When: 25 February 2011
Where: Mallorca, Spain
What: Porsche Cayman R
Occasion: International first drive
Overall rating: 5/5
Porsche's Cayman S goes on a diet, while its 3.4-litre flat-six engine gains power. Add suspension revisions, some Porsche decals and you have the Cayman R. More intense, sharper and more fun, Porsche has built its best Cayman yet, without adding any compromises. We want one.
Pricing: Estimated at €95,000 in Ireland
Engine: 3.4-litre, mid-mounted flat-six petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: three-door coup?
Rivals: BMW Z4 sDrive35is, Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG, Lotus Evora S
CO2 emissions: 228g/km
Tax band: G
Combined economy: 9.7 litres/100km (29.1mpg)
Top speed: 282km/h (175mph)
0-100km/h: 5.0 seconds
Power: 330hp at 7,400rpm
Torque: 370Nm at 4,750rpm
In the Metal:
Black detailing, a 20mm lower stance and Porsche script decals along the bottom of the doors transform the Cayman R from respectable sports car to a more down-and-dirty street fighter. We're not fans of the bigger, fixed rear wing, but it, along with some aero tweaks at the front, increase downforce.
If you're a purist, then your Porsche Cayman R will have a gap where the radio and air conditioning controls should be. These are binned as part of the weight saving measures. You can have them back for free, which, unless you're a complete masochist - and slave to the lightweight gods - is advisable. You lose the cup holders and cowl over the instruments, but gain some lovely lightweight sports seats and the fabric-pull door cards from the 911 GT3 RS. There's plenty of Alcantara, too.
The new Cayman rides on R-specific suspension with increased negative camber front and rear, new anti-roll bars, shorter springs and recalibrated dampers. The offset of the lighter alloy wheels increase the tracking width by 2mm at the rear and 4mm at the front.
The result of all those changes is a Cayman that's even more agile and feelsome on challenging roads. The steering is quick and sharp, with fantastic weighting and loads of feel. Turn the wheel and response is immediate, the R's nose more eager and resistant to understeer than other Caymans. Recalibrated PSM (Porsche Stability Management) raises the R's thresholds, though even with it turned off the R is easy to drive up to and beyond its (high) limits of traction and grip.
It's the chassis changes that are the most significant aspect of the R's performance, as the additional 10hp makes little impact. The engine is as free-revving, responsive and flexible as ever, and the manual six-speed gearbox it's connected to as standard is so sweet in its shift quality you'd have to be mad to choose the optional paddle-shifting PDK automatic. Against the clock the R is 0.2 seconds quicker to 100km/h with a time of 5.0 seconds dead, and its top speed is quoted as 282km/h.
What's most surprising is the lack of compromise. The Cayman R might ride on firmer, more focused suspension, but the ride remains supple, while economy and emissions figures are better in the R than in its S relative - despite the increase in power. Opt for the sports exhaust and it sounds great too. The R brings more agility and ability to the Cayman range, without going too far into the realms of hardcore.
What you get for your Money:
You're paying for a lighter, more intense Cayman. That does mean you get less equipment - some of which you can have back for free - and a smaller fuel tank, but it's worth it for the things that the R brings. Specifically its suspension revisions, additional power and weight loss plan.
Porsche has saved weight by adding aluminium doors and bonnet, lighter alloy wheels, a smaller fuel tank and binning the radio and air conditioning. You can lighten it further by specifying PCCB brakes and the lightweight lithium battery from the 911 GT3 RS.
With all the real-world performance you could ever ask for the new Porsche Cayman R feels equivalent to the Carrera GTS in the 911 range rather than the extreme GT3 or GT3 RS. Not perhaps as hardcore a model as we'd expected then, but no worse for it. It's the purest, most exciting Cayman yet, and quite brilliant as a result. We'd still love to see an S after that R on the boot lid, though...