PURE driving fun isn’t only about speed. It’s also not about ultimate grip. No … pure driving fun happens when a perfectly judged balance of all the various components of performance and dynamic ability is achieved. To put it simply, too much (power, speed, grip) can sometimes simply be too much. And in the world of the sportscar, less is often more.
Ever since its introduction, the Porsche Cayman S has been one of the CAR team’s favourite sportscars for the aforementioned reasons. Compact, immensely agile, direct and beautifully balanced, with just enough power to fully exploit its dynamic talents, the Cayman S remains a segment leader.
But Porsche thought it could do better. Enter the Cayman R. According to the Zuffenhausen based carmaker, the R was designed purely for “driving dynamics”. You can replace those two marketing-speak words with “fun”, because we’re sure that’s what the engineers meant.
The main difference between the R and the S is mass. The Cayman R is the result of a crash diet. The basic car comes without an air-conditioning system or a radio (those are no-cost options) that save 15 kg. A further 15 kg is saved through the use of aluminium doors. Then there are the rather serious-looking sports seats (they save 12 kg). Also, Porsche has chucked out the cupholder, the interior door handles (replaced by straps), the instrument cowl and reduced the amount of door trim. Oh, and it also has the lightest 19-inch alloy wheels Porsche offers – a complete set weighs only 40 kg! Overall, 55 kg has been saved, but our test car had aircon and a radio, so this figure is obviously less. Still, at 1 392 kg on our scales (with a full tank of fuel), the Cayman R is light.
What else? Well, you can easily spot a Cayman R by its lowered stance (20 mm), fixed rear wing, black-framed headlights and, if all that is not enough, some pretty bold paint colours. Of course, there’s also the classic “Porsche” lettering on the doors.
There are a few changes under the skin, too. The 3,4-litre flat-six engine now pumps out 7,5 kW more than in the Cayman S, thanks mostly to a modified exhaust system with a new header and revamped engine control software. Porsche engineers put the emphasis on responsiveness, so there are changes to the throttle control curve, too. The Cayman R is offered with a choice of two transmissions, a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dualclutch PDK as featured in this test.
Our test car also featured the optional Sport Chrono package (R17 370) and an optional sport exhaust system (R30 540). This is a bit cheeky from Porsche, seeing as those two options are really appealing, and a Cayman R without them isn’t quite the same. The exhaust simply amplifies the car’s characteristic wail under hard acceleration and is very addictive. Sport Chrono, on the other hand, includes a launch-control function, and this is incredibly effective. Without it, Porsche claims a 0-100 km/h time of 4,9 seconds. With it, the time drops by 0,2 seconds to 4,7. But we beat this figure by achieving 4,61 seconds with remarkable ease. The top speed is quoted as 280 km/h. But, these facts and figures, as impressive as they are, can’t even begin to accurately convey how spectacularly good this car is to drive. We’ve already mentioned the 20 mm drop in ride height.
But there’s more. The springs are shorter and more rigid and there are modified anti-roll bars at the front and the rear. The centre of gravity has been lowered by 2 mm thanks to the mass-saving measures so, in total, the R is effectively 22 mm lower. Furthermore, there are wider tracks front (by 4 mm) and rear (by 2 mm). More negative camber has also been set on both axles to increase the directional stability. Finally, and this is important, it boasts a limited-slip differential that has been fine-tuned for stability and traction, particularly with a racing circuit in mind.
The amazing thing is, however, that all this extra stiffness has not corrupted what remains one of the standard Cayman’s best attributes – its suppleness. Whereas rival manufacturers often firm up their suspension systems too much, resulting in the cars losing poise, traction and grip when road conditions deteriorate, Porsche has achieved something magical with the Cayman R. It simply absorbs whatever the road surface can throw at it, earning its driver’s trust, and allowing him/her to instead focus on the precise steering, brakes and throttle. The equal weighting to all the controls makes the driving experience even more special.
It’s also a very forgiving car. Unlike the BMW 1 Series M Coupé, which rewards a good driver but may bite a bad one on the bottom, the Cayman R loses grip in a very progressive, gradual way, giving the driver plenty of time to remedy a “situation”. It is, from a dynamics point of view, simply without peer.
You will not buy a more entertaining and complete sportscar for less than R1 million. It’s that simple. In fact, you’ll struggle to find a better all-round sportscar at any price.
But, the price (R886 910 as tested) remains the Cayman R’s biggest problem. We have no doubt that it is better than the BMW 1 Series M Coupé. But is it more than R300 000 better? No.
That said, if you can afford it, you don’t even have to think about it. The Porsche Cayman R will blow your socks off.