2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Introduction
For a period of roughly 20 years, starting in the late 70s and running all the way to the 90s, the concept of an entry-level coupe from Porsche was considered the consolation prize amongst sports car fans. The 2014 Porsche Cayman, on the other hand, bears none of the stigma associated with its 924 / 944 predecessors, for a number of different reasons. First and foremost there is the presence of a true mid-engine architecture that is the key ingredient in the Cayman's preternatural handling capability, backed by a range of engines that evoke none of the parts-bin compromise of older affordable Porsche models. There's also the luxury-laden interior trappings that can be stuffed inside of the Cayman's snug cockpit, which are on par with more prestigious models like the Panamera sedan.
The redesigned 2014 Porsche Cayman has a secret, however, that no other Porsche in its price range has ever been able to claim: it's a better drive than the vaunted 911 Carrera. The Cayman gives the world a stunning glimpse of what the automaker might be able to accomplish if it were willing to back away from protecting its 50-year-old flagship and give us the kind of pure performance car that would devastate all comers.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Porsche Cayman is available in two models. The base Cayman starts at an MSRP of $52,600 and comes with air conditioning, power adjustments for the front seats, a rear spoiler that can be extended or retracted either automatically or at the touch of a button, Bluetooth connectivity for phone, but not audio streaming, an LCD touchscreen interface, cruise control, and power windows and door locks. Moving up to the Cayman S (MSRP $63,800) introduces an upgraded drivetrain but doesn't really make too many other improvements to the standard equipment list: you get HID headlights, 19-inch wheels in place of the base Cayman's 18-inchers, and a dual exhaust tips.
Porsche is all about options and packages, which are a huge profit center for the brand. The 2014 Porsche Cayman is no exception, and if you want things like dual automatic climate control, surround sound audio, and navigation, you're going to have to dig deep into your pockets. My base Cayman tester was outfitted with the Infotainment package (navigation, louder stereo system, satellite radio, HD radio), the Convenience package (dual automatic climate control, heated seats), and bi-xenon adaptive headlights - modest additions that pushed the MSRP of the coupe up to $60,045, which is just below that of the Cayman S. Go crazy with the options sheet and you'll pay more for a Cayman than you would for a base 911 Carrera.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Design
- The 2014 Porsche Cayman has been redesigned for the current model year.
I wasn't a fan of the first-generation Porsche Cayman's styling. There was something about its proportions that brought to mind a stretched-and-flattened take on the brand's traditional 911 shape that just put me off. I'm happy to say, however, that the 2014 Porsche Cayman is much more of a looker than its predecessor. The main difference is muscle: the new Cayman looks like it's been on a Crossfit binge and emerged lean and taut. There are no bulging biceps to be found on the Porsche but there's definitely a six-pack and some toned thighs, with the rear haunches properly flared for maximum visual pleasure and a pleasing profile that balances out the car's somewhat milquetoast forward presentation.
Cognizant of the fact that the Cayman isn’t just perceived as a sports car but also a luxury vehicle, the automaker has poured significant dollars into upgrading the coupe's passenger compartment as well. Gone is the plain center stack of the year before and in its place is a new arrangement that borrows heavily from the same design sheet as the larger Cayenne and Panamera models. This means a useful LCD touchscreen for interacting with the car's entertainment and communications features, a small climate control pod immediately underneath, and a center console flanked by buttons and toggles. Leather-like materials cover the door panels, the dash is simple and smooth, and the three-binnacle gauge cluster is nicely divided between speedometer, tachometer, and driver's information display, with the tach front-and-center just like it should be.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Porsche Cayman offers nicer seats compared to the previous year.
The 2014 Porsche Cayman is not a large automobile, but my under-six-foot-frame had no issue fitting comfortably inside its compact passenger compartment. The Cayman's cockpit feel is enhanced for 2014 thanks to the addition of a taller center console - again, lifted from the Panamera - that bisects the interior in two. I didn’t feel crowded or cramped by the Cayman's design, but if you are taller than average you might have a bit of trouble getting in or out of the low-slung car. It's worth nothing that the base buckets in my Cayman tester were all-day seats, capable of eating up road trip miles without leaving you worse for wear at the end of your trip. This is not something that can be said for other sports cars in the Porsche's wheelhouse.
Storage is the biggest issue when it comes to evaluating the 2014 Porsche Cayman's interior, but not how you'd think. The placement of the engine directly behind the driver means there's actually a decent amount of trunk space in the coupe - just under 10 cubic feet - although the front 'trunk' is less generous by almost half. I was able to balance oversized plastic containers on top of the engine cover itself, which probably wasn't the safest move but which allowed me to carry home the fruits of an overzealous shopping spree in a single trip.
No, my one beef with the Cayman's practicality has to do with its lack of interior storage opportunities. The small center console opening can accommodate a single pair of sunglasses under its lid, while the door slots were barely up to the task of containing my winter gloves. If you have a phone, MP3 player, or anything else you'd rather not haul around in your pockets while driving, you are out of luck.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Porsche Cayman updates its feature set and control surfaces.
One of the first things you'll notice about the 2014 Porsche Cayman's interior is its smooth steering wheel, which is completely devoid of any of the buttons or other controls that have colonized most other luxury cars and even a healthy chunk of vehicles at the lower end of the market. Uncomplicated would perhaps be the best term to describe the Cayman's control philosophy, with only the console's raft of buttons - few in my base model, but easily added to on the Cayman S - providing any kind of challenge to instantly figuring out which toggle does what.
As with all Porsche radio interfaces, the touchscreen occasionally highlights more than a single radio station at a time, requiring a second glance to figure out where your crystals are tuned to, but other than that it's easy street. I even liked the binnacle-mounted driver information screen, which allows you to go deep into customization menus if you really want to but is equally happy simply providing you with a heads-up snapshot of the data you really need.
Ergonomically, purists will definitely complain about the Cayman's electronic parking brake, whose push-to-apply lever is mounted under the dash to the left of the steering wheel. There's no real room on the center console for a traditional handle, so it's not just a styling affectation, but it does put a bit of a damper on snow-filled parking lot turns.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Porsche Cayman can now be had with Porsche Active Safe
The 2014 Porsche Cayman features dual forward airbags, a pair of side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags to protect the head of both driver and passenger, and knee airbags on either side of the cockpit. It also comes with electronic stability control and traction control as standard equipment, as well as the option of parking assistance. Porsche Active Safe is an automatic braking feature that comes with the vehicle's available adaptive cruise control system, and it functions regardless of whether the front radar is keeping the Cayman at a steady rate of speed or not.
2014 Porsche Cayman Crash-Test Ratings: The Cayman has yet to be crash tested by either the IIHS or the NHTSA.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Porsche Cayman gains two new engines
- An automatic engine start/stop feature is now standard with the coupe
The 2014 Porsche Cayman drops down from the 2.9-liter, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine of last year to a 2.7-liter mill, but the upshot is a boost in horsepower and torque. The new Cayman enjoys 275 horses and 213 lb-ft of twist (10 more ponies than in 2013), and it offers the choice between either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Fuel mileage for the Cayman is listed at 20-mpg city and 30-mpg highway with the manual gearbox, which is what my tester was outfitted with - I saw closer to the city number during a week spent redlining the Porsche at every opportunity. With the pedal down, the Cayman will reach 60-mph from a standing start in roughly 5.5 seconds and take just a few ticks over 14 seconds to complete a quarter mile run.
For comparison purposes, the Cayman S provides 325 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque from a 3.4-liter flat-six. You definitely notice the difference, as the S is a full second quicker to 60-mph and blazes down the quarter mile nearly 1.5 seconds faster, too. Transmission choices remain the same for the more muscular coupe.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Driving Impressions
Cars like the 2014 Porsche Cayman make me wish I owned a thesaurus that was filled exclusively with superlatives. In a year that has given us not just a redesigned Cayman but also a brand-new Chevrolet Corvette (the Stingray) as well as the first sports car from Jaguar in close to four decades (the F-Type), Porsche has managed to trump the competition and produce the best driver's car that money can buy.
In the modern race to crown the next king and queen of the horsepower wars, it would seem that many an automaker has forgotten the key tenet that a sports car should feel like an extension of the driver, offering instant feedback in the most transparent manner possible through the steering wheel, the suspension, and the chassis itself. The Porsche Cayman finds itself trounced by big-bore eight-cylinder rivals and turbocharged attack sleds, but it simply doesn't matter because nowhere will you find a car that is so perfectly tuned to attending to the driver's needs than when piloting this perfect little coupe.
Each corner becomes not so much a challenge as an opportunity to apply the Cayman's unique brand of asphalt artistry as the car asks you just how creatively you can complete lap-after-lap of absolutely enjoyable automotive mayhem. Whatever drama is introduced into the motoring experience offered by the Porsche is entirely the responsibility of the driver, as the Cayman's expertly balanced and lightweight design - anchored by the crucial placement of the engine ahead of the rear axles - is the proverbial dynamic blank slate which seeks simply the most stable path between one apex and the next. Pulse-pounding performance comes in the form of perfectly-executed cornering commands, not heart-stopping powerslides (although those are there too, if you care to unlock them via the over-application of throttle and steering inputs), and there's none of the overabundance of rearward momentum that Porsche has worked so hard to engineer out of the 911 Carrera.
On the street, the Cayman offers more of the same, smoothly connecting the dots on your commute or favorite mountain road without introducing any ride harshness. It's also adept at handling low-traction conditions, as a sudden snow storm that dumped four inches of the white stuff on Montreal during my time with the car proved. The six-speed manual transmission might be slower than the optional PDK dual-clutch unit, but it's absolutely the gearbox to have in order to ensure maximum engagement with the Porsche's truly excellent chassis. The 2.7-liter six-cylinder sounds a bit like a sewing machine at idle, although once underway having that complex mechanical chorus rise up directly behind your head is a wonderful experience - particularly with the Sport button engaged, which enhances throttle response and seems to make the Cayman's exhaust system sound just a little bit more aggressive. You'll easily forget that the coupe is no drag strip champion because you'll find yourself looking for roads that offer more bends than straights and extending every commute past the bare minimum simply to get more time behind the wheel.
It's that good.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Final Thoughts
The 2014 Porsche Cayman S is the best sports car money can buy, and the base Porsche Cayman is 90 percent as good - especially if you don't need the extra power on a race track, which is where the Cayman S truly shines. The Cayman also has the virtue of being much more affordable than its hairier sibling, which matters when considering just how much money it's wise to shell out for an entry-level performance car.
If you want to be pinned to your seat with the throttle to the floor, then the Porsche Cayman isn't for you. There are a dozen other rides - several costing tens of thousands less - that will eviscerate the Cayman from stoplight to stoplight, and I recommend you seek them out instead. None of them, however, not even the Porsche 911 Carrera, delivers the combined day-to-day pleasure and amazing driving experience that is embodied by the Cayman. Porsche is acutely aware of this fact, and has attempted to cover up the car's engineering excellence by giving it effective, yet not overwhelming power plants to maintain the 911's status as the company's flagship. It doesn't matter. I've seen the light, and I'm spreading the gospel.
2014 Porsche Cayman Review: Pros and Cons
- Best sports car chassis on the market
- Electric steering system that is the class of the industry
- Not inexpensive if you stay away from options
- Great six-speed manual transmission
- Drives better than any other car under $100,000
- Cayman S plus options equals 911 Carrera pricing
- Not particularly quick in a straight line, which matters to some
- Cayman S is significantly pricier, yet adds few premium features
- Interior storage is not as good as it could be
Porsche Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.