Capsule Review: Porsche Cayman

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
capsule review porsche cayman

There’s only one thing wrong with the Porsche Cayman’s handling: the seats. The standard fitment chairs on the entry-level hardtop Porker (i.e. the non-S Cayman) are nowhere near supportive enough for the G-forces a spirited driver can easily and confidently generate. Drive a Cayman and you will know that darting about isn’t just for dragonflies anymore. But then, if you’re the kind of passionate pistonhead who craves cornering, you probably won’t be interested in our test car. Not ’cause of the smaller engine (245hp vs. the S’ 295hp). There’s plenty of poke once the revs crest three grand. Nope, it’s the Tiptronic gearbox that rankles.

Once again, Cayenne lovers, someone in Stuttgart’s ECU department has a keen eye on mpgs, gearing the fun right out of the Cayman’s autobox. In auto mode, I found myself driving in fifth gear at 34mph. Climbing a steep on-ramp required a push on the pedal (nichts), another push on the pedal (kick down one gear) and then ANOTHER push on the pedal (kick down two gears). Just as annoying: shower stall quality reverberating engine drone whilst lazing about in the aforementioned top gear.

Of course, you can use the buttons to get a move on, but that kind of defeats the purpose of paying extra for an autobox. One can only hope that Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch paddle shift thingie– headed for Caymanology in the Spring– sorts all this out. Meanwhile, if you must Tip the lite fantastic, the S-spec mit autobox is a far more cohesive package. At $63k. Without any options (save the Tiptronic). Summary: if you want the Cayman (non-S) and the handling, stick with the stick. If you must have an autobox, go for the S. If you can’t afford any of that, a used Boxster (same car, cloth top) with a manual cog swapper, or a pre-loved Boxster S with the Tip, are both genuine bargains, relatively speaking.

Join the conversation
2 of 21 comments
  • SAAB95JD SAAB95JD on Oct 22, 2008

    argentla: you are correct that the maintenance costs can eat you alive if you are they type that has always driven a Corolla or the like. *The cars eat tires, no doubt. Expect no more than 10K out of the rear tires. **The 30K service is about $1000. ***Parts are expensive, very expensive. Still, they are remarkably well made, and there is a very high level of attention paid to even the smallest of details. The designs are very well thought out and frankly they are designed for HARD use, so the components are generally very robust. These cars are not for the faint of heart or wallet, but they reward the enthusiast. I also agree with others: a used Boxster can be a bargain, if you are careful with what you buy. It is far better balanced than a 911, lighter, etc. Even the S versions are never going to be as fast as a 911 around a track. But for the normal enthusiastic driver the Boxster/Cayman is all anyone ever needs and it has more trunk space. The highway ride is extraordinary considering the handling prowess, and you can drive it all day without a back ache. They are roomier than you'd think. And finally the gas mileage: If I am not POUNDING on it I can easily get 30mpg on the highway at 70mph with the cruise control on. My average tank with 50/50 city highway driving is about 25mpg. So, not only are they fun and fast, they also get pretty reasonable gas mileage. HA! Oh, and I should put in a disclaimer here: I own a loaded 2000 Boxster (986) 2.7L, with sport package, and the manual transmission. It has 29K on it now, and so far has never had a warranty claim, or component failure. The price of the 30K service is for a Porsche dealer, not an independant. All of the above is spoken from experience.

  • Laalves Laalves on Oct 29, 2008

    I have a 996 Turbo with Tip and I use it every day as my daily ride. This is actually my first car with non-manual gearbox, and I drive for 20+ years. I agree with one thing: driving it in auto mode is boring and ineffective. I believe I used it like that in total for about 30 minutes, to see how it went. Once I learned to use the steering wheel buttons, I realised that it is superb: you have perfect control of the torque/power and you keep your hands in the wheel at all times. It is fantastic, used in manual. I would obviously prefer a PDK, but that's the way of technology, later is usually better. To all Tip users/prospective buyers: do not get it if you intend to use it as an auto. It's boring and defeats the purpose of having a sports car. Get one and use it 100% in manual mode. It's way more fun than using the stick, it's a Sony PSP on steroids!

  • Wjtinfwb 2 Focus owner, an '03 SVT 3dr. and a '16 ST. Both have been absolutely bulletproof and the '16 is an exceptionally great driving and riding little car. No rattles, squeaks, original brakes at 60k miles and the only replacement part was a new battery in 2019. The SVT was a riot to drive on a good road but a chore in daily commuting, the 2.0 Zetec had to have 5k on the tach to come alive and with the A/C on in Atlanta traffic, it was no fun. But dead nuts reliable in 133k miles and 9 years of ownership. Both had manual transmissions which eliminated the DCT complaint. Find a Focus with a manual if you're looking for a fun, cheap & sturdy car, I think you'll be pleased.
  • ToolGuy Riddle me this: Since Ford knows everything about manufacturing cars, and Mercedes-Benz knows nothing, which vehicle has more torsional rigidity, this 1999 Mustang convertible or a 'comparable' Mercedes convertible? Background information (plus a video from the good-looking Top Gear guy).Extra credit: Did Ford do the convertible conversion or did they outsource it? (And M-B?)
  • Jeff S Unless muscle cars and pony like cars come back in popularity they will continue to disappear. Seems like some commenters are still not aware that pickups, suvs, and crossovers are what is selling. Manufacturers are going to make what sells regardless of who is the President. It is strictly business.
  • Tassos The best way to charge is while your car is parked at work, if your employer lets you charge it for free (some do).After that, it's charging at home.Using chargers on a long trip is not only much more expensive than charging at home, and not only does it take 30 minutes or more vs the 5 mins tops to fill a gas tank, but many times with popular trips (eg LA- las Vegas very popular with others, not with me, I despise Las Vegas and the morons who consider it fun to give their hard earned $ to the casino owners), you should expect far more than the 30 min, as you may need to queue up, possibly for hours, until a damned charger becomes free.
  • ToolGuy What a concept.