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Test Drive: PORSCHE Cayman S - 2009

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PORSCHE Cayman S - 2009 - Photo Gallery - Image 6 - autoevolution


Before starting any test drive we must first learn a little bit about the model we're going to drive. Here you'll find stuff about the model's history (if any) and place in the world of automotive.

After the Cayenne SUV pretty much doubled their production figures at the beginning of this century, Porsche didn't rest on its laurels and continued investments in releasing another addition to the model range. Launched in 2005, the mid-engine Porsche Cayman was first introduced only in "S" guise, followed soon by the regular Cayman model.

Essentially just a coupe version of the Boxster, the Cayman was first met with some reticence, especially since it was more expensive than its soft-top little brother. The clouds soon dispersed and everybody found out the real deal behind the Porsche Cayman's sheer existence. In short, this is probably the truest sports car in the whole Porsche line-up, GT models included.

Why is that? Well, there's only one reason actually. The engine isn't wrongly positioned at the rear, but in the best side possible, the middle. In other words, after the 914, the Boxster and the Carrera GT, the little Cayman is the third road-going Porsche with a mid-engine configuration.

With a name derived from the tax haven going by the name of Cayman Islands, which in turn is derived from the small crocodile species, the second least expensive Porsche is also one of the best handling cars ever built for the road by the Stuttgarter sports car maker.

At the end of 2008, a mid-life facelift was carried out, keeping the exterior quasi-identical, with most of the modifications to be found under the skin. Direct injection and a newly-developed double-clutch gearbox with seven forward speeds found their way onto the Cayman. We tested a "Guards Red" Porsche Cayman S with the PDK double-clutch gearbox and the Sport Chrono Package.

Out of this world handling and stability during cornering? Check. Enough engine grunt to keep you firmly pressed in your seat all the way to... let's say "highly illegal speeds"? Check. Ergonomic interior and enough space in the luggage compartment(s) for longer traveling? Check. Reasonable fuel economy considering the fabulous performance figures? Check. Anything bad to say about this car? Umm... read on and you'll find out.


They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or the beer holder, in case you're a Kinky Friedman fan). Here you'll find the kind of impact the tested model is going to have on us, visually speaking.

With a front 99.78% identical to that of its open-top little brother, the Boxster, the Cayman is pretty hard to be reckoned as a stand-alone model just by seeing its face. As a matter of fact, it's also about 97.56% identical to that of the 911, which kind of makes one wonder if the Porsche design department has been on vacation since... the 1960s?

This is far from being a bad thing since every non-frog-like face Porsche has tried putting on its models has failed, meaning evolution is quite a hit with their customers. There are even less discrepancies between the regular Cayman and the "Spezial" version, at least when talking strictly about the car's frontal design.

The side view is the real deal-breaker when it comes to looks though. Apart from the Carrera GT, it's probably the best-looking Porsche in the last decade. The overall lines make a beautiful compromise between muscular and elegant, classic lines. The Central-positioning of the engine is pretty obvious, especially when compared to a 911, which has a rear overhang a tad bit longer.

Even though Porsche marketing really tried to influence the critics by stressing the fact that the Cayman's design has similar cues to that of a Caiman crocodile's head, they kind of failed to point them out. Still, if you squint your eyes for a bit you can see some reptilian looks in there.

The rear is where the "sexy back" expression really comes into place. The bulgy rear shoulders really stand out, while the LED swooping taillights make a very powerful impression, especially since they're flanking a hydraulic-actuated spoiler and a couple of thunderous exhaust pipes. Unlike some of its bigger brothers (hint: Cayenne and Panamera), the Cayman S is quite a staggering design. A perfect compromise between bold and beautiful, if we may say.


Unless you're a world famous stuntman, most of the time when driving will be spent IN the car. Here you will find if the interior of the tested vehicle tickles our senses or not.

After jumping inside and suppressing the instinct to reach for the ignition with your right hand, you can most definitely say that you're in a car designed by the calculated mind of a German. Every button, every knob and every information display is right where it should be. Except for the ignition still present on the left side of the steering wheel. Paying tribute to the old days of racing at Le Mans, the left-side ignition has become a tradition in all road-going Porsches since the late 1950s.

Just as you would expect, almost everything touchable is engulfed in perfectly-stitched leather. In other words, both seats, the steering wheel, most of the dashboard and most parts of the inside door panels are practically drenched in it. Not to mention the fact that the seats in our test car had perforated leather (since they were both heated AND cooled). Even so, Alcantara-based or other types of leather are available as an option for the interior side of the roof and the pillars. The only plastic stuff inside had top-notch quality, with a only a few minor exceptions: the steering wheel column-mounted switches for the turn signals, windshield wipers and the cruise control looked and felt a bit on the cheap side. Other than that, it's pretty fancy stuff for a mid-engine sports car priced just under the base 911 Carrera.

The available space is just right for two average-sized persons, especially since you sit so low and the seats are completely adjustable. Speaking of which, despite being both heated and cooled, the only electronic adjustment is done for the backrest, while the longitudinal and height adjustments are done manually. In another Porsche-like manner, the fire extinguisher sits right under the driver's legs, as if Porsches would be generally known to casually combust.

Apart from the state of the art interior ergonomics, the overall quality and the decent available space, what impressed us most was the sheer practicality of the Cayman S. For a car with only two doors, two seats and enough horsepower to give you wet dreams, the mid-engine configuration gives you two separate luggage compartments, comprising a highly surprising total of 410 liters (14.5 cubic feet). A very small trunk in the rear and a pretty spacious one in the front can really confuse some people though, since they may wonder where on Earth does the engine sit.


Unless your neighbours are a small family of kangaroos or the infamous Sasquatch tresspases your property on a daily basis, you probably spend most of your time in the city. Well, so do we, so this is where you'll find how and IF a car is usable on the busy streets.

The very low ground clearance can be quite a pain if you live in a city with numerous "sleeping policemen" aka speed bumps and higher than normal roadside curbs. Not to say that the Cayman S is as low as a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but around 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) of ground clearance can mean the difference between a scraped undercarriage and leaving your front bumper on the side walk. Special attention should also be given when entering or exiting underground garages, since there is also a rather long overhang in the front.

Other than what we mentioned above, living with a Porsche Cayman S in a busy city isn't as impractical as you might imagine. Despite sitting so low, especially when compared to other drivers on the road, overall visibility is just fine. The exterior rearview mirrors are big enough to provide you sufficient information of what's going on behind, but they do have a downside in not being able to be folded.

A really pleasant surprise came from the in-city fuel consumption, which during our test was approximately 14.7 liters per 100 kilometers (US 16 mpg). Considering the official figures say 14.1 liters per 100 kilometers (US 16.7 mpg), we think this is quite a spectacular achievement, especially when thinking about the performance available and the amount of stop-and-go traffic we encountered during our test drive. Apparently the addition of direct injection and the intelligent PDK double-clutch transmission really upped the ante on the efficiency of the high-revving six-cylinder Boxer engine.

Unfortunately, our test car wasn't equipped with the optional front and rear parking sensors, which could have proven to be quite useful. We say this because, despite the decent visibility, you can't really see all the way to the front or where the car is actually "ending", and the front and rear overhangs are pretty long and bulgy.


Almost every car has a hidden talent (or downside) which can only be found while on an open stretch of highway, a mountain road or even a muddy field. This is where you'll find how a car behaves out in the open.

If Porsche had given 30 or 40 more horsepower to the Cayman S and had kept a similar price, it would have meant the end of the 911 Carrera. Even without that extra grunt we really struggled to find any major reason for someone to choose a more expensive 911 over the Cayman S. Paired to a seven speed double-clutch gearbox, known as the... hold your breath... Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, the 320 horsepower Boxer engine can give quite a sufficient amount of hardcore sensations, especially in "Sport Plus" mode.

Speaking of which, there is absolutely no way for a beginner to drive safely in busy traffic with the Sport Plus mode activated. And no, we're not kidding. The accelerator is so sensitive in this mode that even if you tickle it with your right foot your Cayman S might end up kissing the bumper of the car in front of you. Yes, 320 horsepower can sometimes behave like hundreds more. Also, the revs will very rarely drop under 4000-4500 rpm in this mode, again, no matter how "soft" you're with the accelerator pedal. Oh, and we should mention the fact that if you don't have a heavy right foot and keep the car under the speed limits, its fuel consumption is only around 7 liters per 100 kilometers (US 33.6 mpg). If you don't, it can jump up to 13-15 liters per 100 kilometers (US 15.7-18.1 mpg) or even more, depending how hard you push it.

An empty stretch of serpentine road up or down a mountain are enough to make pretty much anyone fall in love with this car. The extremely direct steering provides quite a handful of information, while the central positioning of the engine represents dynamic perfection. A blistering 5.1 seconds time from zero to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) and an eye-watering top speed of 275 kilometers per hour (175 mph) are enough to keep your passenger on his toes every time you even mention about hammering the throttle. The six-cylinder Boxer engine paired with probably the best double-clutch we've ever experienced is only part of the thrill.

As we mentioned before, our car was fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package, which, apart from adding a cool-looking "stopwatch" on top of the dashboard it also fills the center console with two extra "special" buttons. One of them is called "Sport" and the other "Sport Plus".

Far from being just a couple of placebo-inducing options, these two buttons can magically transform the Cayman S from a civilized beast to a completely savage one. Let's say, for example, that you're traveling in a very relaxed way on the highway, at 130 km/h (70 mph) in seventh gear. The rpm in this instance will be at around 2500-2800 rpm. If an instantaneous desire to "kick it" suddenly engulfs you, all you have to do is press the "Sport Plus" button.

As sudden and as instantaneous as a blink of an eye, the PDK transmission will change a few gears down, the electronically-controlled suspension and the power steering will stiffen, while the revs will jump to about 4500-5000 rpm. All you would have to do now is hold on tight and start overtaking like a madman. In conclusion, the Cayman S can be both a nice, somewhat comfortable GT, but also a mean overtaking machine. Until we drive the 911 Turbo, GT3 or GT2, the Cayman S will probably remain in our hearts as the only Porsche which can offer this amount of fun per buck. Pure, unadulterated fun.


Usually, unless your single utmost pleasure comes from just driving the car (just like us!), you long for comfort every time you get inside it. Here you will find if the tested car provides enough "cushin for the pushin".

Obviously, one cannot expect much comfort from a mid-engine coupe capable of these amounts of performance. Truth is, the Cayman S is actually a very comfortable car but only with a few conditions. If the state of the roads you're driving on is poor or you have to pass over a lot of tram rails and speed-bumps, you should probably think about another car. The rather stiff suspension, along with a go-kart-like ground clearance can only mean hell for your kidneys. Still, if the road's quality is German Autobahn-like, the Cayman S is actually very comfortable.

The ergonomic seats, though very supportive, are quite confy as long as the person siting on them isn't a very good friend of cholesterol. In other words, they're pretty narrow, just as a Porsche seat should be. As far as other comfort inducing bits, we should probably also mention the automatic climate control system, which, in conjunction with two other similar features can provide quite a nice atmosphere inside, no matter how hot or cold is outside.

To be more accurate, both the driver and the passenger seat have integrated three-stage heating AND cooling. So, if the outside weather is a bit more than nippy, all you have to do is push a button and the seat will heat up your tooshie in a minute. If the opposite happens, let's say that with the heat outside you can cook an egg on the hood, all you have to do is push another button once in and your seat will cool down in just a few moments. All in all, the Cayman S we drove is a pretty comfortable car, as long as you drive it on perfect roads.


Engine, transmission, suspension, etc. Here you will find stuff about what's under the hood of the tested car. Don't worry, MOST of the texts will be free of geeky info.
As we mentioned before, the 3.4-liter Boxer engine in the Cayman S is quite different than the one powering the non-facelift version. It sports the same displacement, but a totally new direct injection system was fitted to it, making it both more powerful and more frugal, which of course is a bit antithetic.

Just like on all the engines powering the 911 range, the natural aspirated flat-six in the Cayman is also using the Porsche VarioCam Plus system. In plain "engineering English", this system combines variable valve timing with two-stage lift on the inlet side. In other words, the smooth rise in rpm when accelerating and the great torque output at low and medium ranges are happening thanks to this system.

Apart from following the Boxer principle, meaning it has a very low center of gravity, the engine is also using a dry-sump lubrication system, meaning it sits even lower than a regular engine. Together with the lower center of gravity, the use of dry-sump also improves lubrication during hard cornering and/or braking. All in all, the 3.4-liter Boxer is a very impressive piece of technology, offering no less than 320 horsepower at a stratospheric 7200 rpm and an equally impressive 370 Nm (272.9 lb ft) of torque at 4750 rpm. Coming from a natural aspirated engine of this capacity, this is pretty impressive.

An even more impressive piece of technology is the PDK double-clutch transmission. We're driven cars with double-clutch sequential gearboxes before, but none of them behaved as exemplary as the one from the Cayman S. Instantaneous shifts, seven forward speeds and a manual mode to keep every Formula One fan happy. This is simply the best gearbox we've ever experienced when it comes to sportiness, be it in manual or automatic mode.


Men (and women) are by nature a playful being, right? Well, this is where you will find if the car we drove has enough helpful gadgets in and around the cabin.

Although a bit far from being a "fully decked" Porsche Cayman S, the model we tested was fitted with quite a decent number of gadgets. There was a bunch of stuff missing, like the front and rear optional parking sensors, but other than that pretty much all the useful gadgets were on it.

For example, the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) was on its 3.0 version. The system now sports a 6.5-inch color touchscreen display and has a CD/DVD drive which naturally supports MP3 format. The navigation system optionally included in the PCM 3.0 now has an internal hard drive for the maps and other such appliances, but our test car wasn't fitted with it.

Even so, the new sat-nav is actually pretty cool. You can even choose between a 2D or 3D image for the map display, depending on your viewing mood. Naturally, both types of display can offer dynamic route guidance. Just like the old one, the new PCM 3.0 can also include an optional TV-tuner which can receive both digital and analogue TV broadcast, which we again didn't test since it wasn't present on our ride.

Other than the PCM, other gadgets worth mentioning are pretty common in this price range (the Cayman S starts from approximately 62 thousand Euros in Germany). For example, our test car was also fitted with a pretty rudimentary-operated but otherwise with sufficient options cruise control system. The PDK transmission can be controlled from either the aluminium/billet gear shifter or from the two plus/minus buttons on the steering wheel. Speaking of which, you can control most of the PCM's functions from the steering wheel as well.

We already mentioned the heating and cooling option for the seats and the unbelievable Chrono Sport Package, so the only things left to talk about are probably the HID headlights and the rain and light sensors. Oh, we should probably also mention the rear windshield wiper which, believe it or not, is optional. Also, despite having an electric-operated function for the backrests, all the other seat controls were manual, which was a bit strange.


Want to know if a car will kill you in a town fender bender? Here you will find how many airbags, safety systems and how many crash test stars does the tested vehicle have.
Having a Porsche badge, it is easy to assume that an EuroNCAP crash test is pretty much out of the question, right? Right. Although, come to think of it, in recent years Porsche has built enough models to almost rival a traditional car manufacturer. Even so, a Cayman's level of safety can be easily determined by the number of safety features available.

Let's start with the active safety features, which in our case even include the engine configuration, which gives the car and the driver a much better precision when negotiating hard turns, thus helping in on a safer drive. Other than that, the Cayman S is obviously equipped with some of the latest safety systems on the market. We can include the very common now anti-lock braking system, cornering brake control, anti-slip regulation, automatic brake differential (ABD) and the Porsche Stability Management (PSM).

All those systems can of course mean nothing if you're already crashing into a tree, so six airbags are there to protect you in the unfortunate event of an impending impact. Two dual-stage frontal airbags, two side thorax airbags build into the seats and two head airbags located within the door panels. Another standard safety feature is the so-called Porsche Side Impact Protection (POSIP), seat-belt pretentioners with force limiters and an impact absorbing steering column.


Every car has a brightside, a darkside and an ugly, annoying side. Here you will find what we REALLY think about the car we drove.

The best part about the Porsche Cayman S is most likely the handling. We know how much overused the "cornering like it's on rails" expression is, but trust us, it's the perfect way to describe how the Cayman drives. The engine howling right behind you, the precise steering telling you exactly where the front wheels point, the neck-snapping acceleration in "Sport Plus" mode and the phenomenal brakes, everything is near perfection in this car. So, as far as driving goes, you can't really go wrong with a Cayman S.

Honestly, it was pretty hard to find a weak spot on this car, and trust us we really tried. Still if we were to drive this Cayman S on a daily basis, there would probably be some annoying bits as well. The biggest gripe we had with it during our test drive was most likely its very low ground clearance. There wasn't a single speed-bump we encountered without the fear that we'll scrape the underside of the car. In other words, it's a pretty big responsibility to assume while driving a hardcore sports car.

As for the ugly bits about the Cayman S, well, it was only one actually. The mid-engine is very good for handling purposes, but it's also a nightmare as far as servicing goes. The only way to reach the engine is from underneath the car, while the oil and cooling fluids change nozzles are situated in the rear luggage compartment. This can only mean that you have to be extra careful when changing the oil, fearing that it will stain your trunk.


Sir May B. Bach's Opinion

If I were to choose a single German... ahem... Sauerkraut-loving car company to like, it would probably be Porsche. Except for that atrocious Cayenne Diesel, I like pretty much all of their... ahem... cars.

Sure, I also like luxurious and fast barges a la Mercedes-Benz's AMG, but... ahem... those very same guys are also part of the company that's making dreadful cars like the smart fortwo, or the A and B-Klasse, which kind of make me... ahem... absolutely hate them as a brand. Porsche, on the other hand, only blew it a couple of times... ahem... in history. The first time they did it was in the 1970s, when the blasphemous 914 range came out.

That things looked like a friggin' matchbox on wheels. It didn't matter that it was probably the best handling car... ahem... in those days, but it sure looked like some five year old had penned it with only but a ruler and a crooked pencil. The 914 did have an upside though, it taught Porsche that they can make cars with a much better configuration than the Beetle-looking... ahem... 911.

I mean, everybody knows that the rear of a car is probably the worst place to put the... ahem... engine, while the center is best. Which brings me to the Cayman S I drove. To put it simply, I absolutely adored it! I know I don't say this many... times... actually I probably never said it since I began helping you guys with the... ahem... test drives.

Truth is, the world needs cars like this one. It's far from being comfortable, albeit it's very cozy in... ahem... there, but it's surprisingly practical and it goes like stink. I wouldn't buy one as a daily driver, but I would surely buy one for my personalized backyard... ahem... FIA circuit, so I can work on my newly acquired skills in drifting. Plus, it even has on onboard lap timer so I can clock my... ahem... unbeatable times.

Lou Cheeka's Opinion

Darn! And I though that the Cayenne Diesel was the best car Porsche currently makes. Apparently I was wrong, they can still hold their own when it comes to gasoline-powered cars also. Or so it is apparent after driving this little red Cayman S.

First thing when seeing it I said to myself: "Hot damn, check out the sexy back on that one! Ya know I'm not talkin' hooey!". Then I proceeded to knock the rear hood, hoping to find out how much horses this baby has underneath that nice red booty. Well, for the first time in my life, the knocking brought no information. Not a single thing!

You can imagine the fact that I was furiously angry about it, this had never happened to me! Whenever I would knock on the hood of a car I would instantly know what type of engine it has, how much power it delivers and all kinds of technical stuff. This time I received no feedback whatsoever!

The plot thickened after I opened both hoods and realized that the engine was never to be seen! With a candid camera face I was then instructed about the fact that the Porsche Cayman has the engine positioned right in the middle of the car, behind the seats. I gotta admit, it had me fooled for a minute or so, and that only happens to me when I drink too much moonshine from my colored neighbor Jethro.

All in all, this is a pretty well-made car, it goes fairly fast and it looks like a million. The only problem that I can find with it is that fact that I have no roads to drive it on here in the wilderness. In conclusion, the only Porsche I would buy if I won the lottery would probably be the Cayenne, at least with that I wouldn't have to worry about scraping the undercarriage at every bump on the road.

Mary's Opinion

Fabulous! The Porsche Cayman is simply fabulous! All my so-called girlfriends were purple with envy when I parked the little red lobster-looking sports car at the mall. Doesn't it look like the perfect car for a successful business woman?

Not that I would be one. Business woman, that is. The fact of the matter is that I'm an independent woman though, and nothing goes better with my attitude than a red sports car, doesn't it? Plus, have you noticed that everything about it is thought out for a couple?

It has two seats, one for a guy and one for a girl, right? Right. It has two luggage compartments, a bigger one in the front for the girl and a smaller one in the rear for the guy, right? Right. It has two (OK, three, actually) driving modes, depending on the driver's or passenger's mood. Practically everything is made for two different personalities, and I'm also a Gemini, so I dug that very much.

Leather interior, automatic gearbox, two door, two seats, two trunks, one hell of an engine and looks that kill, what more could I ask from my favorite car from now on? OK, the suspension settings could be a little friendlier on my tooshie whenever driving over speed-bumps, but other than that I think I found the perfect car for me.

The only thing left to be known is how am I going to get the necessary cash for something likes this. Yes, I do have a lot of sponsoring boyfriends, but none of them is that generous. Hmm... maybe I should probably tighten my belt a little bit next year. What am I saying? I would never do that just for a car! Would I...?

Charles Darveight's opinion

I promise I will not test another Porsche ever again from now on! OK, I can hardly wait to drive the Panamera, but after that I swear I will never test another one.

They're annoying. It's very difficult to write about a Porsche without becoming ridiculous, without appearing like a fan-boy bragging about his favorite car's attributes. I absolutely hate them from this point of view.

Porsche is simply making cars that are too damn good, annoyingly good. OK? I have nothing negative to say about the Cayman, I can only praise its quality and extreme engineering. There are probably people who don't like this car. Well, don't buy it then.

You can always buy a 911 Carrera (and its numerous versions), a Cayenne or even a Panamera Turbo if you really want other people to acknowledge your status...

In the end I can only say this: TOLD YAAAAAA!

PS: the problem when stringing a bunch of pearls on a handmade neckless is finding the perfect lock.

Something that won't take away from the value of perfectly arranged, one by one, pearls on an invisible thread. If you can't appreciate a Porsche, maybe you haven't found the perfect lock yet...

PORSCHE Cayman S road test, review, test drive - autoevolution

882 Posts
After reading all that neat stuff, I just wanted to take mine out for a spin. Wonderful car after so many months and 25K miles. Still wonderful. Ed

Enjoying the drive.
1,265 Posts
That is a thing of beauty!!
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