The 2014 Porsche Cayman isn't the most iconic car in the German manufacturer's expanding lineup; the legendary 911 easily claims that distinction. But with its mid-engine configuration, lightweight construction and razor-sharp tuning, the Cayman delivers a different draw for performance-car shoppers, one that makes this small 2-seater a hidden gem nestled within Porsche's growing family of sports cars, SUVs and sedans.
What's New for 2014?
The Porsche Cayman is completely redesigned for 2014.
What We Like
Unpretentious, functional personality; incredibly intuitive handling; surprising comfort and smoothness; relative rarity compared to more mass-produced models
What We Don't
MSRP is quickly escalated by options; non-S model could use more power; multimedia interface is starting to feel long in the tooth; lacks the iconic cachet of the 911
$53,550 to $64,750
The standard Cayman is powered by a horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine producing 275 horsepower and 213 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to its relatively slight curb weight (which starts at a feathery 2,888 pounds), the base Cayman is rated at an impressive 20 miles per gallon city/30 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual transmission, and an even thriftier 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy when equipped with the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Opt for the S model, and the engine grows to 3.4 liters with a notable increase in output: The bigger powerplant produces 325 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. The Cayman S is rated at 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with the manual, or 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with the dual-clutch 7-speed.
Standard Features & Options
The Porsche Cayman is available in two trim levels, both featuring a mid-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive.
The base Cayman ($53,550) is motivated by a 6-cylinder 2.7-liter engine, and is equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional dual-clutch automatic ($3,200). The standard model is equipped with 235/45-18 front and 265/45-18 rear wheels and tires.
Opt for the Cayman S ($64,750) and you'll get a bigger 3.4-liter engine with the same transmission options. The Cayman S receives larger 235/40-19 front and 265/40-19 rear wheels and tires.
Performance-related options for both models include active suspension ($1,790), a Sport Chrono package ($1,850), a sport exhaust system ($2,825) and torque vectoring ($1,320). Also available are high-priced goodies such as ceramic brakes ($7,400).
Though reasonably well equipped out-of-the-box with items such as Bluetooth, an onboard computer and a hill hold system, both versions of the 2014 Porsche Cayman have a lengthy list of available features that can make their starting prices swell. For instance, no fewer than four seats are available for the Cayman, including 2-way electrics ($500), sport seats plus ($800), 14-way power sport seats ($2,320) and adaptive sport seats plus ($3,825). A Bose audio-equipped infotainment package with a 7-inch navigation screen can be had for $3,990, while a tony Burmester sound system inflates the MSRP by $6,730. A $1,170 premium package bundles dual-zone climate control, seat heating, 14-way driver seats and bi-xenon headlights. All manner of aluminum, leather, carbon fiber and/or Alcantara trim can be outfitted in Cayman's interior.
Though it lacks the reassuring heft of some bigger, heavier sports cars, the Cayman's safety features are intended to protect its occupants in a crash. The chassis is steel/aluminum composite, which optimizes the car's structural integrity. Rounding out the Cayman's safety items are stability control, and full-size and knee airbags.
The Porsche Cayman has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Transportation Safety Association as of this writing.
Behind the Wheel
The Cayman's plain, utilitarian interior may lack the drama and premium feel of more upmarket models (such as the 911, which starts at $85,250), but the magic starts when you twist the ignition key (with your left hand, per Porsche tradition) and ease forward off the line.
Even at slow speeds, the Cayman conveys a sense of connectedness to the road, with an effortless air of maneuverability thanks to its taut suspension, small footprint and nimble dynamics. The base Cayman's power delivery is gradual and fairly mild, culminating with a nice little spike at the 7,400 rpm power peak. The faster you go, the more the Cayman comes alive with a sense of communicative, intuitive handling, thanks to its accurate and stable steering, quick turn-in and copious grip.
Brakes are similarly balanced, with strong stopping capabilities when summoned. But the real surprise comes on longer rides, when the Cayman's friendly ergonomics and surprisingly smooth ride quality make it an easy accomplice for hours on the road. We usually don't consider small, low-slung coupes to be great partners for long distance drives, but the Porsche Cayman fit that bill and then some.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi TT RS -- Nicely finished but not quite as magically tuned as the Porsche, this alternative from Ingolstadt, Germany, delivers more approachable styling with model-specific upgrades for heightened performance.
BMW M3 -- Though currently between life cycles, the M3 also delivers nicely modulated performance and a great deal of mechanical refinement.
Chevrolet Corvette -- Considerably larger than the Cayman (and, arguably, more of a 911 competitor), the upcoming C7 Corvette's performance upgrades make it a potential contender against the littlest Porsche.
Though its thunder is often stolen by the famous, half-century-old 911, the redesigned Cayman's rewarding driving characteristics and nimble chassis make it an unexpectedly capable alternative to its legendary stablemate. Power-hungry drivers may find no substitute for the 911's rear-engined edge when it comes to outright acceleration, but the Cayman puts up an impressive fight with its balanced mid-engine configuration and rock-solid chassis. For sports car shoppers willing to pay the Porsche premium, this latest Cayman makes a compelling argument for going with the entry-level alternative.