Frustrated by the tedium of driving in the city, I tended to leave the sport exhaust on and let the engine rev high. If I couldn't go fast, at least the car would sound fast.
On the freeway the Cayman R was more in its element, cruising easily at speed. But it still wasn't the most comfortable place to be. Along with the increased road noise was an unforgiving suspension, not exactly harsh but eager to communicate the state of the road surface to the cabin.
And the climate controls seem like a cruel joke. Cranking the fan all the way up, I could almost detect a faint stirring from the vents, a slight bit of air pressure vague enough that it could have been a figment of my imagination.
Getting into the cabin in the first place involved a little contortion. The sport seats have such high bolsters that it worked best to run them as far back as they go, so I could get my feet in the foot well and butt into the seat. Repeat the process on exit.
I also like to sit forward for good leg action on the clutch, but in my usual position, my hands hit my thighs when dragging the Cayman R's wheel around. That may be a good way to prevent oversteering, but I ended up notching the seat back a little more to cope with the hairpins on my route.
While driving in city traffic, I might have been wishing the Cayman R were a big, fat luxury roller, but my perceptions changed drastically on tightly curving back roads. As I mentioned above, the car stayed tight in the turns at speeds much greater than most other cars can handle, and the Cayman R wasn't even pushing its limits.
Third gear would have been right for most cars on these roads, but the Cayman R's tachometer kept pushing toward redline, so I put it in fourth, which meant 5,000rpm at 60 or 70 mph. The car felt untroubled taking the turns at these speeds. It was truly exhilarating.
This car came with Porsche's ceramic-composite brake option, a little overkill for public roads. Slight pressure on the brake pedal produced little effect. These brakes are the opposite of grabby. They allow quite a bit of modulation, but I didn't end up relying on them too much, as the car handled so well at speed.
The Cayman R was excellent at conveying load balance through the driver seat, where I could easily feel it shifting weight to the right or left side depending on the turn. Trail braking for extra front-wheel grip, I found the suspension was telepathic about how much the nose was down.
The only time I got it out of shape was through a particularly tight left-right-left sequence. On the last left turn it started to lose grip, going into oversteer, something I noted early it was prone to doing. But a minor bit of wheel work corrected the problem, with a little more throttle to straighten it out.
Driving these types of roads, or, better yet, a track, was definitely what the Cayman R was made for. I exulted in its handling prowess, forgetting its atrocious city manners, and determined to spend as many hours as possible looking for the next good right and left turns.
The 2012 Porsche Cayman R delivered to CNET was not optioned with cabin tech, but most of what Porsche offers is available. Although I would not really want to weigh a car like this down with the full cabin tech suite, an iPod connection would have been nice. For its rating, I give the car credit for having these options available, and have previously tested them in other Porsche models.
The Cayman R really excels in its performance, delivering the best in handling due to a well-engineered suspension and body. However, Porsche did not give it the kind of high-tech suspension that could make it good in the turns but also comfortable in the city. Porsche's engine is technologically top-notch, and you can get the car with either a six-speed manual or the higher-tech Doppelkupplung dual-clutch transmission.
The high bolstered seats mar its ergonomics, and the tight cabin does not help much, either. But as for aesthetic design, the Cayman R is an excellent-looking car.
|Model||2012 Porsche Cayman|
|Power train||Direct-injection 3.4-liter flat 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||19 mpg city/27 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional, with contact list download|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||Optional iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Optional Bluetooth streaming audio, SD card, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Optional Bose 13-speaker 385-watt audio system|
|Driver aids||Optional park distance sensor|
|Price as tested||$81,665|