By David Colman
Pros: Ultra sharp handling, Future collectibility
Cons: A/C pricey optional extra
Porsche has been building category killing cars for 62 years. Back in the 50s and early 60s, the 356 topped the sports car world. Since 1964, the 911 has been the sports car of choice for wealthy enthusiasts. But Porsche has always offered less expensive alternatives to the 911 such as the 912 in the 60s, 914 in the 70s, 944 and 968 in the 80s and 90s, Boxster since 1997, and Cayman since 2008. A coupe variant of the mid-engine Boxster, the Cayman came to market in 2 versions: a 3.4 liter base model, which produced 265hp, and the Cayman S, with a 3.8 liter motor good for 320hp. Now Porsche has introduced its latest category killer, the Cayman R, which makes 330hp, and thanks to an intensive weight reduction program, saves 121 lbs, compared to the Cayman S. In addition, Porsche lowered the chassis of the Cayman R by 0.79 inches compared to the ride height of the Cayman S.
These subtle “R” model changes have transformed the Cayman into the most responsive Porsche you can buy today. Its handling is simply telepathic. Point this chassis where you think you want to go, and the Cayman’s already been there. The exceptional road holding is due to the coupe’s enormous tire footprint. Instead of Cayman S alloy rims measuring 8×18” front and 9×18” rear, the Cayman R sports Porsche’s lightest-ever production road wheel measuring 8.5×19” front and 10×19” rear. These effervescent looking rims were first seen on the RS Spyder LeMans racer. Painted a stunning gloss black on our test car (for an extra $1,815), the forged rims plant Bridgestone’s stickiest RE 050A rubber on the road (235/35ZR19 front, 265/35ZR19 rear). The combination of reduced ride height and enhanced tire patch elevate handling of the Cayman R into celestial territory.
Even further performance refinement is available for just $960 if you order option No. 640, the Sport Chrono Package. You not only get a very slick looking 12 hour timer on the top-center of your dash, but also a software upgrade that alters your Cayman’s engine responsiveness. The Sport Chrono Package adds a “Sport” button to the lower dash. Activation of the Sport setting quickens throttle response, raises the RPM limit, and retunes engine dynamics for sportier driving. If you opt for the 7-speed PDK gearbox (a $4,100 option) instead of the delightful 6-speed manual transmission of our test car, the Sport Chrono Package adds launch control to your armada of performance weapons. Launch Control rockets the Cayman from a standing start like a bullet, and performs faster gear shifts than the manual gearbox. A Sport Chrono-enabled PDK Cayman R thus accelerates faster than the manual transmission model (0-60mph in 4.6 seconds vs. 4.7 for the manual). Both 6-speed and PDK share identical top speed of 175mph. The manual gearbox Cayman R, however, weighs 55 pounds less than the PDK version (2,855 lbs. vs. 2,910 lbs.).
The interior of the Cayman R is optimized for the business of driving. Text messagers and phone yakkers please look elsewhere. The carbon fiber shell buckets define retention perfection, with super high side bolsters and open headrest slots to facilitate competition shoulder belt usage. Our test car was fitted with body color silver grey safety belts and door pulls ($340 extra), plus a set of optional Bi-Xenon Dynamic Cornering headlights ($1,560) which provided miraculous illumination when tackling twisty roads at night. The biggest splurge on the option list was the Sport Exhaust System (at $2,810) which was worth every penny of the expenditure. This mood exhaust allows you to tailor the tune of your Cayman with just the push of a dash button. The octave ranges from meek and mild to snarly and gnarly.
A dear friend of mine who sells Lexus cars took one look at the Cayman R and dismissed it as “that bulbous junior Porsche.” I never did manage to take him for a ride to prove how wrong he is. To me it’s very much the Porsche to own. Based on price, performance and looks, it’s another category killer. Caymans R Us.
2012 PORSCHE CAYMAN R
- Engine: 3.4 liter DOHC Flat 6
- Horsepower: 330hp at 7,400rpm
- Torque: 273 lb.-ft. at 4,750rpm
- Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/27 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $76,145
- Rating out of 10 Stars: 10/10