Wednesday, August 5, 2009

2009 Porsche Cayman S

Our loyal readers may know that we already reviewed the Porsche Cayman so they may be asking, why are we reviewing it again? Well, the answer is simple... it is a Porsche Cayman... and to top it off, it is an S versus the non-S we drove earlier. What is even better, our Cayman S came equipped with the Porsche flappy paddle gearbox, known as Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK).

From the outside, the Cayman is slightly face lifted over the previous version that we drove. New headlights and front fascia liven up the appearance some. We are not sure if the new looks make the car look any better, but it definitely looks different than it's predecessor so those that know, will know you are driving the newer hotness. The rear also gets revised tail lamps which are bigger and more bulbous. Again, not sure if it enhances the appearance, but it is definitely different. Otherwise, the exterior is little changed from the previous year. It still looks gorgeous in white and almost could double as a piece of art rather than a car. When looking at it, you pray for good weather as driving it in inclement weather would only make a little bit of you die on the inside.

The Cayman S features a 3.4L direct injection flat six cylinder engine producing 320hp (as opposed to the 2.9-litre engine in the standard Cayman delivering 265 hp). One of the complaints with the previous car was that the while the handling was everything you would expect from a Porsche, the power was not up to par. Well, the Cayman S fixes that in the right way. Where you had to really push the Cayman to get it moving, the Cayman S moves with grace and efficiency. Push the go pedal and you are off. Engine response is snappy and it pulling power is greatly improved. It is not too much power, but it is the added power the car needed. However, with the added power, there is a noise penalty associated with the car. Driving sedately with yield no difference in noise, but bury your foot and you are pleased with a nice engine growl which unfortunately gets taken over by an annoying engine noise after 5000 rpm. Winding through the RPM is a emotional rollercoaster. As you plant your foot, and the RPM swings up, you start to smile more and more as the growl warms the soul, but as the RPMs get near redline your happiness is and hearing are swallowed up by the engine noise which is located right behind you. We suppose that it side effect of having a mid-engine car, if Porsche is listening, some more sound padding back there would not be a bad thing.

Being that this is a Porsche, handling was superb. Think of where you want to go, let you hands deliver those instructions to the steering wheel and the car answers with extreme scalpel like precision. Those with fists made of ham need not apply. This machine requires a person who knows where they want to go, not one that will be flailing around behind the wheel. The suspension is setup to be smooth yet firm. The perfect balance of yin and yang. Being that it is a Porsche, we darned not push the limits of adhesion due to our lack of available facilities to really see what it could do... but we have no doubt it would excel just as a Porsche should. Smooth yet have the ability to tear up tenacious amount of tarmac if required with its available grip.

As one would expect, the Porsche Cayman S came with some impressive anchors on all four corners. Colorful red calipers behind typical Porsche wheels definitely will make your car buddies jealous. We would expect that this car with such nice looking brakes would stop just as quickly as its older cousin. We however where slightly disenchanted to find that braking distance for this car were longer than the previous car. We believe however this was due to worn equipment on the car. Every other Porsche that has been tested have had brakes equivalent to hitting a brick wall on demand. So we will overlook this one's slightly poor performance.

We will skip the interior because... well, it is the same as the previous Cayman. Small, low to the ground and extremely purposeful with leather and carbon fiber adorning nearly every visual eye piece. It's beyond nice, that's all your really need to know.

Now, revisting the Porsche PDK. Some of you may remember we were graced with a 911 equipped with the PDK and while fun, it still had some downsides that we were less than thrilled with. Well, the Porsche engineers read our feedback and they heard and tried to address our concerns best they could. One of the biggest complaints with the previous iteration was that the low speed crawling assistant was far too peppy and far to fast to be considered a low speed assistant. Parking lot maneuvers would often lead you to riding the brake to keep it from rolling too fast. It would creep too fast for comfort. Thanks to some enhanced software, the crawling speed has been greatly reduced and now crawling through parking lots or really slow traffic are accomplished with ease and without having to ride the brakes.

The PDK is also more advanced when it comes to on/off throttle response. The jumpiness attributed to the harsh clutch activation is all gone at all speeds and especially starting from a stop. Transition to throttle is now nearly perfect provided the car has the fraction of a second to be in the right gear. From the outside and from the inside you can give people the impression you are an accomplished drivers without lunging and head bobbing.

Unfortunately however, there are some mistakes with the latest iteration as well. With this version, we noticed that gear changes at full throttle and redline have been slowed down some. So full throttle shifts while smooth leaves some power on the table that can not be extracted. Full throttle redline shifts are effortless, but no chirp of tires can be accomplished. We also noticed that the Cayman S did not come with a launch control feature. So massive acceleration can only be achieved by smashing the gas pedal through the floor board. There is a momentary pause in acceleration though as the RPMs skyrocket and then the clutch engaged... then it is bye bye birdie.

The Cayman S is a great car... it does everything well and we believe it is a great addition to the Porsche lineup. It gives you that perfect roadster feeling with the security of a roof over your head. Price starts at $60,000... but after equipping it with options you can easily surpass $100,000. When you are flipping through that Porsche Exclusive option book... make sure you check those addition boxes sparingly.

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