The Boxster is the best handling mass production road car Porsche have ever made. With its mid-mounted engine and 45/55 weight distribution, it has a poise and delicacy in its handling that the rear-engine 911 cannot hope to match. Structural rigidity has always been a strong suit and goes a long way toward helping its handling and grip. Now imagine that you could increase that rigidity by 250% in torsional stiffness, and by 200% in bending resistance to further sharpen the claws of this incisive driving machine. This is precisely what the new Cayman does, and thus promises to be the perfect mount for Porsche driving enthusiasts and track-day addicts.

I recently attended a very thorough technical briefing at Porsche's high-security Weissach R&D facility. During a most enlightening day, we were shown the technology that goes into this Boxster-derived hatchback coupe. The chassis and much of the structure is pure Boxster and is thus also shared with the 997, as are the supporting electronics, although chassis settings and software have been recalibrated for the Cayman's more hardcore role in life. A variant of the Boxster (Code 987, hence its internal code of 987 C7S), the Cayman is not the fourth Porsche model range. That privilege will be given to the super-saloon, on which the Board will make a final decision this summer.

The Cayman looks good in the metal. Initially you might get the impression its roof is short and rounded, but then so is the Boxster's soft-top and winter hardtop, as indeed they need to be to provide adequate headroom for tall people. The teardrop-shaped roof is aerodynamically efficient however, and together with a extensive wind-tunnel work to ensure minimize lift at high speeds, the Cayman has just 55kg of total lift at its top speed.

Porsche told us the 295 bhp Cayman will be pitched between the 280 bhp, 3.2-liter Boxster S and the 325 bhp Carrera, sitting between them in both power and price. Closer to the Boxster than the Carrera in power, though, its market positioning is particularly interesting because as the 911 has become larger, more powerful, heavier and more expensive over the years, Porsche enthusiasts have been crying out for a cheaper and more minimalist car to replace the earlier variants.

The Boxster and Carrera already share many components, especially forward of the front bulkhead, and it makes economic sense for the Cayman to continue this trend. That said, the Cayman shares around 40% of its components with the current Boxster, major obvious parts in common being the bonnet, front quarters, headlamps, doors and taillights. The rakish roofline and the rear wings are all new and Porsche told us the concept was inspired by the 904GTS racecar from the 1960s.

The front bumper section is new, giving the Cayman a different enough "face" to be instantly recognizable from its two siblings. Distinguishing features include the larger air intakes on either side and the round foglights mounted on horizontal strakes in each intake. The side intakes have vertical rather than horizontal color-matched strakes. At the rear, an electro-hydraulic spoiler rises at 75 mph and represents the top half of a small, angled bib spoiler while retracted.

The Cayman also shares the Boxster's wheelbase and track dimensions, although at 171 inches, it is 12mm longer thanks to a longer rear overhang. The more bulbous roof also raises overall height by 13mm to 51.5 inches. That said, the more rigid hatchback Cayman does not need the reinforcements that the open Boxster does, so the extra metal and glass from its hatchback layout only add 11 pounds to the overall weight, and the Cayman S tips the scales at a reasonable 2,950 pounds.

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