The Truth About Cars » Cayman S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 04 Aug 2014 17:07:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Cayman S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Cayman S vs. 1998 911 Carrera S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-cayman-s-vs-1998-911-carrera-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-cayman-s-vs-1998-911-carrera-s/#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 19:10:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496771 My friend Rob Z. is the quintessential nice guy: even-tempered, affable, a firm handshake and a decent sense of humour. We meet up on a sunny Saturday morning in East Vancouver and he rolls open his garage door. Well. Clearly I’m going to have to murder him. Me too, but you can’t. Like Jerry Seinfeld […]

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My friend Rob Z. is the quintessential nice guy: even-tempered, affable, a firm handshake and a decent sense of humour. We meet up on a sunny Saturday morning in East Vancouver and he rolls open his garage door.

Well.

Clearly I’m going to have to murder him.

Captain Obvious
Me too, but you can’t. Like Jerry Seinfeld recently said of his ’73 911 2.7RS, Rob’s 1998 911 Carrera S is a “dead-guy car”. The next owner is upstairs eating cheerios and watching cartoons, but as far as anyone buying this last-of-breed, insanely low-mileage air-cooled 911, it’d have to be over Rob’s cold, dead body. WHICH CAN BE ARRANG- sorry, sorry.

(Entirely justifiable) homicide aside, finding and purchasing a car like this is much more difficult than simply popping your head ’round the door of your local Porsche dealership and plonking down the order for the car I’ve parked next to it, a second-generation Cayman S. The lithe two-seater can be leased, if you so desire, and can be painted any colour you’d like – Rob would slightly prefer if his 911 were white, but there’s no used-Porsche factory. Well, apart from Singer.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk recently about how the Cayman (along with the Boxster) is Porsche’s new proper sportscar. I posted a pretty good early-morning shot of the car’s sleek new lines set against the Vancouver city skyline on facebook and a TTAC contributor opined, “Cayman is the new 911.” That’s as may be, but is it the old 911?

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For starters, just look at it.

To my eye, this is an exceptionally good-looking car, balanced, well-proportioned, and frankly beautiful. In a world where manufacturers are continually telling us how “aggressive” the styling on their new minivan is, the Cayman manages to project purpose without looking like a Tapout t-shirt. It’s a miniature supercar.

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Park it next to the 993 and the Cayman’s modernity comes apart a little. Rob’s 993 came lowered on Bilsteins, properly done, but bound to cause consternation and condemnation amongst some purists – but it wouldn’t be a 911 if someone wasn’t turning up their nose at it. As such, the friendly-faced little 911 is lower in the nose and sleeker than the low-slung Cayman, despite a high greenhouse that makes it actually taller.

Even so, I parked the Cayman S across from an Aventador convertible at the local Cars and Coffee and it garnered only slightly less attention than the Lambo. Those wagon-sized 20” wheels are ridiculous on-paper, but strike me dead with dysentery if they don’t look fantastic. Everywhere I went, people were excited to see the car: “Is this the new one?” they’d ask with big smiles. That has never happened to me with a 991.

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The other thing I was asked, repeatedly, was, “How’s the steering?” Usually, this query was delivered with the concerned tone of voice of someone asking about the progress of your irritable bowel syndrome. My answer? Not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Driving the Cayman back-to back with the 993 does the newer car a great disservice, as you don’t really notice what you’re missing until you do so. The 993′s steering is extremely light, but fizzes and pops with every small road imperfection, sending frissons from your hands up your arms to the pleasure-centres of your brain. It’s phenomenal, a vinyl recording of a live concert.

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The Cayman’s steering is an MP3 of the same event. Compressed and filtered for modern consumption, the brain simply fills in the gaps and you get on with the business of enjoying the exceptional chassis, excellent transmission (auto or stick) and delightful engine. But after driving something like the 993, you can’t help but ask, “why have they done this? It’s slightly worse!”

However, you only need drive a Cayman S a few feet to know that this is going to be a wonderful little car. There’s a litheness to it that’s missing from the 911, a nimble athleticism that doesn’t give a good God-damn about chromed projections of affluence. Hit the button for “Sport+”, slot the PDK transmission into full manual and walk on it – this thing goes like Hell.

The 911, on the other hand, drives like Heaven. The seats are more comfortable than the Cayman’s, the brightly-lit cabin is less a jet-fighter cockpit than an aerobatic aircraft’s plexiglass canopy, and there’s all sorts of other interesting quirks like the slightly offset pedals and metallic delicacy of the door locks. When new, this 993 had 282hp, a full forty less than the 325hp Cayman S.

Even though the PDK-equipped Cayman is heavier, by about a hundred pounds or so, the 993 is no slouch. I wind it up through the gears respectfully and Rob says, “don’t be afraid to drive it.” All righty then.

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What a machine. The thrumming whirr from that big flat-six, the precision of the steering – it’s all just as good as everyone says. And, in a 993, there’s no real heavy lifting, no difficulty in driving it quickly with confidence. “I do sort of feel like I’m wrecking it by driving it,” Rob says, which given the just-over eleven thousand miles on the odometer, is not an entirely unreasonable thing to say. “Who cares?” I reply, “This is your car, then his.” Behind the passenger, there’s a booster seat – the boy that one day inherits this masterwork will doubtless have fond memories.

No one will really “inherit” the Cayman. It’s not that sort of car – it’s brilliant, and much, much faster than the 993, even moreso than paper-racing the two might show. It’s absolutely the best car Porsche currently builds, engaging, exhilarating… expendable. If you’d like to know why I think that, just read Jack’s piece on his Boxster.

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However, this Aqua Blue two-seater will make a decent three-year lease for somebody who will put five thousand miles a year on it, and then a great CPO deal for the second owner who will drive it into the ground, and by “ground” I mean Porsche service centre. Or possibly some joke about electrical grounding faults.

Call it a decade or so of useful service, a machine that never fails to grab you by the lapels – as long as you have the throttle mapping set correctly. It’s far too expensive, of course, and for the money you could easily have a new ‘Vette Stingray or a CPO 997 (and isn’t that the biggest argument against the Cayman?).

Yet it’s an excellent sportscar – when I drove the 991 Carrera S last July, I concluded with something like: “It is probably the best car I will drive all year. And I don’t want one.” Well, the Cayman is probably going to be the best new car I drive this year, and I do want one.

But.

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Especially if you’re considering a weekend toy, you could instead have a genuine air-cooled 911. It’s slower, it’s noisier, it’s not as safe, and it’s much less efficient. It’s also cheaper – this one is about two-thirds the cost of the Cayman plus-or-minus a medium-length jail term – and they don’t depreciate.

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A nice safe conclusion then: the usable classic is better than synthesized modernity. Not quite. If you had just one parking spot, no pair of diesel cargo-haulers to handle day-to-day duties – Rob has an ML and a Golf Wagon – you’d be far better off with the Cayman as a weekday warrior and not worrying about preserving a 993. It’s not a car for forever, but it is a car for right now, wherever and whenever right now might be.

Porsche Canada provided the Cayman reviewed and insurance
Rob Z. is just on a long vacation, I swear, don’t ask me any more questions.

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Review: Porsche Cayman S Turbo By TPC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/review-porsche-cayman-s-turbo-by-tpc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/review-porsche-cayman-s-turbo-by-tpc/#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2009 17:15:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=338102 As a child, I owned something called the Lego “Expert Builder Car”. It was a fascinating product. From one box of a thousand or so Lego pieces, it was possible to build many different kinds of cars, up to and including a two-seat roadster with a working transmission. Top-notch fun, and if Lego eventually took […]

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IMG_2662As a child, I owned something called the Lego “Expert Builder Car”. It was a fascinating product. From one box of a thousand or so Lego pieces, it was possible to build many different kinds of cars, up to and including a two-seat roadster with a working transmission. Top-notch fun, and if Lego eventually took it off the market in favor of less advanced kits focusing on Star Wars, Disneyworld, and (possibly) Twilight then we have only the abject failure of the American educational system to blame.

IMG_2680Porsche has a Lego set as well. The same basic set of components is used to create everything from a $45,000 Boxster to a $230,000 GT2. If you think it costs five times as much to make a GT2 as it does a Boxster, you’re probably an outstanding candidate for one of those $11,000 Hublot watches that uses an el-cheapo ETA mechanism to actually tell time. Nope, it’s mostly additional profit at the top of the pyramid. Porsche protects their oh-so-exclusive product ladder by refusing to assemble their Legos into toys like, say, a turbocharged Cayman.

If one listens to Porsche spokespeople, they have many reasons why a turbo Cayman wouldn’t be possible, feasible, or reasonable. These reasons are quite convincing, and they are repeated ad infinitum. Eventually the strong impression is created that a turbo Cayman would be a feat equal to, say, the Manhattan Project. Which makes it all the more interesting that there’s a guy in a shed who builds them for ten grand.

Well, TPC’s Mike Levitas isn’t exactly a guy in a shed. He’s a former Rolex-GT-at-Daytona winner with an extensive engineering background, and he’s devoted a lot of thought to his pressurized Caymans. For $9,995 plus installation, he will put nearly five hundred horsepower behind the seats of Porsche’s factory-crippled hardtop Boxster.IMG_2665

I recently had the opportunity to drive a rather well-sorted TPC Cayman S Turbo at the company’s headquarters outside Washington, DC. In the name of “balance” — something Levitas can wax rather poetic about, given the opportunity — this car was set up for approximately 380 horsepower at 5psi or so of boost and modified with a variety of JRZ and TPC suspension items.

Outside of a racetrack, it’s difficult to get even a standard Cayman 2.7 to its limits, but I was able to verify in a few short triple-digit blasts that TPC’s power numbers seem very legit. This car has pull to match a GT3 and shame a 997S, delivered across a very broad torque curve. If anything, it feels stronger than a GT3 until the very end of the rev range. Naturally, TPC will happily reprofile your boost curve if you want that top-end hit for road course work or midnight street racing.

The rest of the TPC mods also seem reasonably successful. It’s not difficult to imagine that this car would run in nearly a dead heat with a brand-new GT3 around most road courses. Ride quality is no worse than what you would find in said GT3 and pothole compliance appears to be excellent. The (anonymous by request) owner of this particular example uses it as a daily driver and a stealthy, confusion-causing trackday toy. You could do the same.

And you could do it cheaply, relatively speaking. Early 3.4-liter Caymans are now crossing auction blocks for forty grand. A $25,000 check to TPC would nearly duplicate our tester, so it is perfectly possible to obtain Z06-matching performance for the price of a lightly-used Z06. Or you could look it as GT3 lap times for half price. Porsche Cars North America would no doubt prefer you didn’t.

IMG_2668Which brings us to one tiny problem with this lovely mid-engined coupe. The watercooled Porsche engines produced from 1997 to 2008 are famously fragile, even without turbocharging. Porsche kept its split-case race-style engine for the Turbo, GT3, and GT2 until the recent arrival of its completely re-engineered waterboxer. There is no way that this particular Lego set will be as durable as, say, a 2001 996 Turbo. Perhaps this was the reason Porsche never turbocharged the car, although it doesn’t explain why there’s no new-generation Cayman Turbo. Oh well. TPC states that they have yet to experience a turbo Cayman or turbo Boxster failure, which may be reassuring enough for most buyers.

As the price of Porsche’s 911 Carrera sneaks ever closer to $100,000 in even mildly-equipped form, it might be time for the German fiscal adventurists to admit that their core product is becoming rather irrelevant. A factory Cayman Turbo would offer performance just shy of the Nissan GT-R and Z06 Corvette for similar money. That’s a formula that has worked for Porsche in the past (see: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo) and it could work again. Heck, it might just create a new generation of Porsche fans. If the men from Weissach want some help assembling their Legos, I suspect TPC would be happy to take their call.

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