By Zack Klapman.
When Porsche built the 2013 Porsche Cayman, their entry-level sports car, they probably weren’t expecting people to whisper about its possible superiority to the almighty 911. Racing and physics tells us that the mid-mounted engine will result in a car that handles better, has better weight distribution, and is safer at (and past) the limit, but I don’t think the Cayman will ever out-shine the godfather of boxer engines. The 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S (especially our optioned-up $140,000 one) has a recognizable shape that not carries brand cache, it is the very symbol of its brand. It has more power and torque (400/325 to this Cayman’s 275/213, respectively). The 911 is Porsche, and this 911 is an incredible car, both on the track and as a grand tourer.
If you want a great blend of luxury and performance inside a package as recognizable as a Tiffany’s box, the 911 is your choice. I’m not here to argue that the slower, lighter, more simply appointed the 2013 Porsche Cayman can beat that. It can’t. I’m here to talk about the joy of driving.
Let’s start with the 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S. This one has all the bells and whistles: Sport Suspension, Sport exhaust, the brilliant 7-speed PDK transmission, dynamic engine mounts that send a happy feeling through your fingertips, Sport Steering, and Launch Control, which harnesses the 400HP and announce its presence by bouncing of a pre-set rev limit around 3,500RPM before shoving you forward like Wiley E. Coyote firing himself off a cliff with a giant sling shot.
Everything the car touches or feels is transmitted to you at just the right volume, and everything you do affects the car just right. Grip? Amazing. Shifts? Almost imperceptible. It’s comfortable enough to drive around the world without numbing the experience. I don’t have the talent to find its limits, but a co-worker had no problem executing perfect drifts with the rear-weight bias wringing his neck; the days of the killer Porsche are long gone. In any circumstance, it is an amazing car.
The 2013 Porsche Cayman is not as fast, not by a long shot. You can the 6-speed manual shifter into gear with a satisfying *thrunk*, rev the engine to 7,400RPM, open up the Sports Exhaust, and tear into the distance. The car squats more evenly than the 911. There’s no hit from the headrest, just a sonorous drawn-out wail, pausing to breath only when you depress the clutch. The sound is addicting.
It’s not a fast car. 0-60 takes 5.4 seconds; not surprising consider the torque. People that live by spec sheets or YouTube comments will see this as a detriment, but in truth, it’s an asset, because it means you can use more of the pedal, and more of the rev range, more often. If you pin the throttle in the 911 out of a corner, you’re flying at the next one. Exciting, yes, but it requires caution and ample sleep, and those moments of wide-open throttle are brief.
In the Cayman, you have time to savor those moments. The feeling of using all the power in your right leg, pressing a pedal to the floor, and then trying to go further, hearing the revs build and build and build, is a very special feeling, and the faster the car, the faster that feeling is over.
In corners you can feel how centered the mass is, moving gently outward as you apex, pulling each set of wheels evenly. Steering feel is great, pedal placement perfect. This isn’t for the person looking to announce, “I can buy a 911.” This is for people that love to drive.
And it’s not like the Cayman interior is disappointing; it’s a Porsche, and it looks the part. It also has two trunks, giving it more cargo room than the 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S (though it lacks the 911’s back “seat”). I admit these cars are different, in price, power, and image. The uninformed see the Cayman as a Porsche for people who can’t afford “the real Porsche”, but the intelligent lead foots understand that when it comes to pure driving, you can’t argue with physics.
(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Porsche.)