Leisure  :: Motoring

Chris Moerdyk
Published: 03-NOV-06

There is a tendency in the motoring market market for a lot of people who are passionate about their favourite brands to believe the worst when famous marques start slipping entirely new models into their already more than adequate ranges. And when Porsche does this, some of their fans get quite emotional, wailing and gnashing their teeth about not fixing things that aren’t broken and sticking to successful strategies and so forth.

I know that comparisons are odious and the most odious comparisons of all are those which involve using as a benchmark a car that costs three or four times the price of what it is being compared with. But, this time it is a car that costs less than those it is being compared with.

Over the years, I have driven a lot of sports cars — Mercs, BMWs, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Jaguars, Alfas — virtually the lot, but never have I felt quite as excited as I did when I tested the newly introduced Porsche Cayman S.

It is my kind of sports car. It is stunning. Priced at just over R700000 the Cayman S was designed to fill the gap between the R500000 Boxter and the top- of-the-range R900000 to R1,2mn 911 Carreras.

There are a number of reasons why I fell in love with the Cayman almost instantly. The first is that, unlike many modern sports cars, the Cayman is not full of gimmicks. It is an entirely user-friendly car, with all the mod cons one would require, such as high quality leather upholstery, an excellent sound system and air conditioning. One can get into it and drive off without having to have a university degrees in advanced electronic and mechanical engineering.

I got the feeling that what this Porsche was all about was performance, roadholding and the sheer thrill of driving. And that those who designed it probably felt that if their customers wanted gimmicks they should go out and buy themselves a laptop and an iPod.

The second thing is the ride comfort. Many of the sports cars I have driven have felt as though ride comfort has been sacrificed for roadholding. They have harsh suspensions that have taken them round corners like go-karts. Which on less than a perfect road can leave your teeth feeling as though they’re about to fall out of your mouth and your spine aching.

Porsche engineers have managed to get the Cayman to feel more like a luxury sedan than a sports car, but at the same time retain a quite remarkable level of roadholding that compares very well indeed with anything else I have ever driven. And that’s what I like about it. There are few other sports cars that one can use to tootle quietly and slowly down to the shops, or commute comfortably in heavy traffic to the office. And then head off to the hills and go screaming up mountain passes and round hairpin bends like Michael Schumacher on a good day at the races.

The Cayman S is one of the few examples I have experienced of successfully combining comfortable commuter motoring and high-speed performance into one single package.

It a true mid-engined sports coupe with a lethal 3,4l horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine producing enough horses to achieve a top speed of 275km/h and getting from a standstill to 100km/h in 5,4 seconds.

The Cayman is a very goodlooking car with an unmistakeable Porsche heritage. While it is based on the Boxter series, there are distinct similarities between it and its older 911 siblings.

The Cayman S is dead easy to drive. It is fitted with the latest Tiptronic gearbox which gives the option of automatic or manual — with the manual control rocker switches right there on the steering wheel at your fingertips.

And well done indeed to Porsche for including on the speedo dial an indicator showing the driver exactly what gear the car is in at any given time. The problem with gearboxes today is that as one is hardly able to hear them changing, its often difficult to tell what gear you are in, particularly with the five- six- and seven-speed gearboxes. So this is a great help. I know a lot of cars have this feature but this one is particularly clear and a lot more immediately visible.

And talking of women driving cars, something I know my wife liked about the Cayman was its trunk space. While this is not exactly huge, being a mid-engined car means that whether you approach the car from the front or the rear with an armload of groceries, you can with a touch of the remote key open either the front or rear boot.

Which sounds a bit silly but frankly, if you are paying a bundle of money for luxury and convenience then why should you have to walk all the way round to the back of the car to load your shopping?

And finally, there is no question that the Cayman S has got that special something that is the difference between an ordinary sports car and a great one – ‘overtaking presence.’ This is the effect it has on motorists in front of you which causes them to move over to the left immediately they see you in their rear-view mirror, to let you pass… The Cayman S has it, and then some.

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