Porsche Cayman: More to this baby than you might imagine
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Although it shares DNA with the 911, the beautifully designed Cayman maintains its own personality
Porsche's little Cayman has always had an interesting appeal - it feels like an earlier 911 to drive, with massive amounts of mechanical grip, and a naturally aspirated flat six that screams like a banshee when treated like a Porsche engine should be.
Sitting atop the same platform as the Boxster convertible - essentially the same car with a different hat, the Cayman comes in two configurations, one the 2.7-litre "normal" model, the other an angrier, more powerful and immensely entertaining S version.
It packs a mighty punch with its 3.4-litre horizontally opposed six, with 239kW and 370Nm to motivate its relatively small frame to a five-second sprint to 100km/h and a top speed (albeit a seemingly unobtainable one) of 283km/h.
Pushing towards its 7400rpm redline, smacking through the PDK semi-auto cogs, it keeps within the sort of powerband that only a free-breathing N/A machine is capable of - even from low revs it quickly tips into the torque sweetspot that arrives at 4500rpm and starts a very gradual taper off from 6000.
But it's the noise from the engine that sits directly behind your ears that makes the S such a delight to drive.
Only a back-seat-driving mother-in-law is capable of this sort of volume, but would be delivering it at a far more irritating frequency.
And the Porsche comes with an off switch.
The Cayman fills an interesting place in the Porsche range - the seemingly endless line-up of 911s still comes with the knowledge that there's a quarter-million worth of metal underneath you and that if you drive it hard, it's going to have to be at a million miles an hour.
Where third gear in a Cayman will get you a solid speeding ticket, a third gear redline in a 911 will get you a place to stay for the night.
It may be a "baby" 911, but the rear end of the Cayman makes for a beautifully designed bum that completes a sweeping line that flicks off the tail, and the front still, unmistakably, says Porsche.
One can only hope that the upcoming Macan - a smaller SUV than its Cayenne stablemate - will follow suit and tart up the bigger machine's design so it's still showing the DNA, but with a big enough point of difference that it maintains its own personality.
The S comes with two gearbox options - the PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) dual-clutch auto, or a traditional manual - and Porsche has just dropped the base price to $146,500. The non-S now starts at $120.900.
Stability management definitely adds to the standard line-up, which includes the usual selection of ABS and traction controls, but the active version (which comes with a 10mm suspension drop - a great look on those hulking great rims) adds a bit more peace of mind when you're dealing with New Zealand's interesting road surfaces.
When it's being pushed on mix-and-match country roads, the PASM-toting S feels surprisingly settled even in the maximum attack sport plus mode which, in a 911, is reserved for fearless nutters or smooth racetracks.
The Cayman's outright balance is what makes it so special - where the 911, when hit with full throttle on the exit to a corner, requires a fairly straight line out, the little one is more forgiving and can be driving safely on the throttle without the fear factor kicking in.
Don't get me wrong, if you're too enthusiastic it will still bite and bite hard - mid-engined cars are stars of the balancing act, but physics is still the most unforgiving law, and having a fit of the softies and lifting off at the wrong time can create the pendulum effect and spin your Porsche like a top.
In terms of outright driving engagement the Cayman S is still one of Stuttgart's real stars, it can be pushed hard, driven quietly and maintains total composure under all but the most extreme circumstances - any accusation of "being girly" is utterly inaccurate and usually comes from the mouths of those that have never even sat in one.