Porsche Cayman

The Cayman is Porsche's attempt at combining a lightweight, tossable and grin-inducing chassis with serious sports car performance. Even in base form the Cayman is quite fast; but it's the perfectly balanced handling that most buyers ultimately cite as their reason for purchasing one. Put simply, the Cayman handles like a dream, thanks to its lack of weight, its ideal mid-engine setup, and high levels of suspension wizardry from some of the best performance engineers in the business.

There are four trim levels for the Cayman: base; S, GTS and GT4. All are powered by horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engines. In the base Cayman, it's a 2.7L unit making 275 horsepower and 213 pound-feet of torque. The Cayman S and GTS both feature a 3.4L; in the S the engine produces 325 horsepower and 273 pound-feet, while in the GTS it makes 340 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. The GT4 uses an even bigger flat-6 engine, this time displacing 3.8L and making 385 horsepower. Due to the Cayman's light weight, fuel economy is quite good, scoring an EPA estimated highway rating of 30 mpg, with the Cayman S not far behind at 28 mpg. The GTS is only slightly further back at 26 mpg. The Cayman can be equipped with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Standard items include 18-inch wheels, a 7-inch color touch-screen, partial leather seating surfaces, a programmable garage door opener and power-adjustable seats.

Short of engine, wheel and brake size, equipment differences between the Cayman, Cayman S, and GTS are relatively minor. GTS models, for example, include the Sport Chrono package that tweaks engine response, along with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard equipment, but they can be optioned on the other models. Beyond PASM and Sport Chrono, performance options include ceramic brakes, active body mounts, and torque vectoring between the two rear wheels.

Convenience options include a premium Bose sound system with a 6-disc CD changer, nicer seats, a fully leather clad interior, a 2-zone climate control system, Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system and parking assist.

Despite being a fast, small and lightweight sports car, Porsche has put serious consideration into the safety systems on the Cayman. The anti-lock brakes work well, but the system is even more effective when attached to the Cayman's massive 4-piston calipers grabbing cross-drilled rotors. Stability control and traction control are both standard but can be switched off. Two-stage front airbags are aided by side and knee airbags to help minimize injury if an accident should occur.

Editors' First Take

One of my favorite automotive conspiracy theories is that Porsche intentionally holds the Cayman back to protect the sanctity of the 911. It's so silly. And after hitting the track in the new GT4 RS, I have to ask: How could a Cayman get better than this?

The RS is way more than just a hotter GT4, and we actually have the 911 to thank for much of this updo. Porsche incorporated the front end from a 991-generation 911 Carrera 4S into the GT4's body structure, helping to make the RS more rigid, but also allowing it to be fitted with an electronic front-axle lift -- something no other Cayman offers. The RS' hood and front fenders are made from carbon fiber, and the air vents in the wheel wells are great for both aerodynamics and brake cooling, plus they look rad as heck. Ditto the side air ducts that replace the Cayman's rear quarter windows.

Those side ducts feed a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-6 engine, but it's not the same one used in the Cayman GT4. The RS gets the engine from the 992-generation 911 GT3 -- itself a version of the powerplant used in the 911 GT3 Cup race car -- which puts out 493 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. Of course, it's not the numerical specs that really matter here. The linear power delivery screamin' 9,000-rpm redline are what make this engine such a peach. Combine that with side air intakes and the sound the thing makes at full wail is incredible.

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