In the depths of winter, my happy memories of test-driving a 2008 Porsche Cayman help keep the chill away. If I really want to warm up, I just have to think about zipping around a closed track in a Cayman, courtesy of a member of my local Porsche Club (thanks, Dad!). First, I drove the car around the track, and then I rode along with a professional driver and found that my driving skills fell drastically short. At least I got to experience the true capabilities of the Cayman.
The Cayman looks a lot like a 911 to the untrained eye. It has some distinctive vents in front of the rear fender, a telltale sign that it is not its more expensive, driver-oriented sister. The Cayman gets an EPA-estimated 20/29 mpg city/highway. Not bad for a racer!
I was really nervous about driving the Cayman because Porsches are notoriously tricky to drive. Most Porsches have all their weight in the back, so they're skittish on the road. The Cayman, however, has all its weight in the center, so it was easy to figure out and fun to drive. One of the things the pros know (and made a point of showing me) is that the brakes can be used to shift a car's weight around turns. It was fun to practice this kind of braking a little while zipping around corners in the Cayman.
As I mentioned earlier, if you're not a Porsche person you might not be able to tell the difference between a Cayman and a 911. What you really need to know is that the Cayman costs about $34,000 less than the 911 base model. Of course, it doesn't have the same driving systems as the 911, but it's a fantastic entry into the world of sports cars. It's meant to compete with the BMW Z4 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class. No, it ain't cheap, but it's not expensive if you're talking sports-car budgets.
My test car was Carrara White, which admittedly isn't my favorite car color. When I was at the Porsche event, there were a bunch of great-looking colors, including Speed Yellow, Guards Red and Arctic Silver Metallic. These colors showed off the Cayman's sleek exterior much better than the white. I wasn't too disappointed test-driving the white Cayman; it certainly got noticed out on the road. It sounded like a Porsche and it looked like a Porsche; what more could you want in a sports car?
This car loves to be driven, and it dares you to push it. Its braking was excellent. My newfound braking ability during turns was a great lesson in driving and vehicle dynamics. I learned a little of this during my time on the closed course, but I could certainly use more practice. Fortunately, Porsche has a driving school (and even a Women's Only course) that teaches these skills and more.
This car begged me to accelerate out of corners and find roads with plenty of turns. The Cayman was fast off the line at the stoplight, to be sure, but she was a real treat on twisty back roads. (I was going the speed limit, of course.) What I loved about the Cayman was that she'll hang in there as you learn to drive her and give you a thrill, even if you're not Bob Bondurant (a former Formula One racecar driver and now the owner of a racing school).
I drove the Cayman on a drizzly day, and it didn't get sketchy on me. This had a lot to do with its weight distribution, I'm sure. I felt safe and happy making the 60-mile trek home in the Cayman, but I was relieved not to have to figure out how to drive it in inclement weather on the fly.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove On
I'm not an instructor by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a couple lessons about the Cayman that I'd like to pass on to you:
No. 1: Don't confuse sports cars with luxury cars. Porsche is focused on driving, not massaging your tush. My dad claims that Ferdinand Porsche couldn't understand why anyone would want a radio in one of his cars. I'm not sure if it's true, but it makes sense to me. The Porsche's engine noise is distinctive and very loud in the car. If that's not your thing, well, maybe you should consider a different car. The Cayman did have a stereo; it was quite nice, but I didn't have it on much. I happened to agree with Ferdinand; I preferred the sound of the engine on this one.
No. 2: Sports cars, including the Cayman, can handle some groceries. Many car manufacturers aim to make sports cars accommodate at least one bag of golf clubs. That's roughly the same cargo space as a smallish load of groceries, although that's not why you buy it, right? There were front and rear cargo spaces in the Cayman, which is enough room to fit a bag or two for a weekend getaway with your date.
No. 3: Heated leather-upholstered seats are, well, delicious.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Porsche has included some great safety features into this small package, like remote-activated perimeter lights. More-traditional safety gear includes front-impact, side-impact and side curtain airbags (for a total of six, if you're counting). The Cayman also has traction control, stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system and antilock brakes.
Kids and sports cars can mix, but some sports car are better than others. My kids' booster seats fit fantastically into the Cayman. There was a set of Latch connectors, as well. The front passenger airbag sensors automatically turn off the airbags when a kid sits in the car, but I did wish for a hard switch to turn off the airbags. The engine is in the middle of the car, so the Cayman is a two-seater (911s have little itty-bitty backseats). The Cayman was hospitable; I didn't have to work very hard to make the booster seat fit, and it didn't push the booster seat freakishly close to the dashboard. Thank you, Porsche!
In Diapers: Heck no!
In School: A booster seat easily fit into the passenger seat, and airbag sensors automatically turn off airbags when a child is riding in the car.
Teens: If your kid is a passenger or wants to be a racecar driver, the Cayman is OK. Otherwise, hide the keys.