Review: 2010 Porsche Cayman PDK

Mike Solowiow
by Mike Solowiow

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.

Mike Solowiow
Mike Solowiow

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  • Dave Hop Dave Hop on Mar 23, 2010

    After reading all this all I can say is after 2 Cayennes and now just purchasing a Cayman S. Yes the shift paddles are strange but the rest of the car and all of its options are great. We purchased it a month ago and it snowed for 2 weeks after. It brings a smile to my face every time I drive it and my wife absolutly loves it. (big smile on her face too) Buy what you want and enjoy it. That is what it is all about. Thanks for all the input. Keep reading before buying.

  • Iwasgointo Iwasgointo on Jul 19, 2010

    No doubt this is a fine car, but I understand having the engine right behind your head a 2 hour highway drive to the mountains is mighty tough on the ears.

  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon