By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – There’s nothing like the rhythmic serenade of a Porsche mid-engine sports car when it is mated to a manual transmission and it is accelerating.
Yes, to boost sales Porsche developed the Doppelkupplungsgetriebe or (PDK) transmission. In English, that means a dual clutch seven-speed automatic. It is so good that it out performs a professional driver to the point that it posts faster zero to 60 mph times.
Still, there are moments when the purist emerges and nothing else will do except a manual gearbox. That was the case with the 2014 Porsche Cayman. In other words, it was a lot more fun to drive.
It had six forward gears, it was rear-wheel-drive, it could get from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and it had a top speed of 165 mph. Oh, the 2014 Cayman was powered by a normally aspirated aluminum 2.7-liter flat six engine that made 275 horsepower and 213 foot-pounds of torque.
It’s quicker with the PDK transmission and even quicker than that with the Sports Chrono package. And it gets even faster with the S trim line, which in essence provides a more powerful engine. But the third generation of the Cayman has been improved to the point that enthusiasts have said the car rivals Porsche’s fabled Carrera. It is hard to say that it does not.
As we’ve said before, Porsche improvements come in inches, ounces and 10ths of a second. By that rule, the 2014 Porsche Cayman has made a quantum leap ahead of the car it replaced.
The third beneficiary of Porsche’s new lightweight chassis construction, the Cayman is up to 66 lbs. lighter depending on equipment than the model it replaced.
The car had a longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs and larger wheels. What’s more, it was lower. The windshield had been pulled forward and the roofline extended rearward elongating the look even more.
Tapered recesses in both doors channeled air into the intakes and they were a visual indication of the car’s mid-engine orientation and a functional necessity for maximum engine breathing.
The cabin did not feel cramped; it was close but sight lines were great all round and we never felt like we were driving a box; or trying to see out of one. We think Porsche engineers grudgingly added all sorts of creature comforts to the Cayman; the more stuff you add the more the vehicle weighs. Not that the Cayman was a fatty.
Still, our test vehicle had heated and cooled seats, and they were 14-way power sport seats, there was Bluetooth, satellite radio, a navigation system, adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights, LED taillights, 19-inch wheels, it had park assist fore and aft, a wiper for the rear hatch and on it went.
Porsche’s price points demand that sort of comfort but these are performance cars and the premium is placed on engineering and the German automaker has some of the best in the automotive world.
First the car was lighter but the body was stiffer than the model it replaced. It had more horsepower but it was more fuel efficient, getting 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
Our test Cayman had torque vectoring, an active suspension with a normal and sport setting, electromechanical steering and it had stiffer brake calipers. We won’t go into what each technology did or means but the collective result was a sports car that was mannerly at low speeds, athletic at high speeds, easy to handle at all speeds, even on the sport setting it rode with surprising comfort and it would stop on a dime – almost.
What’s more, at $52,600 the 2014 Porsche Cayman is the entry level coupe for the automaker. Add on a long list of options and the total sticker was $70,300. That is a good bit of money but not for a Porsche.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.