Like Steve Young backing up Joe Montana for the San Francisco 49ers back in the day, the 2015 Porsche Cayman doesn't give away much to its more powerful and more expensive 911 sibling. Indeed, with its spirited engines, surgically precise steering, powerful brakes and agile nature, the Cayman is hard to fault. Short of giving this car wings, we're not sure how Porsche could do any better.
Traditionally, Porsche has kept its most potent engines for its iconic 911, thereby ensuring the Cayman's second-tier status. But that gap is narrower this year with the introduction of the new Cayman GT4, which boasts a 911 Carrera S-derived 3.8-liter engine good for 385 horsepower. The midrange GTS and S versions aren't exactly slouches either, as they can accelerate to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. And no matter which Cayman you pick, you're still getting an absolutely fantastic sports car. The level of driver engagement it offers and the accompanying thrilling soundtrack are hard to match at any price.
Speaking of price, one quibble we have is that if one isn't careful when selecting options, it's all too easy to boost the price of your Cayman by 50 percent or more. Other minor gripes include a lackluster base audio system and a lack of interior storage space. Of course, these complaints are balanced against the fact that the Cayman is considerably less expensive than the 911. One could even argue that, with its more compact dimensions, the Cayman is a more appropriate heir to the original 911 than the current 911 itself.
If you're in the market for a new sports car, the 2015 Porsche Cayman merits strong consideration and is really the only midengine coupe in this price range. Go with a more conventional front-engine/rear-drive setup and potential rivals include the 2015 BMW M235i or 2015 BMW M4, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette or the Nissan 370Z. All are very interesting cars, but if you want to own the purest version of a Porsche sports car, there's no substitute for the Cayman.
The 2015 Porsche Cayman is a two-seat coupe available in four trim levels: base, S, GTS and GT4.
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, 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 subpar 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.
The GTS gets electronically controlled dampers (Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM) and the Sport Chrono package as standard. It also 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 standard features are available for the base model at extra cost.
The GT4 essentially gets the same equipment as the S, but with an even larger, more powerful engine, a sport suspension (which lowers ride height by 30mm), bigger brakes, sport exhaust, trim-specific body panels (a front spoiler, a bigger fixed rear spoiler, rear diffuser) and some simulated-suede interior trim.
As is typical with a Porsche, there are a plethora of options available for the 2015 Cayman. Notable technology add-ons include keyless entry and ignition, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, voice-command functionality, adaptive cruise control (available only with the PDK transmission), a Convenience package (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 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, you might also consider the four optional seat designs: 10-way power versions of the base seats, the Sport Seats Plus (SSP) with racy bolstering (our favorites), a 14-way power version of SSP called Adaptive Sport Seats Plus and carbon-fiber bucket seats (available only on the GT4). Naturally, there are also countless ways to personalize the interior with distinctive colors and special trim pieces.
On the performance front, you can select ceramic composite brakes, a mechanical rear differential lock with variable torque distribution (Porsche Torque Vectoring, or PTV), speed-sensitive power steering (Power Steering Plus) and the previously mentioned PASM and Sport Chrono packages.
The Cayman's snug interior has always been a defining trait. The sleek, high-mounted center console is a prominent design feature. Throw in top grade materials, high-tech displays and some striking color combinations (including the optional Amber Orange leather upholstery) and you've got a genuinely premium product. In terms of interior refinement, the Cayman gives up little, if anything, to the much more expensive 911.
Storage 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 hp and 213 pound-feet of torque. 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 quite brisk in the general sense but a bit 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 PDK is 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, while the manual version was just 0.1 second slower. 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. Fuel economy estimates stand at 22 mpg combined (19/26) with the manual and a surprisingly frugal 25 mpg combined (22/31) with PDK.
At the top of the range, the Cayman GT4 is powered by a 3.8-liter flat-6 that's rated at 385 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. It is only available with a six-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy ratings have not yet been released as of this writing, but Porsche estimates that the GT4 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds.
If an invigorating sports car driving experience is what you're after, the 2015 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 GT variants, the regular Cayman still delivers the excitement of a sonorous, high-revving flat-6 engine wailing right behind your head.
Whether you opt for the base, S or GTS trim, we're fond of both the manual and PDK transmissions. But we'd skip the optional speed-sensitive power steering, as the standard setup provides more feedback and of course excellent response and precision. Run a Cayman through a serpentine road and you'll feel its superb midengine balance around those corners, egging you on where lesser machines would be begging for mercy.
Notably, it's an easier car to drive hard than a 911, as its responses are more immediate, predictable and forgiving. 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 2015 Cayman comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control and an array of eight airbags. The latter 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 automatically applying them with maximum force. If that freaks you out, don't worry. You can turn it off.
In Edmunds testing, a base Cayman stopped 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 going to be part of your ownership experience, the standard brakes are more than sufficient.
For 2015 the biggest change to the Porsche Cayman is the high-performance GT4 trim level. The GT4 comes only with a six-speed transmission paired with a bigger, more powerful engine. Other trim levels are essentially unchanged apart from gaining a new rearview camera and parking sensors.