FPSH. Car that’s only ever been looked after at an official Porsche dealer. While that might seem the most desirable, the onus is then on you to not break the chain, and Porsche servicing doesn’t come cheap. Happily, the UK is festooned with knowledgeable Porsche specialists who’ll troubleshoot and look after a car like a 981 for significantly less outlay. A minor annual service is £300-400 (more like £450 if you need brake fluid changing and not just the air and pollen filters).

Tyres need seriously careful consideration. So bear with me while I get geeky. A Porsche should be fitted with ‘N-rated’ rubber – a specific tyre designed to work with a Porsche. You can spot the N rating on the sidewall after the size information. If the car doesn’t have it, it’s a sure-fire sign someone’s skimped on maintenance costs. And in a car which is exists to delight you with its handling delicacy, why cheap out on the only bit that touches the road?

Some real-world perspective for you: I bought mine wearing Goodyear Eagle F1s – a good all-rounder but cracked from lack of use by the previous owner. I had them replaced with a set of Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S – a performance-orientated tyre with a reassuring amount of tread pattern so it won’t do a Bambi skating impression in the wet.

Having been impressed with the same tyres on Top Gear’s Toyota GR86 and BMW M2 long-term test cars, it’s proved to be just as versatile on the Porsche, with impressive wet-weather road-holding for what’s strictly a summer-biased tyre. It was also surprising to feel the Michelins give a noticeable increase in ride comfort versus the admittedly aged Goodyears. I’d read some online reviews that the PS 4Ss suffered with road noise – always a bugbear in Porsches – but so far the ambient cruising din seems no worse than previously. Budget around £1,200 for a full set, and remember to look for the N rating.

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If you’re viewing a 981, don’t wear your best jeans. Get on your knees at the front of the car and make sure there’s no sign of corrosion or damage to the annoyingly exposed front radiators. If these are holed by a stray chipping they can leak and cause rust to form. Aftermarket meshes will bring peace of mind. The front daylight running lights, which look oddly like low-mounted foglights, are also vulnerable to being cracked.

But if you’re hanging on for the big horror story… I’m afraid there isn’t one. Part of the reason the Cayman is such a superb all-rounder is that besides being eminently practical and a fabulous drive, it is about as painless to own as sports cars get. Insurance isn’t too bad (helped once you’ve fitted a GPS tracker) and it’ll easily best 40 to the gallon on the motorway. Tax for the 2.7 is £365 a year. A quid a day for a car this sorted? Worth every penny.

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