Few new cars in recent memory have inspired as much wild speculation as the Cayman, a new, relatively lightweight, fixed-roof coupe based on the Boxster's mid-engine, rear-drive configuration. For years, 911 purists have been screaming that the Carrera's subsequent iterations have been too big, too heavy and have kept their drivers increasingly isolated from a pure, visceral driving experience amid myriad electronics and related safety parameters. The Cayman, it was argued, would be the classic Porsche sports car reborn, and the cynics among us speculated it might cannibalize Carrera sales and eventually represent that car's undoing.
If you'll recall, they said the same thing about the Boxster S, and in reality, Porsche has carefully positioned the Cayman between the Boxster and 911, in effect creating a new segment within its model range. The Carrera is still billed as the top performer, and despite rumors that the Cayman trounced the 911 around the Nrburgring, there are no official numbers I'm aware of that verify this. Porsche marketing anticipates only 3% (or less) of current 911 owners will jump ship and replace their Carrera with a Cayman S.
Visually, the Cayman is about two-thirds Boxster, sporting a similar snout and identical rear flanks, but incorporates its own unique design cues and, of course, the fixed roof that helps increase flexural resistance by a claimed 100% over the Boxster, putting torsional stiffness nearly on par with that of the 911. Its engine is based on the Boxster S's 3.2-liter flat six, imbued with the Carrera's enlarged bore of 96mm to displace 3.4 liters. Combining the bore with the Boxster's short 78mm stroke required a new, unique set of engine internals-crankshaft, main bearings and pistons-that further denote this car as a new link between the Boxster and Carrera. The cylinder heads and related equipment are derived from the Carrera S, no less, and help push power output to a peak of 295 bhp. The manual transmission is derived from the Boxster S, but features a revised shifter mechanism and shortened first- and second-gear ratios for slightly crisper response.
On the road, the Cayman carves through corners; twisted mountain roads are what it loves best, and it will allow its driver to cut through hairpins and switchbacks with great confidence. Porsche reported that the Boxster's basic suspension setup has been tweaked further on the Cayman to give it exceptional lateral acceleration, also citing the mid-engine configuration as imparting "unparalleled neutrality." Still, perfect weight distribution is not absolute (45/55 front to rear), and the drive wheels will step out if prompted to do so. The brakes are suitably impressive, with 12.5- and 11.7-inch vented rotors fore and aft and four-piston calipers all around. The PCCB package will be available as an option, incorporating carbon-ceramic discs at all four corners and six-piston calipers up front. They don't make a whole lot of difference under normal driving conditions, but rather suit the track-day enthusiast interested in repeated heavy use.