You can almost imagine the excitement in the TechArt workshop when Porsche launched the Cayman S. Here was a car that was the most philosophically pure of all the contemporary Porsches but one that could not, for political reasons, better the 911. If ever there was a car ripe for tuning, it was this.
It has taken several months for TechArt to respond, but the first of its tuned Caymans is now sitting quietly outside the modest headquarters near Stuttgart, Germany. For the next two days, the "TechArt GT" will be ours as we explore the finer points of the car Porsche dared not build. The GT is still instantly recognizable as a Porsche-that has always been the TechArt way-but it's noticeably lower than before and the oversized alloys exaggerate the curve of the wheel arches. It looks like it was plucked from the designer's sketchbook, before production feasibilities and marketing mumbo jumbo took their toll.
This look is far from accidental. TechArt's aesthetic makeover is subtle but comprehensive. A new front spoiler and grille is joined by side skirts, new mirror covers and a restyled rear bumper. The introduction of a fixed rear wing renders redundant the standard Cayman's automated wing, which now sits impotently on the tailgate. TechArt Formula 20" alloy wheels complete a look that is hunched and purposeful.
For what it's worth, the only detail I don't like is the rear spoiler. TechArt reckons that it's aerodynamically advantageous, but it's small enough to be apologetic and it compromises the classic elegance of the Cayman's silhouette. I'd rather save the euros and cope with a smidgeon more lift.
The cows that contributed to the standard Cayman's interior died in vain. TechArt's interior boffins didn't rate the standard leather, so they replaced it with hide of their own, presumably gleaned from cows that have been fed beer and massaged by girls in lederhosen.
The interior of the demo car is finished in black and red with silver detailing, but TechArt takes pride in offering bespoke solutions. The company even revamped Michael Schumacher's private jet. Customers are free to choose their own color scheme, and judging by the hue of the hides hanging in the factory, it's an offer that many take up. The key touch points have also been TechArtified. The aluminum pedals are beautifully placed for exponents of the heel-and-toe technique; the three-spoke wheel is ergonomically optimized at a-quarter-to-three and the gearstick mixes leather and aluminum. They all feel great, although I miss the visual treat afforded by the Porsche emblem on the steering wheel. An embossed TechArt logo doesn't quite have the same impact.
All these details help to boost the Cayman's pose value, but they do little to change the dynamics. Those revisions are hidden from view. Later in the year TechArt will unveil 3.6- and 3.8-liter Caymans, but for now, the engine tweak is relatively modest. A new sport air filter and ECU increase the power output from 295 to 310 bhp. A short shifter reduces the gearchange travel by 20 percent. More significant are the changes to the suspension. The introduction of Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers has reduced the ride height by 25-30mm and fundamentally altered the dynamics. These control the 20-inch alloys, which come wrapped in Continental SportContact 2 tires, 235/30-20 at the front and 305/25-20 at the rear. The brakes are unchanged.
At low speeds, the ride is noticeably firm. Surface scars that might go undetected in the standard car are defined by the TechArt and transmitted through the chunky wheel. But the change is not so abrupt that it feels harsh or uncomfortable. Anyone stepping out of a 911 GT3 would call it luxurious.
The trade-off is an even greater degree of poise, grip and security when pushing on. The Techart feels better planted on the road than either a conventional Cayman or a 997. Body roll is noticeable only by its absence and you can carry huge speed through bends with complete confidence. The innate agility afforded by the Cayman's mid-engine configuration has also been unaffected by the conversion, although the last tenth of steering feel has been diluted by the bigger boots and also, perhaps, by the new steering wheel. The front tires are no longer quite as chatty as once they were.