Overall rating: 5/5
Dismiss the entry-level Porsche Cayman at your peril. The all-new version now has 275hp, one of the best rear-wheel drive chassis in the business and an interior that wouldn't look out of place in its big brother. For all its core driving appeal it remains comfortable and refined when you need it to be as well.
In the Metal:
Choose the right colour and one of the larger wheel designs and the new Porsche Cayman looks nothing short of sensational. To our eyes the best view is the rear three quarters with its flared, muscular haunches, the sculpted LED rear lights and a prominent slip spoiler between them, above which sits the automatically deploying item. The proportions of the Cayman have changed somewhat, in that the wheelbase is 60mm longer and the windscreen has been moved forward by 100mm. That, along with a much shorter front overhang, makes for more interior and luggage space, but also a subtly different appearance.
Inside, it's just as glorious. What hits you first is the quality and tactility of each switch. The seats are comfortable and supportive in equal measure and the leather is supple. Being critical, we're not fans of the flip-out cup holders integrated into the dashboard ahead of the passenger, but really, who cares?
We like to think that people who buy the Cayman do so because they love driving, as it truly is an accomplished car. Not only is it highly stable at speed, under hard braking and even over tricky bumps, it's also engaging and the steering full of communication so the driver feels he can really lean on the car. Lean a little too hard and the electronics quickly bring it all back in line, but even with them turned off there's little to fear. There's a huge amount of grip front and rear, and when you do cajole the back end into a slide it's very progressive and unless you're provoking it with loads of space to play with the drift is short-lived, such is the immense traction on offer.
Even if you're not being a hooligan the Cayman is highly enjoyable to drive. Responses are immediate from all the controls and the weighting of the steering and pedals is spot on. Our test car came with the optional dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission, which is technically brilliant. Personally speaking, I'd still favour a manual gearbox, but fitted with gearchange paddles and the Sport Plus mode this PDK option can be everything from a smooth automatic on a cruise and in town to full-bore up shifts that feel nothing less than violent.
This is all accompanied by the aural delight that is the 2.7-litre flat-six engine. It gurgles at low revs and howls when pushed. The animal references are apt - it truly sounds alive. As you will when you extend it all the way to the redline a few times...
What you get for your Money:
Now, we realise that many will say that the Cayman should be as brilliant as it is given the price. This is not a cheap car and shouldn't be judged on price per horsepower against its rivals. The standard model costs €68,460, but it'd be so tempting to add Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and a few choice interior upgrades - and probably a tastier set of wheels. The Cayman S starts at €84,136 in comparison. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz ostensibly make rivals for the Cayman, but really its biggest rival is the Porsche 911. And that starts at a significant amount more.
Though I'm sticking with my manual gearbox preference, it's difficult not to be impressed by the PDK transmission and all its functions. We're used to automatic throttle blips on down-change now, but one trick up the PDK system's sleeve mentioned in the press material apparently helps with 'controlled drifts' when in manual mode and Porsche Stability Management (PSM) deactivated. We couldn't put it any better than this: 'Detection of the yaw angle and steering input angle initiates prevention of upshifting and permits this very special kind of driving fun.' Amen to that.
Despite the relatively high purchase price (and the tempting list of options) it'd be a disservice to award the new Porsche Cayman anything other than five stars. It's an astoundingly capable car that anyone can get into and drive quickly and safely. Yet it also manages to seduce those that truly love driving. Sure, the Cayman S offers more performance, but most of us need nothing more than a (nearly) standard entry-level Cayman.