Various road tests of the new Porsche Cayman (981)


Well-Known Member
Nov 28, 2004
Oslo, Norway
Mostly my feet, occasionally a Tesla
The old Cayman received a lot of praise for it's superb handling and balance, and pretty much set the standards for it's class. The new one seems to have faired even better if these reviews are anything to go by. The general sensus seems to be that the 981 has raised the bar significantly higher again for it's class...

First up, Autocar. They were very impressed in their review of the top spec PDK Cayman S:
Porsche Cayman S first drive review

The Porsche Cayman S provides an alluring combination of power, balance, fluidity, quality and price to make it the best value driver?s car on sale right now


Few car makers understand basic ergonomics quite as well as Porsche. The Cayman?s driving position is beyond criticism, supported by additional levels of steering wheel and seat adjustment owing to a stretch in overall cabin length. You?re immediately aware of greater levels of accommodation, particularly shoulder room. Visibility is also quite sound, thanks in part to a more cab-forward design and larger rear three quarter windows.

Porsche has worked hard to provide the new Cayman with a richer and more visually inviting interior than its predecessor. It is all carried over from the Boxster, of course, but that doesn?t distract from it in any way. Broader and more heavily contoured seats add to comfort levels while providing added levels of support. It?s still a two seat layout, although it is now much more practical.


Firstly, it is easily placed on the road. Despite its larger dimensions, it rarely feels any bigger than the old Cayman. The newly adopted electro-mechanical steering is tremendously engaging. It might lack the subtle feedback that characterized the earlier hydraulic system but what it lacks in ultimate communication, it more than makes up for in consistency of weighting, eagerness to self centre and sheer directness. There?s also a new found calmness that makes the new car less demanding when driven hard for long periods.

In line with German regulations, our test car came shod on high performance winter tyres, a set of 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport A/S in the same 235/40 and 265/40 profile as the regular pneus. But even they couldn?t mask the breathtaking delicacy, astonishing agility and sheer composure of the Cayman?s handling, which unquestionably remains the benchmark in the class.

We were fully expecting the new coup? to be a little special in the dynamic department. But it is safe to say that the admittedly highly specified example you see pictured here exceeded all our expectations by a good margin.

On dry roads, grip is never in doubt. Its stance through fast corners is terrifically neutral, helped tremendously by the ability of the body to resist roll. The inclusion of torque vectoring, which uses the stability management to provide individual braking to the rear wheels, helps to extend the dynamic envelope, providing the basis for added poise and improved balance, without detracting from the driving experience in any way. In combination with the locking differential, it also provides tremendous drive out of corners, allowing you to get on the throttle early without fear of some backwards led reprisal.

More accomplished, then, but it is far from clinical. Turning off the various driving aids exposes the inherent balance and ability to hang out the tail, revealing just how entertaining the Cayman will prove on the track.

The really striking aspect, though, is just how undemanding it is at the sort of speeds that would have rivals struggling. The Cayman manages to achieve such lofty standards of handling prowess with a ride that is surprisingly supple and more cosseting than that of its predecessor.


It?s rare that a car moves us as much as the new Cayman S has ? at least on first acquaintance.

With more power, compelling looks, sharper handling, improved comfort, a sumptuous interior and added practicality, it is a clear improvement on its predecessor in every discernible area.

Dare I say, it is the best car Porsche builds right now, and at twenty three thousand less than the 911 Carrera, terrific value.


They were equally impressed with the base spec manual 2,7-litre Cayman:
Porsche Cayman 2.7 first drive review

The base Cayman with a manual transmission is as captivating as the PDK-equipped Cayman S, and usefully cheaper, too

This is the new Porsche Cayman, driven here for the first time in its base 2.7-litre form and, joy of joys, with a manual gearbox instead of the dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission.


No surprises: it?s just as sweet as the S model. Depending on where you drive and how, you might even argue it?s more enjoyable because it?s a touch slower (bear with me). Instead of a 0-62mph time that starts with a four, the 2.7-litre Cayman wants 5.7sec to hit 62mph from rest in manual form, which is still plenty quick but means that, for the same throttle inputs, you?d spend more time to enjoying what the Cayman offers ? a brilliant noise and a slick gearshift ? before you hit the legal or safe limit and have to back off.

The power delivery is similar in both cars. Their power peaks both come in at 7400rpm (both rev to a touch under 8000rpm) and their torques peak from 4500, with the 2.7's 214lb ft hanging around around until 6500rpm. And the noise is equally fantastic. Some said that the first-generation Cayman was a little short on drama and emotion, but that's not a charge you?d level at this car.

Then, of course, there?s the handling. The Cayman is the sports car refined, honed and perfected until it?s so complete, so capable, that you almost feel sorry for any carmaker who takes the trouble to compete with it. It rides well, it steers sweetly (I'll come back to that), it controls its body movements over crests and dips sublimely and its handling is first rate: a touch of understeer at first, a touch of oversteer later, all to the degree you want it, with outstanding levels of controllability and adjustability for a mid-engined car. You?d have to try it back to back on a mix of circuits and roads before deciding whether this or a Lotus Evora was the better handler. It?s that good.

I said I'd come back to the steering: you could argue that it's a little short on feel; it?s an electric rather than hydraulic set-up, so perhaps that?s inevitable, and it?s slick, accurate, precise and has a really lovely weighting to it. Truth be told, I mention it only because of some obligation to pick a hole somewhere in this car. Um, what else? It could have more storage on the centre console. The cupholders don?t hold bottles very well. And, er, well, um ...

The case for the Cayman is every bit as compelling as it is for the Cayman S. No, it?s not as fast but that might not be a deal breaker, while it uses a bit less fuel, emits fewer CO2s and is a respectable amount cheaper.


Those who say that the Cayman is a Porsche for those who can?t afford a 911 have always been wrong. But they?ve never been more wrong than now.

In EVO, the new Cayman S got a 5/5-star rating and lots of praise:
The second-generation Porsche Cayman could be good enough to dethrone the 911. We drive the 321bhp Cayman S


It?s extremely comfortable and easy to drive, with great visibility, short overhangs and a compact footprint. If you?re much over 6ft tall you?ll also be pleased to hear the new generation platform?s 60mm increase in wheelbase creates a more spacious interior than the outgoing model.

As we wind our way up into the hills the true brilliance of this car starts to shine. Both front and rear track are wider (40mm and 12mm respectively) but the overall width remains the same. Together with the longer wheelbase it ensures the Cayman feels planted to the road, thanks to brilliant lateral and longitudinal stability and an agility enhancing 46:54 weight distribution front-to-rear. Like the Boxster it has electric power-assisted steering. Both cars have a more natural feel than the 991, but I?d venture the Cayman is the best of the three. On dry roads you know exactly where you are in terms of available grip, and that confidence remains even when the road is slick with rain.

You can carry extraordinary speed across the ground, slicing through transient curves without fear of any short-tempered mid-engined twitchiness. When fully committed to a fast corner outright grip is huge, but what?s really special is that through medium and slow speed corners there?s still plenty of grip and stability to lean on, yet you can slide the car if you wish, using the Porsche Torque Vectoring and mechanical limited-slip differential to enjoyable effect. Rare is the car that has such poise and natural balance, yet allows you to adjust its attitude so readily and accessibly.

The engine and six-speed manual gearbox are sensational, the former revving its heart out while the latter?s half a dozen perfectly spaced ratios always feel ideally matched to the power and broad torque delivery of the 3.4-litre flat-six. It might be unfashionable to say so, but I?d willingly sacrifice a few tenths of a second of 0-60mph performance (5.0sec plays 4.7 for the PDK, Sport Chrono-equipped car) to have this greater sense of satisfaction. Ultimately, and perhaps for the first time in a Porsche, the choice is now made purely on personal choice, not because one is markedly better than the other. Long may that choice continue to be available.


That this Cayman feels good enough to challenge Porsche?s more expensive 911 tells you how sensational it is.




CAR Magazine was also very pleased with the 981 Cayman S:
First off, it's fast: quicker than a Cayman R and even a manual 991 Carrera to 62mph. Get brutal with the power and you'll easily overcome the chassis's benign balance and provoke big slides from the tail.

The Cayman feels nimble, and though its natural reaction to ham-fistedness is a dollop of understeer, being precise with your throttle inputs yields real balance and delicacy. However, although the mid-engined chassis handles beautifully, the electric power steering feels more mute than the the outgoing hydraulic rack's, and it can make slight, self-correcting inputs on bumpy roads that are an unwelcome intervention.

The six-speed ?box has a crisp manual gearchange action, though the more economical and whip-crack fast PDK box is well worth the extra ?1922. Standard steel brakes offer peerless strength and feel: would you ever long for ?4977 of carbon-ceramic stoppers? We think not.


Fast, well-built, sporty and safe, the new Porsche Cayman is a soulful and emotional drive. The brakes, transmission, handling and cabin are all top-of-the-class material, and though it's spec-sensitive, the new Cayman is basically a brilliant car.

Top Gear Magazine was also impressed by the Cayman S:
First Drive: the new Porsche Cayman

"The new Cayman has moved the game on in every area..." Ollie Marriage reports


It's terrific. Exceptional. I've spent the afternoon driving both the 3.4-litre S (pictured) and the regular 2.7 and both handle and drive with such control and dexterity. The ride on huge 20-inch wheels is close to sublime and the damping, well, both cars were equipped with Porsche's optional PASM system and felt wonderfully fluent. Peel into a fast corner and it's rock solid, play with the throttle mid-corner and you can feel the car moving the balance around. With a couple of exceptions (more on which anon), the new Cayman has moved the game on in every area. In a way this comes as a surprise.


It's chiefly the steering. In any other car I wouldn't bother to mention it, but because the Cayman is so exceptional in other areas, the new electro-hydraulic steering sticks in the craw slightly. It's perfectly weighted, beautifully accurate, but there's this bit in the press pack where it says, ?negative or unnecessary noise is filtered out' and I have a feeling that some of what's been filtered out would have been better left in. It's the same with the new 911: the steering is consistent and you know exactly where you are with it, but the electro-mechanical set-up lacks the last little bit of tingle and fizz that a hydraulic power steering system offers. The old Cayman's wheel used to jiggle and writhe a bit on bumpy roads, let you know about the surface, the camber and everything. This one doesn't do that as effectively. You feel it through the chassis as much as you do the steering. It's a small point, but one worth making.

So, what's the final verdict?

9/10. Call it 9.5 in manual S guise. Want one badly.

Finally, Chris Harris of PistonHeads really liked the Cayman S too:

Chris Harris reports back from the Cayman launch and, yes, it is rather good


The new Cayman's bodyshell is almost exactly twice as rigid as the new Boxster's - something to digest before committing pinkies to keyboard to ask "why wouldn't you just have a Boxster?"

Either Cayman will prove beguiling to driveIf cars are defined by their raw ingredients, then the Cayman hamburger begins life as a slab of perfectly aged, extravagantly marbled Aberdeen Angus, whereas the Boxster pattie, although definitely not containing traces of Dobbin, is more your processed mince. It has to be. It is missing a crucial stressed body panel called a 'roof'.


Building a better mid-engined sports car than the last Cayman isn't an easy task. From the moment it arrived back in 2004 it was the undisputed leader of the class. And also the subject of raw admiration from automotive engineers not working at Porsche. Over the years several admitted to me that they wouldn't want to try and better the Cayman because it would be horribly difficult.

The single caveat concerns the styling - the last one was distinctive and not unattractive but wasn't something people went wobbly over. But this new 981 version has to be the best looking Porsche since the Carrera GT. Reducing the rake of the rear screen and pulling its base further back to towards that Boxster-styled bottom has done wonders. It also makes for a bigger boot, which is handy


So the steering has very little feel. It vaguely loads and unloads in your palms while the weighting feels far better than in those early 991s. In the last Cayman you had huge trust in that information source clasped between your palms (stop sniggering) but you no longer do so. At first this is a let down. 10 miles later I forgot about it, and never gave it a second thought. A thinner wheel rim would help but apparently marketing types favour girth.

This is the Cayman's supreme confidence trick. It slices through direction changes and follows the course you set it so obediently, and with such charisma from that motor, you just forget the steering lacks something. Partly this is down to the way it behaves in the entry phase to almost every turn: it's just so precise and accurate. Within minutes you're using every inch of the road because you can place the car exactly where you want it. It immediately settles mid-corner with vast grip and then pings out the other side with zero fuss. And yet despite being so damned grippy it's always fun.


But it's the cohesion of the Cayman's many talents that leaves you slightly befuddled - I've tried to define why it is that I now want one so badly and I keep arriving at the same disappointingly shallow answer: the new look takes an improved set of dynamics to a different level of desirability.

It will also feature in a DRIVE video some time next week:

EDIT: The review is up... :)

Though not reviews, here are a couple of driving scene videos with the 981 Cayman S, first on country roads:

On Portimao:

Edit 2: EVO video added...

It's safe to say this is shaping up to be a fantastic sports car... :)
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