First Drive: 2012 Porsche Cayman R

The Manufacturer

Porsche says the changes drop the Cayman S's 4.8-second 0-60 mph time down to 4.4 seconds (with the dual-clutch PDK transmission and Sport Chrono package.) Manual transmission cars do the deed in 4.7 seconds (down from 4.9 in the Cayman S) and top speed increases by 2 mph to 175 mph, or 174 with the PDK. Unfortunately, Mother Nature prevented us from verifying those claims.

But regardless of road conditions, this Cayman is a pleasure to drive. The clutch-shifter-throttle calibration might be the world's best, and the cabin is comfortable and well built. The steering is, of course, damn near perfect, and the brakes feel like they could stop Charlie Sheen's career freefall.

Our previous experience with the Cayman S in inclement conditions had us a little surprised at the R's performance. Normally extraordinarily forgiving, this Cayman is a bit of a handful at its limits. Understeer disappears by the time you hit 40 mph, and the R's neutral balance made concentration an absolute must in the slippery conditions. On Mallorca's crazy-slick pavement, the Bridgestones' breakaway characteristics were as progressive as a popcorn kernel in a microwave -- and since the Cayman was just as likely to oversteer as understeer, it made for a lot of work (and a couple of, um, moments) on the island's cliff-side roads.

We suspect this hotrod Cayman is far better poised in grippier conditions, but we reserve full judgment until we've had more time behind the wheel. The Cayman R should be hitting dealers right now, with a base price of $67,250 -- more than ten grand less than a base, 345-hp 911 Carrera.

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