We're going to let you in on a little secret: Porsche's 911 isn't the brand's most dynamically blessed sports car. The price may indicate it is, 0-60 times may signify as much and words like "Turbo" and "GT3 RS" may make it seem obvious. But indications can be deceiving. The 2010 Porsche Cayman would actually be the car that best represents the driving ideal of unparalleled man/machine interaction, the one that boasts a beautifully balanced midengine chassis and the one that not only rewards a skilled driver, but won't so easily punish the overeager. The Cayman could be considered the wise connoisseur's choice.
The Cayman may seem to only be a fixed-roof Boxster, and not only do they look similar, but most of the key components are shared, including engine placement just behind the passenger compartment. Those boxer six-cylinder engines are a bit more powerful in the Cayman, however, plus the car's fixed roof provides a stiffer structure. It all adds up to a more dedicated driver's car: one you'd take out solely for the motoring thrill. The Boxster can certainly thrill, but it can also just as easily serve duty giving you a tan.
For 2010, the Porsche Cayman carries over largely unchanged. That's just fine, since Porsche seemed to address all of our complaints with last year's updates. We desired a better automatic transmission, more power, better-executed interior controls and a place to plug in an iPod. Porsche kindly obliged and added ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel just to anticipate any future nitpicks. Sadly, our requests for houndstooth upholstery and a place to store a pogo stick have yet to be satisfied.
Though given Porsche's willingness for customers to personalize their cars, we probably could have our silly wishes granted. There is a seemingly endless list of options that makes a printout of the U.S. tax code seem like a Delaware tourism pamphlet. Many are functional, like satellite radio and different seat designs, but then there are cosmetic items like leather-lined air vents and yellow-painted instruments. There is a catch, though: These options can add up quickly, and your MSRP may rise fast enough to cause a nose bleed.
Certainly, the Cayman may be too singularly focused for many drivers (not to mention expensive). As such, there are many choices among sports cars in this range likely to tug on your heart strings. Choices like the Boxster, BMW Z4, BMW M3, Chevrolet Corvette and Lotus Exige all cater to different sports car tastes. If you've got the cash, there is also the always classic, always excellent 911. However, if you're most interested in the best-handling, most forgiving and most involving Porsche, you may find the 2010 Porsche Cayman to be an even more excellent, soon-to-be classic.
The 2010 Porsche Cayman is a two-seat coupe available in base and Cayman S trim levels. Standard equipment on the base car includes 17-inch wheels, summer high-performance tires, front and rear foglamps, eight-way adjustable seats (power recline, manual for all others), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, a trip computer, cruise control and a four-speaker sound system with CD player. The Cayman S gets a bigger engine, 18-inch wheels and a nine-speaker sound system.
The Cayman's lengthy options list includes typical items like different wheel sizes and designs, a limited-slip rear differential lock, ceramic composite brakes, adaptive suspension, a rear window wiper, auto-dimming mirrors (packaged with automatic wipers), rear parking sensors, bi-xenon adaptive headlights, PDK shift paddles and a sport exhaust.
Interior options include automatic climate control, fully powered seats, two different sport seat designs, heated seats, ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth, a navigation system, voice controls, an iPod interface, satellite radio, an in-dash or remote six-CD changer, a seven-speaker sound system upgrade for the base Cayman and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system for either model. The Sport Chrono package adds a lap timer, adjustable driver settings and, with PDK, launch control.
Then there are the numerous customization choices that will cover just about any interior surface in leather, Alcantara, aluminum, carbon fiber, wood trim or exterior paint.
The 2010 Porsche Cayman's interior boasts premium materials and proper sports car seating. The oversized center-mounted tachometer conveys the Cayman's high-performance DNA, although the analog speedometer's tiny numbers and huge range make it more decorative than functional -- the trip computer's digital speedo readout is more useful. Some controls are a bit fussy, but the present center control stack is much friendlier than before -- especially the touchscreen navigation system.
Sharing much of its cabin with the Boxster roadster, the Cayman is hardly a spacious environment. Legroom is tighter than in other two-seaters and 2+2 coupes, while the small greenhouse can feel a bit confining. On the upside, the standard seats are remarkably comfortable and supportive -- the optional sport seats really aren't necessary. In regard to trunk space, there are 9 cubic feet available in the rear hatch (located behind the engine and cabin), and a front trunk expands total storage capacity to 14.5 cubic feet. Despite this impressive total, though, both compartments are awkwardly shaped.
The 2010 Porsche Cayman is powered by a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed (a.k.a. flat, or boxer) six-cylinder that produces 265 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The Porsche Cayman S gets a direct-injected 3.4-liter flat-6 good for 320 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Both cars come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while the seven-speed PDK automated manual is optional. The base car accelerates from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds, while the S chops about a half-second off that time.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is quite good for a sports car. A Cayman with the manual will return 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 combined, while the PDK improves that to 20/29/24. The Cayman S with a manual is estimated to achieve 19/26/22, and PDK improves mileage to 20/29/23.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2010 Porsche Cayman handles superbly, managing to feel glued to the road and light on its feet at the same time. Body roll is virtually nonexistent, and the variable-ratio steering is among the best systems on the market. With the optional active suspension, the Cayman rides amazingly well for a sports car.
If you didn't know the 320-hp Cayman S existed, chances are, the base Cayman's 2.9-liter motor would never have a negative word thrown at it. Both are capable and impressive -- it just depends on how demanding you are as a driver and how willing you are to throw down $10,000 for an extra 0.6 second of 0-60 acceleration. The new PDK transmission is a revelation, providing faultless automated-manual shifting performance for those who would rather not row their own gears. We're not fans of the wheel-mounted buttons, though, preferring the paddle shifter designs found in the 911 Turbo and other vehicles.
The Cayman comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, side airbags and side curtain airbags.
The Porsche Cayman gets a new steering wheel design for 2010.