Reviews

2012 Porsche Cayman Walk Around

The Cayman looks the road-going equivalent of a race car, which should be no surprise given Porsche's success on the world's racetracks. The overall impression is a shape designed to most efficiently cover the working parts and two people.

The hood, front fenders and doors are similar to those on the Boxster, but the remaining bodywork is different. Some refer to the Cayman as a Boxster hardtop but this in inaccurate on many counts, both cosmetic and mechanical, and therefore unfair to either car. They have different missions and appeal, illustrated perhaps best by Porsche offering a fixed hardtop for the Boxster.

A Cayman somewhat resembles the animal it shares a name with (a crocodilian reptile), especially in the tail that slopes down below the hips formed by the rear fenders. From the head of the windshield the top surface nearly duplicates a droplet, the low-drag aerodynamic shape found in everything from blimps to dry-lake speed cars. You could run a straightedge from the top of the rear window to the rear spoiler and barely fit a thumb under it, the sides protected with ridges to direct airflow and stiffen the hatch frame.

Aerodynamically, the Cayman is a slippery car. The least aerodynamic model, the Cayman S with PDK, has a coefficient of drag of 0.30 and less than two square meters of frontal area. A rear spoiler ahead of the back bumper breaks airflow to keep the car on the ground, and at 75 mph the spoiler rises for increased stability in high-speed turns.

Horizontal rows of LED tail lamps reminiscent of the Carrera GT frame the rear end. The exhaust is centrally located, with one outlet for the Cayman and two for the S, and nestles between small-scale diffuser panels.

At the front, the headlight clusters are reminiscent of the Carrera GT and the classic 550 of five decades earlier. A horizontal LED light tube serves parking light duty, the signal is in the light cluster, and rounded fog lights are in the outer grilles. The wider center grille bottom sweeps up to define the inner edges of those outer grilles, with a spoiler lip on each side.

In profile, the Cayman is enhanced by fenders and roofline gently merging together, this particular aspect vaguely familiar to Maserati and Aston Martin owners. The line defined by the door bottom sweeps upward aft of the door, becoming the rear edge of the vertically slatted engine compartment air intakes, and almost mirroring the line along the side window that sweeps the quarter window to the roofline.

An optional rear wiper parks vertically on the left side where it least disturbs the driver's rear view and adds the least wind noise. Aerodynamics will clear most water at speeds above 40 mph but the wiper is handy for reversing and urban driving.

Interior

Physics and the ergonomics of car control define the Cayman interior, the basic design unchanged in racing Porsches save removal of the various amenities, carpeting and air conditioning, and addition of a roll cage and seat harnesses.

The Cayman cabin is appropriately finished, neither as austere as some sports cars nor as overtly luxurious as expensive GT cars, yet you can push to either extreme as wishes and option budget allow. Trim can be ordered in wood, aluminum, carbon fiber, suede or painted. Multiple sizes, styles, and materials characterize steering wheel choices, with or without redundant controls, and there is even a pair of concealed cupholders, on the passenger's side. This is not the best car for sipping a cappuccino on the way to work. The Porsche 911 is better for that, the Panamera is even better, but we recommend enjoying your cappuccino at Starbuck's before climbing back into your Porsche.

The standard seats appear simple and restrained compared to the skeletons or over-embroidered armchairs on some sports cars yet they do an excellent job holding you in place while allowing free movement of feet, arms, and head. Manual adjustment for fore-and-aft position and cushion height, with electric recline, are standard and longer-legged drivers might appreciate the extra adjustments offered by the power seat option.

Even with manually adjusted seats we had a pair of 6-foot, 4-inch individuals inside without scuffing heads, knees and elbows. There is plenty of space for feet to move around despite the compact dimensions.

The steering wheel has manual adjustment for the tilt/telescope function and the handbrake is an easy grasp on the left side of the console. The gas pedal is floor-hinged for easier heel-and-toe shifting, and there's a good dead pedal for your clutch foot. The shifter is right where you want it to be and slips into the gear desired every time, a hefty detent preventing getting reverse when you downshift into first for a tight corner. On PDK cars the floor shift works conventionally and the upper-spoke steering wheel shifters both downshift (pull toward you) and upshift (push away).

The driver faces a three-pod instrument panel dominated by an 8000-rpm tachometer with inset message and digital speed display. A compact speedometer is on the left, coolant and fuel level to the right, with the bottom segment of each relegated to information displays. On PDK cars the gear display is in the right dial. You may order painted instrument dials to match or counterpoint exterior paint, including the Sport Chrono stopwatch if you order it.

Any control you might use frequently while driving is on a steering-column stalk. The headlight switch is on the left, next to the ignition switch, and all others are in the center panel ahead of the shifter. These are grouped with suspension and transmission controls (on cars so optioned) along the bottom. Climate controls are located above and are easy to figure, and audio and navigation controls are above those.

All those systems are fairly easy to decipher and effective in operation. Unlike our experience in other Porsches, including a Boxster with a near-identical interior, the iPod plugged into the Cayman was electronically disconnected each time the key was switched off and we had to physically unplug and reconnect it to be recognized.

Outward visibility is quite good, the blind spot to the right rear the sticking point. It isn't large enough to hide a car in a lane adjacent but it obscures cars coming onto the freeway in the blind spot. Fortunately, the Cayman's small size allows you to move around enough to see a little better and still remain in one lane.

The standard radio antenna is embedded around the periphery of the windshield glass and makes for a sleeker exterior. It never bothered us, but a mast antenna is available.

Cabin storage is relatively good. The glovebox handles routine paperwork and manuals, door pockets beneath the armrests handle wallets, smokes, remotes, sunglasses, and so on; the passenger has a supplementary tray adjacent to the seat. Smaller items will fit in the bin ahead of the shifter, with coins and MP3 players under the center armrest where the optional connection points are located. Seatbacks have coat hooks, there is space behind them if you don't have the seats all the way back, and immediately behind the occupants are two deep wells, and a net and bar where you could place a laptop bag without worry about it hitting you in the back of the head in a hard stop.

Despite the race car shape there are two trunks in the Cayman, a deep squarish well up front and a wider, shallower bin at the back, both accessed by key buttons or controls next to the driver's seat. Like the cabin, these storage spaces are nicely finished, and the rear trunk gets leftover cabin air so put the ice cream there for the ride home.

There is no spare tire on board but there are provisions to keep you moving. Unless you buy a roof rack there isn't room for a spare.

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