2014 Porsche Cayman S has the chassis of dreams
James Tate didn't like the base Boxster, but now that he's driven an even more expensive Porsche, somehow he sees 'value for the money' this time around.
Part of the problem was the price, and this car’s even more expensive – a lot more expensive, at $88,625 as tested. You can build a pretty convincing package for around $70,000, though, and the car starts at just under $65,000. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find one on a dealer lot that you can bargain on. The fact that I’m rationalizing it right off the bat should tell you that I dig the Cayman S.
Be that what it is, though -- 89 grand is still a lot of money. And you can find better numbers for that kind of dough, whether they be horsepower, acceleration times, number of seats and so on. Hell, a 911 starts at $84,300. So you really have to want the things that a Cayman brings to the table if you’re going to take the plunge. Luckily, the Cayman offers a very specialized kind of driving enjoyment.
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It’s mid-engined, and at just over 2,900 lbs, it’s a featherweight. And for as much as I thought the base Boxster’s steering felt a bit synthetic, the electric power steering of the Cayman S is well-weighted and precise. (Do I prefer the steering of the previous Cayman? Yes, but the days of hydraulic power steering will soon be behind us altogether, so I suppose I should get over myself and accept this new world of sports cars.)
Despite having some mechanical similarities to the 911, the driving character is very different. In the 911, you turn the wheel for a sharp corner, wait a millisecond for the rear of the car to take a set – almost as if it’s bedding in to the corner, then apply power. (Yes, that’s the case even with the current car – though the engine is farther forward than ever before, it’s still a rear-engined setup, and it feels like it.)
With the Cayman S, you turn the wheel and the entire car moves immediately. There’s no “action, reaction” feeling to speak of. And when the Cayman is changing direction, it’s really changing direction. Think left, and you’re turning left. And this is the case at speeds where you’re sure it couldn’t be the case; the car writes the book on “turn-in.” Indeed, the limits of adhesion are so high in the new Cayman S that you’d need to be really breaking the law to explore them on public streets.
On to the stats: The S adds the 59 lb-ft of torque that I think the base Boxster needed (to make 273 ft-lb), along with an additional 50 horsepower to make 325 in total. My particular car didn’t have Porsche’s louder sport exhaust, but there’s nevertheless a beautiful howl in the high rpm range that will make you want to be there all the time. The flywheel feels nonexistent, allowing the engine to rev quickly, and making it easy to keep the needle in that high rev range. But the engine is still no match for the chassis. To be clear, that’s not because the engine is lacking – it’s because the chassis is just that damn good. And if I had to choose, it’s always better to have more chassis than more engine.
I can’t rave about new Porsche interiors enough: It’s beautiful in here. My Cayman S was painted in Aqua Blue Metallic with a Pebble grey leather interior. It had ventilated leather seats and the same gorgeous sweeping dash/center console you’ll see in any modern Porsche. This car also had the Sport Design steering wheel, which is nothing other than perfect. I’d argue that Porsche has the best wheels in the business at the moment, no matter which one you choose.
As I said before, 89 grand is no small chunk of change. But it’s really hard to not feel special when you’re driving this thing, and the odd color combination adds a certain element of “because I can” that takes the experience up that extra notch. These probably aren’t the colors I’d opt for on my own Cayman, but for the weekend? Yeah, I’ll take it.
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race-team crew member before moving to the editorial side as senior editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.
I want it...drool!
Unlike the author, I would also take the Boxster in a heartbeat.
And I agree with Troy S. I wish there was a version without all of the electronic nanny's. Perhaps make them optional within tech packages.
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