Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday Porsche Blogging: The type 987 Coupe, the New Porsche Cayman S

I was lucky enough to test drive the new Porsche Cayman S in mid January at Loeber Motors in Lincolnwood, IL. That car is an apex eater; I can only imagine what the Cayman would be like through the Carrousel at Road America. The car feels like it just wants to go faster through turns. After looking the car over for about fifteen minutes I got to climb into a black model with 18 miles on the odometer and fire it up. The interior is comfortable and definitely advanced from my ’02 Boxster S. When you sit in the car it feels solid, especially when the door closes. The transmission is wonderful; the shifter is placed correctly, with shorter throws than either of the previous Boxster models and it is very, very smooth. Here was a mid-engine car with 18 miles on the clock and the transmission felt as smooth as silk. When the engine is fired up the interior fills with the fabulous sound of the new 3.4 liter flat-six engine directly behind you. At least at low speeds the engine sounds better inside the car than outside of it. That is as it should be; the passerby is not making the payments on the thing.

My test drive was in a rather crowded urban area so I took the car out to a nearby highway clover leaf and was able to do several “laps” through the entire Touhy Ave. clover leaf at relatively high speeds. Because it was winter there was debris on the edges of the ramps and on a few of those passes I intentionally put the inside wheels on this gravelly debris in an effort to unsettle the car. The Cayman would have none of that; it just give a hint of slip before once again settling into its attack the corner mode. The car that I drove was equipped with PSM, the Porsche yaw control system and if PSM did kick in, I never noticed it.

The car that I drove was not equipped with the Sport Chrono option, which in addition to putting a stop watch on your dashboard, gives you a sportier shift pattern when it’s engaged. Further, when the Sport Chrono package is combined with the GPS package and its space hogging screen you will be able to record lap and split times in the GPS system. Very cool.

The Cayman S is a type 987, as are the current two Boxster models, the Boxster and the Boxster S. The initial Boxster models, the standard and the S, built through 2004 were type 986 models. The Boxster models have always shared components with their more expensive Carrera siblings, the 996s and the new 997s, thus the numerical designations of 986 and 987.

Building this car is an interesting marketing decision; Porsche has shown that they understand the market they operate in and they have been able to successfully exploit that knowledge. Mercedes and Lexus have shown that there is a market for a $60,000 two-seater and Porsche saw that niche as missing a truly sporting component. Porsche feels that they can fill that niche with a vehicle that shares enough with the existing Boxster line to make even relatively limited production a profitable endeavor. The shame about the mid-engine Porsche line up is the lack of racing experience. It has been said that Porsche does not want their expensive and profitable Carrera streetcars and GT3 race program to be at all shown up by the less expensive Boxsters.

The Cayman is interesting in the race aspect because the thing is a track car, right out of the box. When the Sport Chrono and GPS goodies are thrown in, the car appears to be perfect for people who get in a decent amount of track time. If guys start taking these cars out to places like the Autobahn Country Club and whooping up on Carreras, then it may be tough to keep the Cayman off of the track. I would like to add that I do not know whether the Cayman S can take the Carrera, I would rather not hazard a guess. There were rumors, later quashed by the factory, that implied the Cayman S was faster than the Carrera in testing at the Nurburgring.

Further Flying Debris Porsche Blogging can be found here, here, and here.


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