Introduced last year, the Porsche Cayman S neatly bridged the gap between the Boxster roadster (from which it was derived) and the 911 series in terms of performance and price. With the stiffness afforded by its solid-topped body, the reflexes provided by a firmer suspension and the thrust offered by its muscular 3.4-liter flat-6, the Cayman S coupe was (and is) an extremely well-rounded sports car.
But as any Porsche enthusiast knows, the "S" typically indicates a higher-performance version of a given model. The question of, "Where's the base version?" has been answered for 2007 with the debut of the regular Cayman. With a smaller, 2.7-liter flat-6 (as opposed to the S model's 3.4-liter engine), the Cayman makes a still-respectable 245 horsepower and 201 pound-feet of torque, which Porsche says is enough punch to hit 60 mph in just under 6 seconds. A top speed of 160 mph isn't too shabby, either. Listing at just under $50,000, the standard Cayman is nearly $10,000 less than the S version and would seem to be more than adequate for most sports car fanciers. Still, another obvious question remains: What does the S give you for the additional cabbage? The biggest (literally) upgrade is the more powerful engine, which brings that 0-60 sprint down to 5.1 seconds and pumps up the top speed to 171 mph. The S also has upgraded wheels, bigger brakes and a six-speed (versus five-speed) manual gearbox.
Regardless of model, the Cayman's core strengths are its compact and nimble midengine platform and high body rigidity. This has allowed Porsche's engineers to hone the car's reflexes to a point where one can argue that this is the company's best-handling car. It feels sharper than a Boxster and is more forgiving at the limit of adhesion than the 911. The Cayman also offers a measure of practicality thanks to its hatchback body style that allows a total of 14.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
If you just look at the numbers, the 2007 Porsche Cayman and Cayman S are no bargains, especially if you start adding some of Porsche's extensive (and expensive) options. There are plenty of sports cars, such as the BMW Z4 coupe, Chevrolet Corvette and Nissan 350Z, that can produce similar or even more impressive test track data for less money. But as it's always been with Porsche, there's a lot more to the 2007 Cayman than brag-worthy numbers. It's about how connected to the road you feel through the communicative steering, how composed and rhythmic the car feels as you unravel a twisty road and how utterly cool the flat-6 sounds as you accelerate hard onto a freeway. For the driving enthusiast, it doesn't get much better than this.
The midengine 2007 Porsche Cayman comes in two trims, the standard Cayman and the higher-performance Cayman S. The Cayman comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a CD player, cruise control, a trip computer and power accessories. The S adds the bigger engine, 18-inch alloys, larger brakes, metallic gauge faces and an upgraded, nine-speaker audio system. There are options galore, including a choice of leather trim that can be ordered Ã la carte on virtually every interior piece of the car, including the dash, sun visors and steering column. Other options include power seating, a choice of wood, carbon or aluminum trim, rear parking assist, heated seats, a navigation system, race-bred ceramic composite brake discs and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). PASM, which drops the car's ride height slightly and adds automatically adjustable dampers, allows the driver to choose between a sporty but comfortable "Normal" mode and a full-on "Sport" suspension setup at the touch of a button on the dash. Another interesting choice is the Sport Chrono package. It makes for even quicker and sharper responses via a remapped electronic throttle and (on automatic cars) transmission. This serious enthusiast-oriented package also switches the PASM to a stiffer setting.
Even the standard seats are well-bolstered and supportive and headroom is especially generous for a sports car. As with other Porsches, the Cayman's handsome cockpit contains a number of initially confusing controls, mainly those of the audio and climate control systems. With familiarity, however, they become fairly easy to use and the gauges are also typically Porsche, meaning large and well-marked. With the hatchback body comes more cargo capacity than the Boxster on which the Cayman is based. There are 9.1 cubic feet under the hatch, which combined with the front trunk, provides a total of 14.5 cubic feet of capacity.
The Cayman has a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed ("flat") six-cylinder engine that makes 245 hp and 201 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with a five-speed manual transmission. Optional are a six-speed manual and five-speed Tiptronic S automatic, with the latter allowing manual-style gearchanges via the gear selector or buttons on the steering wheel. The Cayman S is powered by a 3.4-liter flat-6 that produces 295 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while the Tiptronic S automatic is optional.
Manufacturer 0-60-mph times are 5.8 and 5.1 seconds for manual-transmission versions of the Cayman and Cayman S, respectively, while top speeds stand at 160 and 171 mph, respectively. A Cayman S that we instrument-tested made good on Porsche's claim, accelerating to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat and hitting the quarter-mile mark in 13.2 seconds. It also turned in a highly impressive 60-to-0 braking distance of 106 feet.
Choose the 2007 Porsche Cayman and you're in for a great driving experience. Handling is virtually identical for both versions, with the S version having a bit more punch in terms of acceleration. The variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering provides precise control and quick reflexes, yet the Cayman is also stable at triple-digit speeds. Potential Cayman buyers should seriously consider getting the optional PASM suspension; in Normal mode it still feels sporty, yet absorbs the bumps well enough to make the Cayman a fine daily driver. Switch to the no-compromises Sport mode and the chassis stiffens up considerably, taking body roll out of the equation and allowing one to attack the corners with even greater bravado, provided the road is fairly smooth. Brakes are likewise a confidence booster, as they respond quickly without being grabby and have a firm, solid feel underfoot.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control and torso- and head-protecting side-impact airbags are all standard on the 2007 Porsche Cayman.
For 2007, the Porsche Cayman S is joined by a regular Cayman. It's less expensive, but it comes with a less powerful engine and fewer features.