As a hatchback, the Cayman offers a high degree of practicality. Working around the mid-engine configuration, which obviously puts a big lump aft of the seats, Porsche has provided two luggage areas, a shallow one above the engine cover and a deeper one in the natural boot area. These areas provide a combined 9 cubic feet of storage space. Add the front luggage bay to the equation and you have a generous (for a two-seater sports car) 14.5 cubic feet. Rather than just carpeting this area as most manufacturers would have done, Porsche has made it a design feature, visually separating the change of deck height with silver-painted mounding. Bearing in mind the high lateral g-forces the Cayman can produce, the manufacturer has also thoughtfully provided tie-down nets in both areas to prevent stowed items from flying around. A parcel shelf built into the hatchback ensures that items stowed in the lower, deeper compartment remain hidden when the car is parked.The rest of the Cayman's cabin is the same modern, high-quality interior we have become used to recently in the new Carrera and Boxster models. The full interior on the silver show car was trimmed in an orange-caramel hue, which contrasted nicely with the aluminum details on the steering wheel, dashboard and console. Fit and finish were really excellent and the detailing delightful.

We were shown the Cayman S only, the first variant to roll out this fall. Porsche admits there will be an entry-level Cayman that will likely use the 3.2-liter motor from the Boxster S, but the top down strategy of launching the Cayman S before any other variant establishes its credentials as a performance model above the Boxster S and below the Carrera from the word go. A lightweight, track-oriented version is also a possibility, and this would be the perfect replacement for the old Carrera 3.2 Clubsport from the '80s.The suspension is standard Boxster, but with uprated springs, dampers, anti-roll bars and firmer bushings. In line with its mission statement as a serious driver's car, the Cayman has had the parameters for its ABS and PSM stability control systems tweaked so that they intervene later, allowing the keen driver to push harder before being reigned in. Since all these systems operate together, communicating along the CAN-BUS system, the optional PASM active damping has been likewise adjusted.

As with the Boxster and Carrera, PCCB Brakes will be a Cayman option. Following much adverse publicity in recent months concerning their rapid deterioration in track-day use, the PCCB brakes have come in for a major redesign. The latest discs use a modified composition and their involute cooling fins have been redesigned to pull more cooling air. The brake pad material has also been adjusted accordingly.

With 295 bhp at 6250 rpm and 250 lb-ft of torque from its 3.4-liter flat six, the Cayman has a power-to-weight ratio of 10.1 pounds per bhp. The 3.4-liter motor is not the early 996 Carrera motor, since that is a taller engine than the Boxster's. Rather, it is a development of the Boxster S engine with larger barrels and pistons. In addition, it gets the latest Variocam variable valve timing system with electro-hydraulic tappets as used on the 997 Carrera. It's enough for a 5.1-second zero to 60 mph elapsed time, a 171 mph top speed, and an 8 minute, 11 second lap time of the Nuerburgring Nordschliefe in the hands of Walter Rohrl. Porsche states this is 13 seconds faster than its nearest rival. More significantly, that time is also 7.0 seconds faster than the Boxster S and a stunning 4.0 seconds faster than the Carrera 3.6. These numbers were gained with the six-speed manual, although the five-speed Tiptronic will be an option. Rumors of Porsche using its own version of the VW/Audi DSG gearbox have been rife in recent months. The Porsche engineers I quizzed about the possibility would not be drawn on its adoption, but the fact that they were willing to claim it is the best gearbox of its type speaks volumes.The highlight of my visit was a dynamic demonstration of the Cayman's handling prowess by one of Porsche's test drivers. The obvious ease with which he was able to initiate and hold a long, lurid powerslide illustrated just how controllable this car is. When he finally pulled back into the holding area, we asked him to describe how it felt. He admitted that as good as the Boxster is, the extra power and torque afforded by the larger Cayman engine, coupled with the greater rigidity of the body shell, is two extra layers of icing on an already incredibly delicious cake--though maybe not in those exact words. We're all looking forward to the driving launch this fall.


Porsche Cayman S

MSRP: $58,900

Drivetrain

Longitudinal mid-engine,rear-wheel drive

Engine

3.4-liter flat six, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing

Transmission

Six-speed manual;five-speed automaticwith Tiptronic S optional

Suspension

MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bars

Brakes

Four-piston calipers, four-wheel vented and cross-drilled rotors; PCCB optional

Performance

Peak Power: 295 bhp@ 6250 rpm
Peak Torque: 250 lb-ft@ 4400 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.1 sec
Top Speed: 171 mph

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