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Car Review

Porsche Cayman 981 review

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Published: 02 Jan 2024
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Interior

What is it like on the inside?

Buttons! Remember buttons? Oh yes, the 981 hails from a time when Porsche produced more buttons than Cadburys. Inspired by the first-gen Panamera’s high centre console with buttons for every single chassis and comfort function, the 981 Cayman’s interior is a real high point of Porsche common sense.

While there is a touchscreen, every function is duplication by a button. So if you’d prefer not to get fingerprints on the display, use the scroll wheel to navigate through lists. There’s submenu shortcuts, and of course, seek and volume controls. Plus, the heater, heated seats and stuff like the Sport mode, stop-start and traction control toggle all get a dedicated switch. It might look fiddly in a picture, but to live with it ain’t half easy to use.

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In fact, the Cayman is something of an ergonomic high point. Obviously the driving position is perfect – you expect that in a Porsche. Low-hipped and straight legged – purposeful yet surprisingly comfortable for many hours in the saddle. But it’s the little details that show lots of thought went into the car’s useability: the hidden door pockets with sprung doors, and the genius pop-out cupholders that live behind the trim above the generous glovebox. All-round visibility is fantastic. It’s such an easy car to live with.

DESIGN PERFECTION THEN? 

Oh no, there are some idiosyncrasies. After two years of ownership I still have no idea what the square divot in front of the armrest is for. Spare change rattles, and who carries coins these days anyway? Sweeties? It’s certainly not somewhere to stand your phone. Incidentally, 981s only have a USB socket in the glovebox, so you’ll either have to fork out for an aftermarket 12V socket charger, or run a cable from the glovebox to a dash-mounted phone holder. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto of course, but a replacement infotainment module with phone mirroring will set you back around £600.

Up front the dials are pleasingly clear. The right-hand digi display offers nav, temperatures and pressures, phone and media info and a very comprehensive settings menu. Funny how you never wish for touch-sensitive haptic controls or more piano-black, scratch-prone trim. It’s an interior designed by grown-ups, this. Well-finished, classy and built to last. Look out for saggy seat bolsters and squeaky seat mounts, caused by creaky occupants flopping down into the Cayman’s cockpit.

The Bose hi-fi upgrade was pretty much a must-have when the 981 was new, and it still holds up now – the Burmester range-topping system is much rarer. But frankly far too much equipment was optional: the sat-nav, digital radio, heated seats, auto climate control, parking sensors and even electric folding mirrors were all extra-cost options. Porsche isn’t quite so stingy with the current 718, but it can make finding your ideal used example a minefield.

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Anyone who selected the £250-ish rear wiper was ripped off. Get above 30mph and the car’s aerodynamics clean the raked rear screen. Handy.

Underneath it, the engine cover is carpeted to offer extra luggage capacity, but you’re unlikely to need it. The 981 has two boots: a shallow 150-litre space in the back and a hugely versatile 162-litre cavern under the bonnet which will easily swallow a couple of carry-on cases. The nose is also where you’ll find neatly packaged kits comprising tyre sealant and pump, the towing eye and locking wheel nut. Check all those accessories are present when you’re taking a test drive – Porsche charge a king’s ransom to replace them.

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