The 2012 Porsche Cayman has deep roots and soaring capabilities. Porsche's midengine architecture can be traced all the way back to the Porsche 550 racecars of the 1950s. Mounting the engine amidships is the ideal location to help balance a sports car's weight, steering feel and handling response -- and ultimately driver confidence. This is one of the reasons many driving enthusiasts actually prefer the midengine Porsche Cayman over the iconic rear-engine Porsche 911 Carrera.
The liftback Cayman coupe shares much of its genetics with the Porsche Boxster convertible, including its mid-mounted, horizontally opposed six-cylinder (flat-6) engine driving the rear wheels. For 2012, there are four models from which to choose. In order of increasing levels of performance these are Base, S, S Black Edition and R. The latter two are new for the 2012 model year. Each offers a thrilling driving experience, but only partly because the engine resides right behind your shoulders.
The 2012 Porsche Cayman S Black Edition is more than just a monochromatic treatment of the Cayman S, although that is what is most striking about it. The Black Edition is limited to just 500 units and combines a host of optional equipment that would otherwise prove more expensive in a comparably equipped Cayman S.
The 2012 Cayman R model, on the other hand, strips the already svelte Cayman S of 121 pounds of weight in an effort to sharpen handling and quicken acceleration. Essentially a fixed-roof version of the Boxster Spyder, the Cayman R doesn't come with notable features like air-conditioning (you can still add it and its 26 extra pounds if you see fit) to demonstrate the case for addition by subtraction. This lighter, meaner Cayman is engineered and designed to meet performance targets, not comfort goals. As such, the Cayman R might be a step too far unless a lot of track days are in your future.
Indeed, the 2012 Porsche Cayman might be too hard-core (and of questionable value) for many drivers. If that's the case, then the BMW 1 Series M or Chevrolet Corvette Z06 might be better everyday coupes. And if you want a similarly dedicated sports car that offers all-wheel drive, then there's the Audi TT RS. All are fantastic cars, but if you want to own the purest vision of a Porsche sports car, there is no substitute for the 2012 Porsche Cayman.
The 2012 Porsche Cayman is a two-seat coupe available in base, S, S Black Edition and R 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 manual 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. Within popular packages such as Convenience, Infotainment (with or without a Bose audio upgrade), Design and Design Sport, you'll find items such as adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a navigation system, satellite radio, a seven-speaker sound system, larger wheels and tires, and aerodynamic kits.
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.
Many of 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 and R 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 Cayman S Black Edition includes all the features of the Cayman S and adds another 10 horsepower, black exterior paint, black 19-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, a sport steering wheel from the 911 Turbo, black-painted twin exhaust tips, Porsche Communications Management (PCM -- including Bose upgrade and satellite radio), Bluetooth, universal audio interface, and model-specific badging on the headrests and door sills.
The Cayman R is a stripped-down version of the Cayman S. Here you'll find 19-inch wheels, the limited-slip rear differential, a lowered sport-tuned suspension, lightweight sport seats, the sport steering wheel (with or without PDK) and exterior-paint-matching interior trim. It ditches air-conditioning along with a few trim pieces, while the four-speaker sound system is a no-cost option. (The air-conditioning and audio can be added back.) Most of the regular Cayman's options are available on the R (including climate control), but certain luxury items like the ventilated seats and Bose stereo are not available. If those lightweight seats with the nonadjustable backrests are not to your liking, the regular sport seats from the Cayman are available.
The 2012 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 included with PCM and/or the 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, and 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 2012 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.
Both the Cayman S Black Edition and the Cayman R get a version of the S engine cranked up to 330 hp. The Black Edition should hit 60 mph in about 4.8 seconds. In Edmunds testing, the Cayman R (with PDK and Sport Chrono) reached 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. Both return the same fuel economy as the regular Cayman S.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2012 Porsche Cayman handles superbly. It feels 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. The new Cayman R is even more capable thanks to its lowered ride height and retuned suspension. However, the R does ride stiffly, and Porsche doesn't offer the optional adaptive suspension for it.
If you didn't know the 320-hp Cayman S existed, chances are the base Cayman's 2.9-liter engine would never get a negative word. Both motors are capable and impressive, so 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 shift buttons, though, and we prefer the optional shift paddles — they're well worth the extra money.
We've yet to drive the new Cayman Black Edition, but during a recent test of the Cayman R, we observed that it's just a set of sticky tires away from knocking down the 911's door. Ultimately, the reason you'll buy the Cayman R is because you absolutely, positively need to have the ultimate Porsche Cayman, even if it's by only a small amount.
The Cayman comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, side airbags and side curtain airbags.
For the 2012 Porsche Cayman, a higher-performance Cayman R debuts, boasting slightly more power, lighter weight and a revised suspension. A Cayman S Black Edition is also new.