REVIEW DATE: 21 May 2007
The Cayman 2.7 Might Be One Of The Lowliest Rungs On The Porsche Ladder But What A Ladder. Steve Walker Reports.
It says a lot for a vehicle if it can remain desirable and relevant even in its basic entry-level form. If it's possible to argue the case for a poverty-spec derivative actually being the pick of the range, then so much the better. Any fool can take a serviceable car, cram in a big engine, beef-up the specification and bolt on some styling accessories to create a mouth-watering but prohibitively expensive range-topping version. The true measure of any model however, is whether it's still good when all this superfluity has been stripped away. Do the lesser versions that most buyers end up with still feel special? In the case of the entry-level 911, the Carrera2, the answer is yes but can Porsche's 2.7-litre Cayman pull a similar trick?
Launching the £44,000, 295bhp Cayman S first helped Porsche establish their junior coupe's place in the market as its own entity - a focused and serious performance car. The inevitable 'Boxster with a roof' references were partially staved off by the 3.4-litre engine which is larger and more powerful than the 3.2 lump in the Boxter S. Eventually, however, a standard Cayman was always going to be on the cards and, sure enough, such a model soon arrived packing the 2.7-litre unit from the entry-level Boxster. At a shade over £36,000, this car is within touching distance for the thousands of motorists who long for Porsche ownership but are forced by financial constraints to settle for sportscars without such an illustrious heritage.
The engine in question is a 6-cylinder horizontally-opposed or 'boxer' engine - so called because of the way each piston jabs out of the cylinder at the one opposite in the manner of two people knocking seven shades out of each other. The maximum power output of 245bhp is nothing to be sniffed at and the Porsche VarioCam Plus system helps to achieve a muscular torque output over a wide band of the rev range. Peak torque of 273Nm is actually being generated between 4,600 and 6,000rpm and with it, the Cayman 2.7 can spirit itself to 60mph in 6.1s. There's a 160mph top speed to get to grips with where conditions allow and if you go a little easier on the throttle, the official average economy of 30.4mpg is surprisingly good.
"The Porsche Cayman, like the 911 and the Boxster is all about the driving experience..."
Porsche serve up three transmission choices for the delectation of Cayman buyers. The standard 2.7-litre car comes with a 5-speed manual that works in a typically assured manner but is one area of the car which feels naggingly cheap. Surely a 6th ratio isn't out of the question in a £36,000 sports coupe? No it isn't, but you'll have to pay extra for the privilege. The six-speed manual gearbox is an optional extra but it does come with the Porsche Active Suspension Management system. This allows the driver to select 'Normal' or 'Sport' modes which adjust the damper settings to give a more comfortable or more focused drive. The final option is the Tiptronic S five-speed automatic transmission which works as a full auto or as a semi-auto with the driver changing gears via steering wheel-mounted rocker switches.
The Cayman is a good-looking car and quite obviously a Porsche but it's a little ungainly from certain angles. It's as if the designers were given the 911's shape as a starting point and told to make it different. They've added the pronounced rear haunches, the side air-intakes and the natty fog lights but the classic simplicity of the 911 has been lost. Still, we're splitting hairs here. The Cayman looks good from the outside but feels great once you get in and get moving.
The interior is remarkably spacious given the size of the car and although headroom may be limited for the very tall, most drivers will be able to get comfortable. One reason why the packaging is so good could be Porsche's laudable decision not to include rear seats. Market analysis will tell a cautionary tale of sportscar buyers in this sector shunning anything without four seats that isn't a convertible but the kind of seating you get in the back of small coupes tends to be nothing short of ludicrous. Anyone with legs of more than 18 inches in length will find it a physical impossibility to get into the rear of one of these cars which, for the most part, relegates the 'seating' to a mere storage role. Surely, it must be better to forego it altogether, as the Cayman does. Luggage compartments front and rear offer a combined 410-litre capacity to meet your storage needs.
Elsewhere, the cabin is extremely well finished and Porsche offer a huge array of trim options so buyers can personalise their vehicle. Beware of outlandish colour combinations though, as residual value can be a fragile thing. Fire-up the 2.7-litre engine and you certainly don't feel as though you're missing out. It has decent refinement at low revs and that addictive metallic yowl chimes in as you approach the red line. The controls are superb from the pedal feel to the weight of the steering, there's no doubt that the Cayman was built by people with a deep understanding of how a sportscar should be.
The Porsche Cayman, like the 911 and the Boxster, is all about the driving experience. Not necessarily the power of the engine but more the poise of the chassis, the feedback through the controls, the way the whole car feels so solid and supple on the road. You still get all of this good stuff even in the entry-level 2.7-litre derivative, just without quite the same concussive acceleration as in the S. The Cayman 2.7 is nine tenths of the car that the Cayman S is and certainly not a million miles away from the legendary 911 in terms of its abilities on the road. Some entry-level cars feel distinctly second best next to their higher-spec stable-mates but if there is a compromise here, it's not a big one.
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|Porsche Cayman 2.9 2dr coupe|
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|Porsche Cayenne S 5dr Tiptronic S estate|
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|For CAYMAN 2.7|
|OVERALL||7.9 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||9|
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