The 2011 Porsche Cayman is not a poseur's Porsche. It doesn't have the panache or straight-line performance of the 911 or any of its 20-some variants. It doesn't have a convertible roof like the Boxster for those seeking sun as much as fun. Nor is it a Cayenne or Panamera -- cars that, while fun, aren't exactly what we'd call classic Porsches.
All of those other models sell in greater numbers, but ironically it's the Cayman that delivers the purest driving experience. The Cayman's beautifully balanced midengine chassis and telepathic steering not only reward a skilled driver but also keep the Cayman quite forgiving for less experienced drivers. Sure, the eye-popping acceleration numbers of the 911 Turbo will impress your friends more than the Cayman S's 5.0-second 0-60 mph sprint. But its flat-6 is still thrilling, and if going around corners truly gets your blood pumping, then the Cayman has few equals.
Mind you, buying such a dedicated driver's car has its drawbacks. Since it's essentially a fixed-roof Boxster, its cabin is on the cramped side, with limited legroom and a confining greenhouse. It's also quite expensive, given this lack of functionality and the fact that its drop-top sibling is actually cheaper. It gets even pricier once you start sampling from the seemingly endless list of options that makes a printout of the U.S. tax code look like a Delaware tourism pamphlet.
Indeed, the 2011 Porsche Cayman may be too singularly focused (and of questionable value) for many drivers. If that's the case, then the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, 2011 Chevrolet Corvette and the 2011 BMW M3 are probably your best bets. In the same price range, but with a softer edge, is the 2011 Audi S5. And if you want a singularly focused car that's even further outside the norm, then there's the 2011 Lotus Exige. All are fantastic cars. But if you want to own the purest vision of a Porsche sports car, there is no substitute for the 2011 Cayman.
The 2011 Porsche Cayman is a two-seat coupe available in base and S trim levels. Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, summer high-performance tires, cruise control, air-conditioning, six-way adjustable seats (power recline, manual fore/aft and height adjustment), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Cayman S adds a bigger engine, 18-inch wheels and red-painted brake calipers.
Should you wish to double the base price of the Cayman, Porsche will happily oblige you with a seemingly endless options list. The Convenience package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers and automatic climate control. The Infotainment package gets a navigation system, satellite radio and a seven-speaker sound system.
The items in these packages can be added separately along with different wheel sizes and designs, a limited-slip rear differential, adaptive suspension dampers, ceramic-composite brakes (S only) and rear parking sensors. Inside options include fully powered seats, three different sport seat designs, heated seats, ventilated seats, a sport steering wheel with PDK shift paddles, a heated steering wheel, voice controls, satellite radio, a six-CD changer and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system.
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 2011 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 spacious. 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 2011 Porsche Cayman is powered by a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder (flat-6) that produces 265 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Like every Cayman, it is rear-wheel drive and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. Optional is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission known as PDK. According to Porsche, the Cayman should go from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with the manual, while PDK returns a truly impressive 20/29/24.
The Porsche Cayman S gets a direct-injected 3.4-liter flat-6 good for 320 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Porsche estimates it'll go from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. Surprisingly, fuel economy is the same as the regular Cayman with PDK, and only 1 mpg less on the highway with the manual. They should hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and return the same fuel economy as the regular Cayman S.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2011 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.
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 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 standard wheel-mounted buttons, though, preferring the optional paddle shifter design. They're well worth the extra money.
The Cayman comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, side airbags and side curtain airbags.
For 2011, Bluetooth and an iPod interface are now standard equipment for all Caymans. Several new options packages make adding popular items easier and (slightly) cheaper.