Fair warning to our future selves: It's going to be a challenge to write the review for the next-generation Porsche Cayman. Why? Because the current generation, which kicks off with the 2014 Porsche Cayman, is a nearly perfect sports car. It's usually easy to see how a car could be improved, even when it's considered the segment's latest and greatest, but this Cayman has us scratching our heads. Short of giving this coupe wings, or perhaps making it amphibious, we're not sure how Porsche could do any better.
However, we certainly wouldn't complain if Porsche gave the 2014 Cayman more power. Given its midengine layout, which makes it inherently better balanced than the rear-engine Porsche 911, the Cayman has the potential to be a superior sports car. But in deference to the 911's illustrious legacy, Porsche steadfastly withholds its top motors from the Cayman lineup. That's not to say the Cayman is exactly lacking; two of the three available versions can sprint to 60 mph in just around 4.5 seconds. Still, we can't help but think how mind-blowingly awesome the Cayman would be with, say, the 911 GT3's motor.
Much as the Cayman is a joy on the road, we still have a few minor gripes. The standard audio system is a joke for a car in this price range and there is a decided lack of interior storage space. Also, if you don't exercise restraint at Porsche's options buffet, it can be all too easy to bloat the price of your Cayman by 50 percent or more. Of course, these complaints are balanced against the reality that the 2014 Porsche Cayman is considerably cheaper than the 911. And with the midengine Porsche's seriously compact dimensions, you could even argue that it's a more legitimate heir to the pint-size classic 911s than the current 911 itself.
If you're shopping for a new sports car, the 2014 Porsche Cayman merits strong consideration. Notably, it's the only midengine coupe in this price range. Potential rivals include the new 2014 BMW M235i, the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the Nissan 370Z and arguably the 911 itself. All are interesting cars, but if you want to own the purest vision of a Porsche sports car, there's no substitute for the 2014 Porsche Cayman.
The 2014 Porsche Cayman is a two-seat coupe available in three trim levels: base, S and GTS.
Standard equipment on the base Cayman includes 18-inch wheels, summer high-performance tires, an automatically extending rear spoiler, cruise control, air-conditioning, auto stop-start to conserve fuel, an electric parking brake, variable-ratio electric power steering, partial power sport seats (power recline, manual fore/aft and height adjustment), Bluetooth, a 4.6-inch driver information display, a center-mounted 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, and a shockingly Spartan four-speaker sound system with "2 x 25 watt" output per Porsche's specifications. At least you get an auxiliary input jack in the glovebox.
The Cayman S adds a bigger engine, bi-xenon headlights, 19-inch wheels, larger front brake discs, red-painted brake calipers, a nine-speaker stereo, an enhanced 7-inch touchscreen, HD radio, satellite radio and iPod/USB connectivity. The Cayman GTS is the same but with slightly more power, 20-inch wheels and upgraded exterior and interior trim.
Optional on the base and S models, the GTS gets electronically controlled dampers (Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM) and the Sport Chrono package as standard. It adds dynamic transmission mounts (said to minimize weight transfer during gearchanges), a lap timer, driver-adjustable chassis settings and, with the PDK transmission, launch control. Most of the S and GTS models' additional equipment is available for the base model as optional extras.
As is standard with Porsche, there is a long list of options available for the 2014 Cayman. Notable technology add-ons include keyless entry/ignition, voice-command functionality, adaptive cruise control (available only on Caymans with the PDK transmission), a convenience package with dual-zone automatic climate control and heated seats, and an "electronic logbook" that automatically records various driving data for subsequent analysis on your computer. The Infotainment package brings a hard-drive-based navigation system, smartphone integration via the Aha radio app and either a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system or a 12-speaker Burmester surround-sound system.
While you're upgrading the cabin, there are no fewer than three optional seat designs to consider: 10-way power versions of the base seats, the minimalist Sport Seats Plus (SSP) with racy bolstering (our favorites), and a 14-way power version of SSP called Adaptive Sport Seats Plus. Naturally, there are also countless ways to personalize the interior with distinctive colors and special trim pieces.
On the performance front, meanwhile, you can select ceramic composite brakes, a mechanical rear differential lock with variable torque distribution (Porsche Torque Vectoring, or PTV), speed-sensitive power steering and the previously mentioned PASM or Sport Chrono package.
The Cayman's snug interior has always been a defining trait, and that continues for 2014. There are many meaningful improvements inside, though, starting with the sleek, high-mounted center console design that first appeared in the Panamera and has since spread across the Porsche lineup. Throw in superior materials, high-tech displays and some striking color combinations (check out the optional Amber Orange leather upholstery), and you've got a genuinely premium product. The Cayman used to feel like a junior Porsche, but with its newly refined cabin, it gives up little, if anything, to the much more expensive 911.
Cargo space is not a Cayman strong suit, however, as inside there just aren't many places to store your stuff, and the cupholders are flimsy. But on the bright side, its midengine layout allows it to have two trunks. The one in front measures 5.3 cubic feet and is handy for a duffel bag, while the rear hatchback/trunk measures a more useful 9.7 cubes.
The base Cayman is powered by a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine (also known as a flat-6 or boxer-6) that produces 275 horsepower and 213 pound-feet of torque. Like every Cayman, the base model employs rear-wheel drive and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. Optional is the PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual.
In Edmunds testing, the base Cayman with a manual transmission accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. That's brisk in the general sense but on the slow side for this segment. For fuel economy the base Cayman gets an EPA estimated 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) with the standard six-speed, while with the PDK it's rated at a remarkable 26 mpg combined (22/32).
The Cayman S steps up to a 3.4-liter flat-6 good for 325 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. In our tests, a Cayman S with PDK needed just 4.5 seconds to hit 60 mph (4.6 seconds with the manual transmission). Fuel economy remains a strong suit, clocking in at 23 mpg combined (20/28) with the manual and 24 mpg combined (21/30) with PDK.
The Cayman GTS gets an upgraded version of the same 3.4-liter flat-6 with 340 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque.
If an invigorating sports car driving experience is what you're after, the 2014 Porsche Cayman is one of the best options at any price. Although enthusiasts will no doubt prefer the more potent engines in the Cayman S and GTS, the regular Cayman still delivers the unique experience of a high-revving flat-6 engine wailing directly right behind your head.
Critics of the optional dual-clutch automated-manual transmission (PDK) say it detracts from driver involvement. We say: "Phooey." It is true that using the paddles isn't quite as tactilely rewarding as rowing a stick shift, but PDK's shifts are quicker and more precise than you could ever achieve. Plus, PDK actually frees up your attention for other demands, such as picking the proper braking point or acing corners like a pro.
One piece of advice we'd give is to skip the optional speed-sensitive power steering, as the standard setup provides more feedback and, of course, excellent response and precision. Run a Cayman on a serpentine road and you'll notice how its superb balance instills a high degree of confidence. Notably, it's an easier car to drive hard than a 911, as its responses are more immediate, predictable and forgiving. It does lack the barrel-chested power of something like a Corvette Stingray, because even the upgraded 3.4-liter motor in the GTS model isn't stupendously powerful. Overall, though, Porsche's midengine coupe is hard to beat for sheer driving pleasure.
Remarkably, the Cayman's supreme handling confidence doesn't translate to a jarring ride in normal operation. We'd be wary of the 20-inch wheels and their itty-bitty sidewalls, but the 19s are compliant enough to make the Cayman a reasonably pleasant road-trip car.
The 2014 Cayman comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control and an array of eight airbags that includes two side airbags and a knee airbag for each passenger.
Note that Caymans equipped with adaptive cruise control (ACC) are also treated to Porsche Active Safe, which uses ACC's radar to monitor collision probabilities up to 650 feet in front of the vehicle. The system can operate even when ACC is inactive, and its emergency responses range from simply priming the brakes to applying them with maximum force. If that freaks you out, don't worry: You can turn it off.
In Edmunds testing, a base Cayman halted from 60 mph in 103 feet, while an S equipped with highly heat-resistant ceramic-composite brakes required 107 feet (101 feet with standard brakes). Unless track days are part of your ownership experience, the standard brakes are more than sufficient.
The Porsche Cayman is fully redesigned for 2014.