Out of the box, Cayman X51 tended to dive a little too much under heavy braking, so compression up front and rebound out back were both stiffened, at the same time preserving the neutral handing. The car also tended to lean significantly in heavy cornering, so the anti-roll bars also needed to be stiffened up. The desired handling was finally complete after a combined iterative process which involved small incremental adjustments to each axle for both shocks and bars separately. This trial and error game can be interesting and fun, but it takes time and patience. It's a great learning experience that every enthusiast should try at least once, a taste of real motorsport testing on your own ride.
At the track, strapping into Cayman X51 takes extra time due to the Scroth six-point harness cinching you firmly into the GT3 Euro bucket seat. Your palms are already moist by the time you finally twist the ignition due to your anticipation of the upcoming thrills. The tuned 3.8-liter 997S X51 engine springs to life with aplomb, and settles to a satisfying steady rearward rumble from the custom headers and Supersprint metallic cats and mufflers. Selecting first gear with the slick B&M short shift kit is the next indication that this Cayman is now something very special. Easing out the heavy X51 spec Sachs clutch takes a little extra care and muscle, but smoothly gets you underway to warm things up. The ride is firm and the feedback through the steering wheel is greatly sharpened, due to the suspension modifications described above and the weld-in Cantrell half roll cage that increases structural rigidity. Once the engine, brake, and tire temperatures were up, it was time to probe the full capabilities of our "science project". With full throttle from 2000 rpm in second gear, the new power plant did not disappoint. Power is raw, linear, and amplified by the guttural exhaust note of the custom tuned flat six, as one pushes to the 7200 rpm redline in each gear. The shifts are quick, precise, and effortless as the speed increases feverishly; an exceedingly noticeable improvement over the factory Cayman S. Through the twisties, both slow and fast, the mid-engine chassis feels flat, fearless, and ready to react to any input you desire, while the Nitto NT01 R-compound tires provide enormous grip and feedback. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have a contender!
Next we test our wild creation in a head-to-head track shootout with the Cayman's bigger brother, the Porsche 911. Note: Since we seriously jumped the gun on its publication, for the shootout results, see The Test, european car, November 2009.
Editor's Note: Apologies are in order here. We got so excited about Doug's three-way track shootout with Cayman X51, Project Z4 M and the mildly modded Carrera S that we bulled ahead and unintentionally published it before part three, this installment, where we really get into the overall chassis setup that would make it so competitive at the track. So here is part three in its entirety-revisited for the first time.