2006 Porsche Cayman S
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Porsche has another sports car winner with its new Cayman S, which was fast, docile and agile enough to easily handle twisting two-lane roads in northern Italy in the Tuscan countryside during a media introduction in Siena.
The $58,900 mid-engine Cayman S two-seater fits and is priced between Porsche's entry Boxster mid-engine convertible and iconic rear-engine 911 coupe and convertible sports cars, which have been recently revised.
The Cayman S goes on sale in January, 2006, and Porsche anticipates selling about 8,000 in America annually. That's not many cars by the standards of a big automaker, but small, independent Porsche is a premium brand that doesn't worry about making mass-market vehicles.
Porsche plans to offer a wider range of vehicles, including a sleek sedan in 2009 and a hybrid gas-electric vehicle by the end of the decade, but wants them to be unique "so it can charge premium prices," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan.
Based on Porsche Boxster
The Cayman S looks like a distinctive Porsche because of such items as air scoops in front of the rear axle, a strongly curved roof and a rear section that slowly tapers down to the bumper. The most distinctive feature of the Cayman S is a large tailgate rounded off by the sweeping lines of the back fenders.
Porsche is a strong believer in tradition, still putting the ignition switch to the left of the steering wheel as it did with its old competition cars. Look closely and you'll see features reminiscent of the classic Porsche 550 and 904 Carrera GTS coupes.
Good Passenger Room
There is decent cargo room for a small coupe: 14.4 cubic feet of luggage capacity, with 9.1 cubic feet of luggage space beneath the tailgate. There's also a front luggage compartment with 5.25 cubic feet and several storage compartments for smaller odds and ends.
The comfortable seats in the businesslike interior provide excellent support during hard driving, and gauges can be easily read. Secondary controls for such things as the audio system, though, are almost too small for easy, quick use by a driver. And the rear roof creates blind spots from the driver's seat. Interior storage space is just adequate.
I didn't get anywhere near that top speed because of Northern Italy's often-congested roads, but found the Cayman S felt secure and had little wind noise at 115 mph partly because of its highly aerodynamic body.
A split rear spoiler automatically raises at 75 mph to help keep the Cayman S pinned to roads, and then retracts at 50 mph.
Such torque should help make the Cayman S an easy car to drive during generally congested U.S. driving conditions.
Less Costly Version Rumored
Porsche's Tiptronic S 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature is optional and is said to cause little performance loss, but no Cayman S at the Siena-based preview was available with that transmission. If memory serves, Porsche introduced the efficient Tiptronic at a European preview I attended about 15 years ago and it worked fine during a long drive from German to the French Riviera.
Decent Fuel Economy
One of the most outstanding features of the Cayman S is its road grip—it never seemed to run out of it no matter how hard I drove the car on tricky roads. Much goes into such superb handling, including body rigidity that lets the deftly designed suspension work well, ideal weight distribution and large 18-inch tires partly covered by flared wheel arches. (Optional are 19-inch wheels for even sharper handling.)
A standard Porsche Stability Management System prevents unwanted sideways action and helps keep the car on the road if an overenthusiastic driver is moving too fast.
Excellent Steering and Brakes
Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes with larger brake discs are optional, but cost thousands of dollars and are arguably a needless expense unless a Cayman S owner does lots of hard mountain driving or likes to drive at organized events on race tracks.
The Cayman's suspension is firm but supple enough to soak up bumps and doesn't allow "float" when the car is driven over uneven or undulating roads.
Safety features of the 2,955-pound Porsche include six airbags.
No Spare Tire
"Porsche must continually look ahead and give its dealers a wider range of vehicles to sell to remain competitive," Michael Bartsch, the new head of Porsche Cars North America, said in an interview at the preview. The Cayman S seems like a strategic addition to the Porsche line.