The propaganda literature that accompanied the little batch of sleeping pills—complete with a waiver absolving the USAF of all liability—promised that I would awake refreshed and ready to battle desert ninjas. Sure enough, I awoke alert. But mentally, I wasn’t all there. I was fully aware of my full potential and could access it at will, but there was a disconcerting disconnect. No, I didn’t drive the Cayman PDK in this altered state. It’s the same feeling created by the German two-door. Yes, the paddle-shift Cayman is a full-on Porsche. It offers precise handling, a jewel of an engine and magnificent brakes. Yet the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe stood in the way of the Porker’s legendary man – machine interface. It created dynamic doubts that I’ve never experienced in a Porsche before.
Without a side-by-side comparison with its predecessor or a full membership in the Porsche spotter’s club, it’s virtually impossible to tell the refreshed model form the previous gen. For “Gen-2,” small LED running lights stolen from the latest Audi adorn the front lower grills, and a slightly edgier front end mimics the refreshed Boxster, but exudes its own Cayman-esque character. The mid-engined sports car’s killer app remains its pronounced rear fenders, a nod to the classic Porsche fastback look.
Trying to shove my oversized sack of chemical warfare gear through the Cayman’s rear portal, I discovered that the hardtop Boxster’s hatch trumps the deck shelf of a 911. In fact, the Cayman’s rear holds a surprising amount of stuff—provided you have a deep appreciation for the importance of bondage within fast-moving, G-producing vehicles. And you still have the Cayman’s front storage locker for all those clothes that need to be kept warm by the radiators.
The rest of the Cayman’s interior is a perfectly business-like place to do business, although I wouldn’t say it’s the business. The 1/3 scale ICE buttons are now supplanted by a [larger] touch-screen and voice activation, neither of which should replace a volume knob. But there you go. Via DoppelkungerschnitzelKrokettewunderbarthing, or PDK for those that don’t speak Porschellian.
PDK uses two wet-plate clutches, one for the even gears, and one for the odd gears (which outnumber the even in the seven cog system). By switching between the two clutches during shifting, the power remains uninterrupted. To that end, the system also pre-selects (guesses?) the next gear based on what it thinks you are going to do, based on throttle position, steering angle and inputs from Madame Cleo. Porsche’s PDK is PDQ, delivering faster shifts than Ye Olde F-1 style automated single-clutch systems. At the same time, power delivery is smooth enough for autobox-like ambling in real-world traffic.
So, finally, Porsche gets a version of what RF call’s “the world’s best gearbox”: the DSG paddle shift system found in up-optioned VWs and Audi’s. And it’s not as good.
Before the car warmed up to “za proper operating temp-er-a-choor,” the PDK system clunked a bit here and there. Five minutes later, everything synced. Cross-town commuting proved a breeze, even a joy, as the PDK swapped clutches and gears seamlessly. I luxuriated in the Cayman’s controlled cell of calmness. Yet something was amiss.
Perhaps those of you who imbibe in medical marijuana could add more color to this feeling. It felt as if there was a layer of frosted glass in between me and the magic of Porsche. As I sought out the autobahn to open up the crocodile named coupe, I shrugged off this disquieting quietude. Perhaps the car’s animal magnetism would return with a little, shall we say, prompting.
At 250kmh, terminal velocity in a headwind, the novocain remained. MIA: visceral pleasures of the the 911 and/or Boxster’s instant punch, thrust and parry. Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the Cayman PDK’s performance per se. Nichts. Yet the delivery of its adrenalin-producing acceleration lagged a couple 1/10ths of a second behind the experience. Yes, it’s true: Porsche now has its own perception gap. Winding down the switchbacks to my home in Piesport, the temporal disconnect extended slightly, as I negotiated first gear turns and 100kmh straightaway thrusts.
I welcome the PDK. As this website has proclaimed, DSG-style double clutch systems are the future for all automatics. The old Tiptronic walks off in deep shame. Yet I will still pass on this latest gee-whiz gizmo. The fog of war that the PDK creates in autobahn missiles hinders the sheer joy of piloting one of the best sports cars in existence. Should the PDK find its way into the fast, fat, and relaxed sedans of other manufacturers, I’m sure I will be five-starring it all over the pages of TTAC. Yet in a machine so precise and honed as the Cayman, it’s either new software or back to the old hardware. Which, as a clear-headed, passionate pistonhead, suits me just fine.