Our office seems split on this car – either it’s God’s gift to track junkies, or it’s far too hardcore to use as a daily driver. Allow me to add a touch of grey to this spectrum of thought, since I’m somewhere between those two camps.
Yes, it’s firm, but it’s also well dampened. I encountered some back roads that prompted me to grimace and brace for the worst, but the R didn’t crash over imperfect surfaces.
Yes, those sports seats are comfortable and stick to occupants like glue, but entry and egress – particularly for a chunky individual like myself – proves quite complicated.
Yes, I could theoretically live without standard air conditioning, but when trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the midst of a humid summer downpour, it’s hard not to break a sweat and wish for A/C.
Would I take one over the more comfortable, slightly less powerful Cayman S? Probably not, but I’m happy to see Porsche flesh out the Cayman portfolio. Some purists insist the Cayman (and its Boxster sibling) is merely a stepping stone into the company, allowing buyers the chance to mature into the venerable 911, but the Cayman’s styling, agility, tactility, and benevolence (particularly when pushed a little too hard) make it an equally enticing proposition. Kudos to those in Stuttgart for offering a slightly different flavor of an old favorite instead of insisting buyers order a completely different dish.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
I drove the Porsche Cayman R directly on the heels of a week in the Nissan Leaf. It’s hard to imagine two cars that are more polar opposites. Whereas the Leaf wants to be driven gently, to prolong the battery’s range, the Cayman R just begs for you to drive aggressively. From the extra-firm, racing-style seats to the lack of air-conditioning to the canvas-strip door pulls, you can see the weight-savings measures that signal that this is really a car for the track. I wouldn’t want to drive the Cayman R every day, as the seats can be moved only fore and aft, with no backrest adjustment, and I found the ride to be too firm on the rough pavement of my daily commute. Still, it was a welcome change from the Leaf, and a car I’d be happy to get in again. Just not on an everyday basis.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
In a recent column, Ezra Dyer posits that the things that make a car great on a track — and cause it to earn hosannas from car-magazine writers — are the very things that make it terrible for the drudgery of commuting. There’s some truth there, and the Porsche Cayman R is exhibit A. While a regular Cayman, or Cayman S, is a perfectly fine sports car with which to enliven the daily grind, this ultra-hard-core track special is particularly tough to live with outside of its closed-course natural habitat.
The biggest issue is the seats. These rigid, deep-pocketed buckets appear to be straight out of a racing car, so much so that I was expecting them to have a five-point harness. Not only are they incredibly confining and extremely hard to extricate yourself from, they adjust fore-and-aft only (manually), so don’t expect to custom-tailor your position behind the wheel.
If you’re OK with the driving position, the next major issue might be the lack of air-conditioning. I’d even say that the optional PDK gearbox is another feature best enjoyed on a track, because like some other dual-clutch transmissions, it can be fairly jerky in the stop-and-go.
Amazingly, however, even with nineteen-inch wheels and ultra-wide 35-series tires, the ride is not too punishing nor is the steering subject to tramlining.
Nonetheless, the R here stands for Racing, and Porsche is not kidding. For street driving, I’d take a Cayman S and happily pocket the $4000 savings — or better yet, add another $4000 to the $75,900 (as equipped) for this Cayman R and get a 911.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
It’s funny how personal seat comfort can be. I immediately felt right at home in these fixed-back bucket seats and wished I could have them in every Porsche I drove. Perhaps my endurance-racing experience prepared me for these seats, but I had no problem driving the Cayman 170 miles to Grattan Raceway and then turning as many laps as time and weather allowed. I never experienced any discomfort, but I do sit pretty close to the wheel and usually keep my seatback fairly upright.
Driving Grattan for the first time in the rain was a thrill. Porsche earns high marks for dialing in traction and stability control systems that keep the car on the track without killing all forward progress and fun once slip is detected. I wouldn’t say doing a track day in the rain is impossible without the various electronic aides, but when they are so unobtrusive, it would be foolish to turn them off. It’s amazing how allowing drivers a little slip actually increases the safety factor since it means they’re more likely to keep the safety systems on.
Maybe I’m crazy for not wanting a 911 over a Cayman, but the mid-engine Porsches just feel smaller, lighter, and more nimble. Even a base Boxster provides more grip and power than anyone can use on a public road, and the only reason a Cayman R turns slower laps than a 911 is because Porsche essentially neuters it from the factory to keep the 911 on top. Getting a stripped-down Cayman R on a track just feels right in a getting-back-to-basics kind of way. You don’t need 500+ hp and forced induction to have fun.
If I were looking to regularly track a Cayman, I’d want some upgraded brakes. During our day at Grattan, the Cayman’s brakes turned mushy much faster than the Lotus Evora’s, but they still provided reasonable stopping power. Porsche’s carbon-ceramic brakes are a bit pricey at $8150, so I’d probably look into aftermarket pads and rotors that are more track-oriented and use the savings for more track time. With a car this easy to drive on the track, it’s a shame to drive it exclusively on the street.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Only the hard-core need apply for the Porsche Cayman R. It dispenses with many of the creature comforts that make the regular Cayman such a fantastic grand tourer in addition to a wonderful sports car. To me, the perfect Cayman would include many of the R’s features, most notably its more powerful engine, but I would do without the R’s superstiff suspension and unpadded door armrests. I’d probably also ditch the fixed-rake racing seats, although I was quite comfortable in them during my 45-mile commute. Otherwise, I love the R: its fierce styling, its somehow-even-better-than-the-regular-Cayman exhaust note, the ultra-basic radio, its loop-pull inner door handles (although how much weight can those really save?).
I haven’t had a chance to drive the very similar Boxster Spyder, but the Cayman R strikes me as the more reasonable choice between the two, simply because the Spyder’s roof is a lot more complicated to operate than that of the regular Boxster. I was disappointed to see the PDK automatic transmission when I got into the car, but it really is a phenomenal gearbox. During one hard kickdown to pass slower traffic, however, the powertrain’s supreme urge caused the radio to stop working. I had to cycle it off and back on before the tunes returned. It must have taken that long for the radio waves to catch up to the speeding Cayman…
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Base price (with destination): $67,250
Price as tested: $75,900
3.4-liter flat 6-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Porsche stability management
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Engine drag torque differential
Automatic brake differential
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Porsche PDK transmission — $3660
Sport exhaust system — $2810
Sport chrono package — $1480
Sound package plus — $700
Key options not on vehicle:
Leather interior — $3655
Bi-Xenon headlights — $1560
20 / 29 / 23 mpg
3.4L horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder
Horsepower: 330 hp @ 7400 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
Curb weight: 2910 lb
Wheels/tires: 19 x 8.5 front; 19 x 10 rear alloy wheels
235/35R19 front; 265/35R19 rear performance tires
Competitors: Lotus Evora S
What’s new? The R version