Most anniversary parties are mind-numbing affairs, based on stories that were dull the first time around, a slow descent into drunkenness and a hopeful fumble with one of the single best friends. But an invite to legendary manufacturer Ruf's celebration was always going to be a little more entertaining, since the company produced a car for the occasion.
Ruf is fiercely proud of its manufacturer status and keen to separate itself from the hoi-polloi of tuners.The 25th Anniversary Edition 3400K could have come replete with bells, whistles and Alcantara, but Ruf has used this opportunity to go in a different direction. The whole car costs about $100,600.
This is an entry-level Ruf-a sign that the Pfaffenhausen firm is finally coming to the masses.
While Alois Ruf's most famous creations were all great cars (the Yellowbird, the RTurbo-even the Studio Torino-will go down in legend, as will the now-legendary tour of the Nordschleife that is the Faszination film), they were all mighty expensive. A go on the PlayStation was about the closest most of us would ever get to owning one. Even Ruf himself admits that his name has become synonymous with $300,000 weapons.
So on this landmark occasion, the firm has moved to embrace the relative mass market and released a car that costs the same as a bottom-end Carrera-if you're careful. Ruf does a Boxster-based version, too, for those who need to be seen whistling while they work, but the hard-top Cayman has to be the one to go for.
The Cayman S is, fundamentally, a better sports car than the 911. Its mid-engined stance gives a more natural weight distribution and better cornering skills, but then-to keep the natural order-Porsche handicapped the car with a relatively weak-willed engine. In the corners, it's an agile rocket that needs just fingertip control and can keep with a 911, but this one has the straight-line goods too.
Ruf could have gone for a full engine transplant and produced a fire-breathing Carrera-powered creation, but not at this price. Such antics are also pretty unnecessary when there is what feels like more than the 400 hp stated on the spec sheet. This comes from a straightforward supercharger conversion, together with the requisite ECU map and airflow alterations.
Figures of 4.4 seconds for the 60-mph dash, 14.8 seconds to 125 mph and a top speed of 181 mph hardly do justice. The car feels much faster. Like Porsche, Alois Ruf eschews outlandish claims and outlandish cars. His approach is holistic when it comes to pure speed and comfort. It makes you wonder why Zuffenhausen didn't do the same in the first place.
Most of the extra horses are felt with an added kick just beyond 5000 rpm, until the redline at 7400. So there's a relatively small window of opportunity to truly feel the burn. You need to be quick on the six-speed 'box to make the most of this car.
Within that powerband is the kind of acceleration to worry most supercars, with none of the violence that seems to be the inevitable cost of increased power. Apart from the gentlest whistle from the supercharger, the car simply gathers momentum.
At high speeds, those carefully tuned aerodynamics come into effect, the car feeling composed and unruffled even as it homes in on its top end.
A new, flat undercarriage joins forces with a revised front bumper and rear set-up that not only improves cooling, it also looks the part. The original Cayman front bumper looked like it was designed for Wal-Mart, with plastic light surrounds and a tasteless, straight-cut design that cheapened the whole car. Drawing inspiration from the Carrera's clean-cut front end (and installing huge air intakes in the process) has helped Ruf transform the Cayman into a new and much more expensive-looking vehicle.