Let's suppose you're a reasonably sane person looking to purchase a sports car. You don't absolutely need to have something that gives you bragging rights for the most power, biggest skid pad g-forces, or top slot at the valet line. Mostly, you just want something that delivers a fantastic driving experience while still being suitable for driving every day. If that's you, the 2016 Porsche Cayman could very well be the best all-around sports car you can buy.
The Cayman's midengine layout gives it an ideal handling balance that its rear-engine 911 stablemate can't match, and it's supported by unparalleled steering feel and braking precision. The Cayman is also an ideal size for a sports car, as its compact dimensions make it feel wonderfully nimble on the road. True, Porsche still reserves its most powerful flat-6 engines for the 911, but it's almost churlish to complain now that the 385-horsepower GT4 model is available. No matter the engine you pick, the Cayman loves to rev and sounds fantastic doing it.
The only question might be how much Cayman you can afford. Even as Porsche's entry-level sports car, it gets pricey even with just a few options added (desirable as they may be). The BMW M235i would be a less expensive way to go, and it has a more practical interior and a stout turbocharged inline-6 under the hood. Alternately, glorious V8 horsepower and outlandish performance can be obtained from the Chevrolet Corvette or new Ford Shelby GT 350. But if refinement and driver involvement are top priorities, the 2016 Porsche Cayman makes a very compelling case, both rationally and emotionally.
The 2016 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 performance tires, an adaptive rear spoiler, a single center-mounted exhaust outlet, auto stop-start to conserve fuel, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, HomeLink, ambient interior lighting, cruise control, air-conditioning, partial power sport seats (power recline, manual fore/aft and height adjustment), Bluetooth, a 4.6-inch driver information display, a 7-inch central touchscreen and a shockingly basic four-speaker sound system with "2-by-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 and dual exhaust outlets.
The Cayman GTS adds slightly more power and torque than the Cayman S, 20-inch wheels, adaptive dampers (Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM), adaptive bi-xenon headlights, tinted headlight and taillight lenses, sportier front and rear fascias, a sport exhaust, synthetic-suede interior trim, a sport steering wheel, aggressively bolstered sport seats and the Sport Chrono package (including a lap timer, dynamic transmission mounts, an edgy Sport Plus driving mode and -- if PDK is specified -- launch control).
The GT4 gets a larger, more capable engine, an exclusive sport suspension (which lowers ride height by 30mm), bigger brakes, a mechanical differential lock with variable torque distribution (Porsche Torque Vectoring, or PTV) and uniquely aerodynamic exterior styling (including a large fixed rear spoiler).
As expected from Porsche, seemingly countless options are on offer, starting with some of the upgrades (including the Sport Chrono package, sport exhaust, PASM and PTV) that come standard on higher trims. Notable technology add-ons include keyless entry and ignition, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, voice controls, 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 an upgraded touchscreen interface with a navigation system, a USB port, smartphone integration via the Aha radio app and one of three upgraded stereos: a nine-speaker system, a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound setup 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 (for the GT4 only) carbon-fiber bucket seats with partial power adjustments. Naturally, there are also endless ways to personalize the interior with distinctive colors and special trim pieces.
Every Cayman is eligible for a very pricey set of ceramic composite brakes, and all but the GT4 can also be outfitted with a speed-sensitive power steering system (Power Steering Plus).
The Cayman's snug interior has always been a defining trait. The sleek, high-mounted center console has become a prominent design feature across Porsche's model range, giving the modestly priced Cayman a bit of extra cachet. Throw in top-grade materials, high-tech displays and some striking color combinations (such as the two-tone Agate Grey and Amber Orange leather upholstery) and you've got a genuinely premium product. We just wish USB connectivity were standard, as its default absence makes this Porsche feel a bit behind the times.
Unsurprisingly, storage space is not a Cayman strong suit. There just aren't many storage nooks or cubbies that can accommodate your stuff, and the cupholders are flimsy. On the bright side, the midengine layout allows for two trunks. The one in front measures 5.3 cubic feet and is handy for a duffel bag, while the rear hatchback trunk offers a less miserly 9.7 cubes.
All 2016 Cayman models employ rear-wheel drive and come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The manual is mandatory on the GT4, but the rest offer the PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual as an option.
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. In Edmunds testing, a base Cayman with the manual transmission accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. That's quite brisk in the general sense, but it's on the slow side for a premium sports car. According to EPA fuel economy estimates, the base Cayman should return 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) with the standard six-speed, while adding PDK yields an exceptional 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 0.1 second slower. Fuel economy remains a strong suit, checking 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 drop precipitously to 20 mpg combined (18/23). Porsche estimates that the GT4 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds.
If an invigorating sports-car experience is what you're after, the 2016 Porsche Cayman was designed with drivers like you in mind. Although enthusiasts will likely prefer the more potent engines in the lineup -- especially the GT4's broad-shouldered 3.8-liter unit -- even the regular Cayman delivers the excitement of a sonorous, high-revving flat-6 engine wailing away right behind your head. It's a thrill ride every time you grab the key. There aren't many cars in the world that will make you look forward to running errands as much as Porsche's two-seat coupe.
We're fond of both the manual and PDK transmissions across the various Cayman models, but we'd skip the optional speed-sensitive power steering, as the standard setup provides more feedback along with superb response and precision. Press a Cayman along a winding road and you'll feel its superb midengine balance around those corners, egging you on where lesser machines would be begging for mercy. This is 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 have ample compliance by sports-car standards.
The 2016 Cayman comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, and eight airbags. The latter include two side airbags and a knee airbag for each passenger.
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.
In Edmunds testing, a base Cayman stopped from 60 mph in an authoritative 103 feet, while an S equipped with the highly heat-resistant ceramic composite brakes required 107 feet (101 feet with standard brakes). Unless track days are going to be a regular part of your ownership experience, the standard brakes on your chosen model should be more than sufficient.
The 2016 Cayman is unchanged.