By on June 23, 2009

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.

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25 Comments on “Review: 2010 Porsche Cayman PDK...”

  • avatar

    In other words, it’s about as good as a transmission without a clutch can be, and that’s not good enough.

    An update on an earlier Boxster/Cayenne article: Stephan Wilkinson encouraged me to get these cars included in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, to measure how common the notorious IMS failures (in only the earlier cars?) actually are. Good progress–a few model years are now included in the survey, and others are close.

  • avatar

    Having lived (and still living) with an automated sequential manual for more than 4 years, I can say that if I have to do it over, I would just opt for a regular stick. The novelty has worn off.

    I have the SMG II in a bimmer, and having test driven a Cayman and 911 PDK, I prefer the single-clutch system in the bimmer more. I have also mastered the nuances of the SMG system (something one can’t do in a 15 minute test drive) so it doesn’t jerk or buck on me in traffic, and provides smooth and fast shifts all around. The paddle system – left downshift, right upshift, lever forward downshift, lever backward upshift – in the SMG is also much more intuitive than that of the Porsche. And the system is GREAT on the track.

    Yet, you definitely lose that connectedness, man-machine oneness, etc. in these automated systems. So, after 4 years, if it’s a choice between an auto and one of these, then an automated manual for sure. But if it’s between these and a traditional stick, then I’d go old skool.

    [By the way, my wife teased me by saying that I can buy a manual in our next vehicle, as long as it’s a van or 7-person SUV. If only there is such an animal…sigh…]

  • avatar

    The problem with the Porsche PDK is twofold- the paddles are set up all wrong, partially because they use buttons instead of paddles and the downshift button is buried on the back of the steering wheel. Secondly, unless you spec sport chrono, the tranny is programmed for maximum economy not fun.

    I believe that the class leader in dual clutch trannies is BMW with the DCT in the M3. It does have its little idiosyncrasies, but most of the time it is very involving.

  • avatar

    [By the way, my wife teased me by saying that I can buy a manual in our next vehicle, as long as it’s a van or 7-person SUV. If one there is such an animal…sigh…]

    The Mazda5 is essentially a small minivan, and you can get it with a manual…

  • avatar

    Michael Karesh :

    What happened to Stephan Wilkinson? I always enjoyed his comments

  • avatar

    By the way, my wife teased me by saying that I can buy a manual in our next vehicle, as long as it’s a van or 7-person SUV. If one there is such an animal…sigh…

    Sounds like you need a new wife :) When we were last buying a new car for my better half, I tried to direct her towards an automatic as she’s a bit herky-jerky with gears, rides the clutch at stop lights and tends to rev past red-line because she’s more concentrating on singing along to the radio. “Automatics are for geriatrics”, was her reply. My mother just bought herself a new VW CC as a retirement gift … it’s a stick shift.

  • avatar

    I drove a Cayman S recently and cannot imagine one could create a better transmission for that engine. While I have been a dedicated three-pedal guy, I would pay for this transmission (and the additional 90 lbs) if I were to buy a Cayman or Cayman S. Shoes is correct when he points out the flaw in the “paddles” used for shifting, but this is something I wouldn’t mind getting used to.

    This is a simply brilliant automobile, were it only 20,000 cheaper, I’d have to put one in the driveway. But, at $70,000 plus, it will remain a dream. Nonetheless, my unwillingness to part with that much money for a car doesn’t take away from the basic goodness of this car and what Mr. Farago accurately termed the best transmission on the planet.

  • avatar

    @ Michael K

    I am not seeing it on the site. BTW I have been pestering RF to do a piece on the IMS failures for months now.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @TeeKay :
    By the way, my wife teased me by saying that I can buy a manual in our next vehicle, as long as it’s a van or 7-person SUV. If only there is such an animal…sigh…

    No problem, just move to Europe and get a Volkswagen Touran, Caddy, Sharan, Multivan or Caravelle a Toyota Verso, an Opel Zafira or Movano, a Citroen C4 Picasso, a Citroen C-Crosser, a Mitsubishi Outlander, a Peugeot 4008 or 5008, a Renault Grand Scenic or Espace, a Lancia Zeta, a Nissan Qashqai+2, a Dodge Journey, a Kia Carens or Carnival… and I’m sure I forgot a lot of other possibilities.

    All of these seat 7 and are available with a manual.

    My girlfriend actually prefers public transport over cars with automatic transmissions.

  • avatar

    BMW’s M DCT is good, but I think Audi’s new high-pow capable 7-speed DSG is better. TeeKay must be the only person in the world who actually likes BMW’s old single clutch setup. It’s lame that Porsche basically makes you buy the sport chrono pack if you actually want to get any fun out of your Porsche (it is a Porsche right? Not a Prius?), and equally lame that they couldn’t get rid of the buttons from their old shitty tiptronic.

    The spin is that old tip customers would find the buttons “easier to use”, but every PDK review I’ve ever read has bashed the hell out of them. Being Porsche though, I’m sure stubborness will prevail. We know better than you!

  • avatar

    Yes, the notorious IMS is gone with the 2010 model year. Hopefully not to be replaced by some other under-engineered component, but time will tell.

  • avatar

    Don’t even think about buying anything like this until Nancy clears.

  • avatar

    Hey, what about the gizmo in the Nissan 370Z, which IS a traditional manual, but which blips the gas when you shift?

    It seems to work very well. i haven’t read a single review that said it doesn’t work, nor a reviewer who didn’t like it, even those who have heel & toed all their lives.

    It should incur very little additional weight (if at all). The PDK/DCT/DSG all weigh in at approx. 20 kg. more than a manual.

    Wouldn’t that be the nice compromise we die-hard manual box enthusiasts are looking for? I for one find heel & toe-ing in the 911 less easy than in some other cars, because of the way my legs & feet fit into it.

  • avatar

    After driving a few double clutch gearboxes, i think the PDK is still my favorite. the DSG is great, but there’s something about it that i didn’t like. even in manual shift mode it feels too much like an automatic, first i thought it was the 2.0T engine’s amount of torque that didn’t give that kick when shoved hard, but then i experienced the RS6 with the V10 and still it was as smooth (relative). the throttle blip on the downshift however is my favorite thing, since i grew up in automatic lala land, i have failed to master the toe and heel technique.

    in any case, the PDK tops the DSG IMO on the point that when shifting from Auto to full on sports mode the way the gearbox handles the shift is faster than DSG transforming from docile to wild in .006 of second. or it might of been the engine that made the difference, would like to try either gearboxes on the same car same engine configuration, but then i might be disappointed by the fact that they are the same with only PDK having a mouthful of a name.

    in any case, the cayman is a hell of a car, i drove the S and it has won me over in terms of being a 911 fan. I’m now squarely a Cayman person…

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt


    The RS6 has a conventional slushbox.

  • avatar

    My Bad ….. forgot about that, which makes that slush box then one of the best i experienced,

  • avatar


    Can you site where you have found that the IMS has been changed?

  • avatar

    Mike: DoppelkungerschnitzelKrokettewunderbarthing

    That is the most delicious sounding name for a gearbox I’ve ever heard.

  • avatar

    I would definitely prefer a clutch and a stick.


    But is it farfegnugen?

    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).

    They should have a special clutch for prime numbers and the clutch for non-prime even numbers.

    Very nice review

  • avatar

    BAH. I don’t need to drive the car to understand EXACTLY where you’re coming from.

    I’ve had my GTI with DSG for just shy of a year, and I will never get another. Yeah, the shifts are lightning, and the downshift blip is cool, but the tranny still gets caught in situations where its doing the wrong thing, it still clunks around when putting around town (the 2-1 downshift in particular). It doesn’t like to actually kick into 1st until at a 100% complete stop, making stop signs a 2nd gear start, and incredibly mushy feeling. It still upshifts too quickly, and while downshifting like lightning, it often “thinks” you’re ready for an upshift and kinda trips over itself.

    Bottom line, its great for 100%, balls-out driving, but in everyday applications, I’ve found traditional automatics from General Motors, BMW, and Infiniti to be far far smoother, particularly in city traffic, and only very very slightly less responsive in shift speed and downshifting vs the DSG. I’d gladly take a GM 6 speed auto over the DSG in my GTI.

    At the end of the day, I’d driven nothing but manuals for 13 years. I didn’t like the clutch and shifter in the GTI, but loved everything else about the car. DSG was incredibly impressive during the test drive, and with the weak manual experience, I was sold. I shouldn’t have. I miss my manual dearly, only made worse when I drive my old man’s little Acura with a stick. Hell, I even had a blast recently driving my cousin’s Ford Fusion I4 with a stick. Its just simply more fun than mashing the pedal and holding on, no matter how fast a DSG shifts or how many 1/10’s of a second you take off your 0-60. A huge part of the feel of a car goes when the stick goes, even more so in a sporty car such as this Cayman.

    Great for people who want a sporty car but aren’t sports car drivers. I’m sure Porsche will sell a million of them and make gazillions of dollars. But if you’re a true enthusiast, and you truly love your Porsche (or BMW or Miata or GTI or G35 or CTS, etc), don’t be wowed by the technology and the test drive. The wow factor wears off after awhile and you’ll go back to wishing you had the ultimate man-machine connection.

    That’s how I feel. I will NEVER buy another automatic again (unless its a land-yacht meant only for highway cruising…and then I hope it will be a traditional automatic instead of a clunky, complicated, expensive to fix DSG-type thing).

  • avatar

    Want to drive the best dual-clutch auto-manual in the world?

    Go drive the Evo X MR.

    I’m sure the hardware is very similar to the BMW, VAG, etc–the box is a Getrag. The secret sauce to these transmissions isn’t the hardware, though–it’s the software.

    And Mitsubishi just _nailed_ it in the Evo X MR’s TC-SST.

    I swore that I would never buy one of those flappy-paddle transmissions. Until I drove the Evo.

    I even chose the Evo over the E90 M3, and no, price wasn’t an issue. The Evo is quite simply just more fun to drive, and the SST is a big part of that. The M3 just felt like a big heavy luxury car next to the Evo.

  • avatar

    I’ve had my first DSG (Audi A3) for about two-months now and I’m loving it. There’s definitely been a learning curve in terms of getting the most out of it–especially for someone like myself who’s driven nothing but sticks for over a decade–but it’s worth it to finally have a vehicle that I enjoy driving … and that my wife can drive when the need arises.

    If I ever graduate to something in the Cayman’s class, I don’t see why I wouldn’t enjoy a DSG there too.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    After driving a 911 with PDK for a weekend, I experienced much of the same as Capt. Mike did here – the PDK made the 911 something I could respect, but never love. Which, for a sportscar, isn’t good.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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