As with every serious sports car, the Cayman's essence is timing, rhythm, and coordination. After twenty laps, we're still learning the track--adjusting lines, modifying ap-proaches, braking later, and hitting the gas earlier. The Porsche is playing along, initially like a tool, then like an instrument, and eventually like a partner, always ready to complement and cooperate. The tin-roof Boxster makes us feel heroic, and it doesn't stop play until its tires look like those on the back of Fernando Alonso's Renault at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The new Porsche is actually everything the 911 has not been for most of its career: confidence-inspiring, super-stable, totally balanced, quite forgiving, a gifted storyteller that is equally good at listening. Although there is almost no rubber left when rain starts to fall just before sunset, the ceramic brakes are still reassuringly powerful and ready for the next hundred laps. On the road, PCCB may be an expensive luxury, but pedal feel that never varies is a highly comforting commodity on the track. We also discovered that the Cayman sounds great, and the performance feels as if Porsche's claims may be conservative.
The Cayman confirms the theory that the Boxster platform is an all-time masterpiece. The coupe certainly feels more solid than a Boxster, like a jigsaw composed from fewer parts, and it is more balanced than the 911. It is also less of a challenge to drive hard than the rear-engined supercar, so you can see why Porsche chairman Wendelin Wiedeking doesn't want to give it any more power.
What Porsche will do to the Cayman is add a more affordable 250-hp version in 2007. We think Porsche should conceive a stripped Clubsport edition equipped with a high-performance engine, because it's patently obvious that this car could easily cope with an extra 100 hp. After a visit to the power doctor, the mid-engined Porsche would be so good that Ferrari would need a truly stellar Dino--its rumored entry-level model--to strike back.
Porsche is positioning the Cayman S as a sort of premium Boxster, a strategy underscored by the entry price of $59,695. On sale in January, the Cayman S will attempt to defy the generally accepted wisdom that ragtop cars should cost more than their hardtop brethren. Given Porsche's recent history in defying generally accepted wisdom--the success of the Cayenne comes to mind--the Cayman S doesn't seem like much of a risk, especially since it is such a seriously quick all- arounder and track day hero.
Base price: $59,695
Engine: 3.4 L H-6, 295hp, 255 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 5.1 sec (est.)
0-100 mph: 12.0 sec (est.)
1/4-mile: 13.7 sec @ 105 mph (est.)
Top speed: 171 mph