Test Drive Review: 2014 Porsche Cayman S, The Better Porsche

 

In 20 years you’ll be buying the 2014 Porsche Cayman S as a collector car over the 991 Porsche 911. Read why and enjoy.

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When going to purchase a new or used Porsche sports car, it never used to be this difficult. No one, that I can think of, cross-shopped a 911 against a 924, 928, 944, or a 968. Now, however, since the creation of the Cayman, the 911 doesn’t mean as much to everyone. And, if I can be honest, rightfully so in some ways. Now that may sound terrible to say against the all-knowing and impervious-to-bad-speak 911 (hell, I happily owned a 997.1 Carrera S), but the Cayman has grown up. Anyone that calls it the coupe Boxster is showing their dislike of Porsche, which automatically discredits them from a conversation. Or worse, if they say it’s a poor man’s 911, then they’re just dumb.

The 2014 Porsche Cayman S is striking from any angle. Whether you’re looking at it from the front, rear, side, front or rear 1/4, inside, under it, at the brakes, it just give you your daily dose of sex appeal. It can make a fat man skinny; a bald man proud. A Porsche Cayman S in Aqua Blue Metallic, like my presser, could make the ugliest thing seem pretty. Why? Because it brings life out of you. You get in and drive the Cayman S and it makes you feel special, therein giving you confidence, hence allowing anyone to believe life is best lived in a car of this order.

If you look past the Porsche 911 being the icon, you’ll be looking at a proper picture of the Cayman. It can cost you as much as 20,000 fewer dollars new, have the same performance as a standard 911, weighs less, achieves better fuel mileage (20/28 vs 19/27 for the S and non-S 911), the same luxuries as a $100,000+ 911 Carrera S, but just two fewer seats (which can be a bummer, but also a good thing), and it can be seen as prettier in many eyes.

If the Porsche 911 is the icon, then the Cayman S is the new standard. Given a brand new 2014 C7 Corvette or a Porsche Cayman S to choose between, I’d have to go with the Porsche. The Corvette is faster, offers more for less, and sounds better while looking meaner. Porsche’s Cayman S, however, has more finesse, style, and grace. Where the Corvette is Daniel Craig’s James Bond, the Cayman S is Pierce Brosnan (minus the crappy Bond scripts) – and the 911 is Sean Connery.

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For those looking at just the badge, yes, you’ll still probably get laid for buying a Porsche Cayman S. But I do wish that those just after the badge have bad sexual things happen to them. (My attorney has advised that I do not really wish what I actually said I do wish to happen to you if you buy this car to impress people.)

Even though I said the Porsche Cayman S is a relative bargain over its rear-engined sibling, my press car was still pricey at $88,625. For that price, I got a car with a Bluetooth media streaming system that didn’t work. But then, finally, it worked! And then didn’t anymore. Looking through forums I realized this is a typical issue plaguing the new Cayman and Boxster. My friend even has similar issues with his 2013 991 911 Carrera.

So what more is there to say? Well, a few things. I do not like Porsche’s electric steering system. It’s numb, giving me no real knowledge of the road surface my tires are attached to, but it is very easy to place the front tires where you wish. The gearbox is lovely, but I hate the rev-match downshift feature that Porsche expect me to automatically want. While I do appreciate they’re not like Nissan and Corvette and offer me a stupid button or a set of automatic transmission paddles on the wheel, I do want to find a way to disengage this dumb feature pronto. While I can appreciate others not knowing how to drive these cars as well as I do, there’s no reason this should be an auto-on feature. At least tell me where the fuse is to pull when I start the car. I kept looking like a first time manual transmission driver over-revving all over the place.

The list of options on our 2014 Porsche Cayman S reads: Aqua Blue Metallic ($710), Agate with Pebble grey leather interior ($2,815), Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) ($1,320), 20-inch Carrera S wheels ($1,560), rear wiper ($360), Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) ($1,790), seat ventilation ($730), smoking package (even though you’re not allowed to smoke in press cars) ($0), Bi-Xenon headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) ($0), ParkAssist front and rear ($860), Sport Chrono Package ($1,850), telephone module ($265), SportDesign steering wheel ($250), 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats ($3,465), Premium Package ($1,170), Infotainment package with Burmester sound system ($6,730).

You’ll notice some options have a cost of zero dollars. That’s because they’re included in a package that’s already been clicked.

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If I were to price out my perfect Cayman S, I would keep everything on that list except the 18-way seats, two-tone interior, and maybe the wheels. But I’d have to keep the Burmester sound system. So no matter how you slice it, you’re still optioning an $80,000 or more Cayman. Damn you, Porsche, and your wonderful build options. I feel like a child again. And as dumb as it may sound to some, I love that this car was equipped with the rear wiper. I believe every Porsche should be fitted with this as a standard option.

That’s exactly how I felt looking at and driving the 2014 Cayman S: like a child. The chassis is compliant, but always sporty. The perfect mode, for me, is Sport Plus with the chassis in Normal. It offers the right ride and correct throttle response. With two people in the car the outside noises will not overpower any normal conversation. Except when you’ve turned on the sound system and heard the marvelous and beautiful sounds from the Burmester sound system. I should note that this car does not benefit as greatly from this sound system as a Panamera or a 911 do. I would imagine it has something to do with the size. So in this case I could understand you saving some money and getting the Bose system.

Like any Porsche, from behind the wheel you have all the control in the world, especially when you’re able to use a clutch pedal and row your own gears. As flawless as the PDK transmission is, there’s still nothing more satisfying than banging a Porsche into each gear with German precision. To me, there’s nothing greater in the automotive world. It gives my left leg a purpose, therefor it is the only way to go. It’s easy for a Porsche to be fast. It takes skill to drive a Porsche fast. Write that down. That said, the manual gearshift is a bit loose, meant for every day use. The older Caymans and 911s had a tighter transmission that didn’t feel as lazy.

The levels of grip from Porsche’s stellar 2014 Cayman S is immense. It’s hard to put a wheel wrong, even with the electric steering. More so, with the mid-engine layout coupled with PTV (Porsche Torque Vectoring) you can drive the Cayman harder into corners and come out smelling like roses. Why? Well PTV (PTV Plus for PDK cars) brakes the inside rear wheel slightly when cornering, allowing more speed to be sent to the outside rear wheel to bring the rear around quickly and easily. At higher speeds it locks the rear diff in order to give you more stability and traction on varying styles of road. Basically, it’s more difficult to accidentally drift… so you’ll need to know what you’re doing to shake the Cayman’s tail feathers. PTV is pretty much standard Porsche fair these days, and in practice it works by giving you fewer correction issues while at the wheel.

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Aiding in the Cayman’s technological grip are the Pirelli P-Zero tires (optional 235/35ZR20 front, 265/35ZR20 rear). The Pirelli tires help the Cayman S get its claimed 20/28 city, highway gas mileage while also allowing for excellent play time in dry and wet conditions. Surprisingly, since they’re such a performance biased tire, I can’t say that at any time did I feel the tires made the car less compliant or comfortable on any road surface.

In the end I believe that the 2014 Porsche Cayman S is the modern Porsche for me. While I obviously love the 911, including the latest iteration, I feel as though the Cayman speaks more to who I am. I don’t need the most expensive or even fastest car on the road. What I prefer in my life are simpler things that are more difficult for most to achieve. Speed is easy, cornering with speed isn’t. Luxury can be added into anything, but it takes a company like Porsche to make that luxury coexist with sport like no other car maker can on this planet. The level of driver involvement matched with everyday usability makes the Cayman S the best of all worlds.

[Photos by Josh Lewis and Corey Privette]

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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