The summary velocity-versus-distance figure also shows our real-world performance progression at the track. Note that more confidence-inspiring upgrades (like better grip and brakes) are the ones that really count toward improving overall performance. What the numbers can't account for, though, is driver improvement over time by building experience with the Z4 M platform. While the test driver (yours truly) has some 10,000-plus laps at this track, there's some learning over the four month test period that cannot be accounted for with in our data. On the flip side, there's a lot that can be learned from the acquired GPS data. It looks as though faster laps could be possible by improving consistency, especially when late braking at high speed into Turn 1. My chicken wings are still flapping after an unexplained off during testing back in Part 3.

The Z4 M has responded well to modification, offered an exciting challenge at the track, provided excellent driver feedback and involvement, and remained refined as a daily driver too. But how good is it when compared to more expensive, OEM-plus hardware? We'll find out next time...

ProjectPorsche Cayman X51
Part 1: To dethrone a legendOn a bitter cold January day in central Alberta, Canada, a lone five-car transport arrives at Norden Autohaus to deliver its cargo. Batteries are re-connected and five frosty Porsches are started, carefully unloaded, and parked on the lot at this, the most northerly Porsche Dealer in North America. The Arctic Silver Cayman S in this elite group was ordered in late summer specifically as the subject of a brand-new project car series.

Being an iconic sports car's "little brother" has its drawbacks. We all know that Porsche AG is steadfast in its position to never dethrone the legendary and continuously evolving 911 as the company's top performer, and so the Cayman variants remain underpowered when they roll off the assembly line. This immediately slots the Cayman into the "lesser" category in terms of things that we can easily understand, with "cost" and "performance" at the top of the list. The fact that the Cayman is about 120 pounds lighter, with a more optimally balanced chassis due to its mid-engine layout, is, unfortunately, irrelevant. So too is the fact that the two-seat Cayman is gorgeous to look at in the flesh, with flowing lines and curves and a definite lineage from both 911 and Boxster.

Purists and wealthy poseurs alike will always give the nod to the 911 because it's the top-of-the-line--911, there is no substitute! Behind the Cayman's wheel, though, you'll experience excellent feedback and nimbleness, a compliant ride, superb brakes, good power, and an intoxicating exhaust note. Its sporty interior also speaks of high quality in both form and function, and provides many of the same creature comforts as its brother. So what's wrong with the Cayman? Really, nothing at all. The only complaint could be that it is perhaps too refined, that is, it could really use a bit of the old je ne sais pas--rawness, quirkiness--that made Porsche famous in the first place.

We've seen pumped-up Caymans from Ruf with a 400hp supercharged engines, and from Farnbacher Loles with a 997S X51 engine also claiming 400 hp, in these very pages (December and January '07, respectively). That's all good, but what we really wanted to do with this project was to build one ourselves with the help of some local grassroots expertise, then perform some real-world, side-by-side comparisons with the Cayman's iconic sibling. This would determine the true feasibility of a Cayman performance upgrade. Will we create a 911 killer, or just a faster, more expensive Cayman?

If at this point you're thinking this sounds more like a science project, well, you'd be right.

By Doug Neilson
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