2012 Porsche Cayman Review: What Is It
As a growing number of new cars have become more focused on offering creature comforts like cupholders, cabin technology and cubby holes, there are probably only a handful of cars left that can be labeled as true track cars. On the low end of the price scale sits the loveable Mazda MX-5 Miata, but those with deeper pockets can aspire to cars like the Lotus Exige or the Porsche Cayman. With an all-new model expected to debut later this year, we recently snagged the keys to a white-on-white-on-white 2012 Porsche Cayman for this road test and review.
Assembled in Stuttgart, Germany, the 2012 Porsche Cayman has a starting MSRP of $51,900. The best part of the Porsche line-up is that this price range can get you three distinct vehicles with the Cayman, Porsche Boxster and Porsche Cayenne all priced very similarly. Of course, our car also came with a handful of pricey Porsche options raising the as-tested price up to $60,935. Even at this price, the 2012 Porsche Cayman represents great "bang for the buck" when it comes to a well-balanced sports car that can also double as a great daily driver.
2012 Porsche Cayman Review: What It's Up Against
According to Porsche's latest sales results showing only 14 2012 Porsche Cayman models were sold in July, the closest apples-to-apples competitor to this car might be the Lotus Exige while the Mercedes-Benz SLK350, Audi TT RS and BMW 1-Series M should also be considered by buyers. Porsche combines the sales tallies for its Boxster and Cayman models (which sold a total of 373 units last month), but in the first full month of sales for the 2013 Boxster, Porsche points out that it sold 359 units of its newly redesigned drop top model. If recent reports are true, the all-new 2013 Porsche Cayman is expected to make its world debut at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in November.
2012 Porsche Cayman Review: Exterior
What's New for 2012:
- Carried over from 2011
How It Looks:
Porsche says the design inspiration of the 2012 Porsche Cayman comes from historical models like the 904 and 550 Coupe which is probably a part of the reason why the car's styling still looks just as fresh as the day it was introduced in 2007. The Porsche Cayman is essentially the hardtop version of the Boxster, but it is the 911-like roofline and wide rear haunches that give the Cayman its striking design with the LED taillights and center-mounted exhaust outlet finishing off the sporty look. As a Porsche signature, the headlights are a part of the Cayman's tall front fenders, and one of the biggest styling improvements that came from the 2010 refresh is the more aggressive front fascia with our car having circular LED daytime running lights. Not only did our tester upgrade to a set of 18-inch, five-spoke wheels with a staggered width as a $1,235 option, but it also had them painted to match the car's Carrara (not Carrera) White exterior paint as a $1,490 Porsche Exclusive option. The lower spoiler lips on the front fascia were also painted to match the body for an extra $485.
2012 Porsche Cayman Review: Interior
What's New for 2012:
- Carried over from 2011
How It Looks and Feels:
As much as the exterior gives the 2012 Porsche Cayman a look that is unquestionably Porsche, the interior doesn't really match up with other current Porsche models, and that's a good thing. While the 911, Panamera and Cayenne are all suffering from button overload, the Cayman's cockpit is very restrained which makes it look and feel more like a true track car. Our test model came with an optional interior setup that spiced things up a little with optional center console and instrument gauges painted to match the exterior. These white interior really helped the cabin from looking too drab since most of the other interior colors were black or grey. Even after a week of driving, we never fully got used to having the ignition key on the left side of the steering column, but this is part of Porsche's heritage and is a constant reminder that these cars have a direct lineage to race cars.
The cabin is surprisingly quiet despite the fact that the engine is just inches from the driver's ears, but you still get plenty of the beautiful exhaust note inside the car. Speaking of the mid-engine layout, the Cayman still has plenty of cargo space thanks to front and rear cargo areas (5.3 cubic feet up front and 9.2 cubic feet in the rear), but the passenger compartment can be a little tight. As is the case with most sports cars, those using the Porsche Cayman as a daily driver might be hassled by the low ride height which is obvious during ingress and egress, but slipping into the low-slung 2012 Porsche Cayman, both passengers are treated to a supportive - and surprisingly comfortable - sporty bucket seats.
2012 Porsche Cayman Review: The Extras
In total, our 2012 Porsche Cayman had about $9,000 in options, but in true Porsche style, this figure could easily balloon out of control based on how far owners wish to go in personalizing their cars. The key option packages on this car was the $2,230 Convenience Package that includes adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights, auto dimming mirrors, automatic climate control and Porsche crests embroidered into the headrests, a $700 Sound Package Plus that upgrades the speakers of the audio system and $525 for heated seats.
2012 Porsche Cayman Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
What's New for 2012:
- New Cayman R model
- New Cayman S Black Edition model
How Does It Go:
Sitting right behind the sport bucket seats sits the powerplant of the 2012 Porsche Cayman consisting of a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder paired with a six-speed manual transmission. This engine produces 265 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque which factored in with its 2,932-pound curb weight gives it an excellent power-to-weight ratio. Porsche says that the Cayman in this configuration can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds, but the optional seven-speed PDK is a tenth of a second faster and delivers slightly better fuel economy; those looking for even more power still have the Cayman S and Cayman R from which to choose. Even with its great performance, the Porsche Cayman is still easy on the wallet when it comes to filling up the tank with EPA-rated estimates of 19 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and a rating of 22 mpg in combined driving.
2012 Porsche Cayman Review: How It Drives
There are few cars on the market that handle as well as the Porsche Cayman, and while we had the chance to drive a Cayman R on the track last year, our time with this "base" Cayman tester showed us how well this car feels as a daily driver. Not taking the Cayman to the track is akin to keeping the Mona Lisa locked up in the basement of the Louvre, but we're pretty sure most people aren't going to buy this car as a track-only toy. With its light weight and perfect weight distribution, the Porsche Cayman is fast whether you're driving it in a straight line or tackling tight twisties. The standard six-speed manual transmission is smooth, but those looking for the lightning-fast shifts of the seven-speed PDK transmission will have to ante up an extra $3,420. As impressive as the Porsche Cayman is during acceleration, the front and rear cross-drilled rotors with four-piston calipers help bring the car to a stop just as fast.2012 Porsche Cayman Review: Is It Safe
The 2012 Porsche Cayman has not been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This small sports coupe does come standard with plenty of standard safety features such as six airbags, automatic brake differential, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, Porsche Stability Management, LED daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).2012 Porsche Cayman Review: Final Thoughts
The redesigned Cayenne, 911 and Boxster have all been receiving plenty of attention lately, but the 2012 Porsche Cayman still offers the most bang for the buck in the Porsche line-up. Some people might call the Cayman a poor-man's 911, but it is more of an aspirational vehicle more along the lines of a rich-man's Miata. This car is great for the track or as a daily driver delivering plenty of smiles regardless of the driving situation. Conjuring up memories of Porsche sports cars of yesterday, the Porsche Cayman is such a great-handling car that it has its own racing series... no BMW or Mercedes-Benz can compete with that claim.2012 Porsche Cayman Review: Pros and Cons
- Exhilarating to drive
- Classic Porsche lines
- Great exhaust note
- Porsche options are always expensive
- Interior not as stylish as other Porsche models
Porsche provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross