2008 Porsche Cayman


2008 Porsche Cayman Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Porsche Cayman was new.


Performance: 9.1

High performance is a Porsche hallmark, and the Cayman doesn't disappoint. Thanks to its mid-engine set-up, it offers near-perfect handling and allows even novices to charge through challenging courses. AutoWeek says, "Pounding around mountain passes poses a much bigger challenge for the nerves than for the car, as the Cayman forgives even the most boneheaded moves."


The Cayman has a 2.7 liter six-cylinder horizontally opposed engine that makes 245 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 201 pound-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that despite a 50 horsepower deficit compared to the Cayman S, the Cayman has " plenty of power for anything you might want to do on the public roads, or even occasionally on a race track." Still, Car and Driver reports that the response "below 4000 rpm isn't exactly dog-slow, but it's clearly soft in comparison with the Cayman S's virile surge of power at low engine speeds," but adds, "The engine pulls hard once it's on the cam, and twists the needle across the tachometer face between four and seven grand with respectable haste." Edmunds echoes that finding: "Fighting out of local traffic and goosing the Cayman's horizontally opposed 2.7-liter six the first few times, it's obvious this is no power beast." Still, Edmunds concludes that the Cayman's engine "is highly flexible and drivable, and still gets with the slightly downsized program."

The Cayman S has a 3.4 liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that makes 295 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 251 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Consumer Guide says the S has "smooth, ready power for any situation," but most reviews are impressed with the engine's torque, which makes it feel very quick from a stop. MSN says that the tourque-y engine "should help make the Cayman S an easy car to drive during generally congested U.S. driving conditions," so even if drivers never get anywhere near the 171 mph top speed, they can enjoy fast takeoffs in stop and go traffic. The exhaust note on the Cayman S is also a high point. The Los Angeles Times says the engine sounds better "at 6,000 rpm than 3,000 rpm, so it's not unusual to find yourself chatting along at 90 mph in third gear."

Even with the 2.7-liter's shortcomings, most reviews concede that the engine only has weaknesses when compared to the engine in the Cayman S. The Orlando Sentinel says both engines "go more than fast enough to lose your drivers license, but the Cayman S will get you to court just a little quicker," while USA Today says, "Even non-smokers will be reaching for unfiltered Camels after a full-throttle blast in Cayman."

The Cayman has a standard five-speed manual transmission, while the Cayman S has a standard six-speed manual. The six-speed can be added as a stand-alone option to the Cayman, and both the Cayman and Cayman S can be equipped with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. The five-speed manual doesn't get as good reviews as the six-speed manual and the Tiptronic transmission barely gets mentioned in most reviews.

Car and Driver says that the five-speed "isn't as slick and accurate as the Cayman S's six-speed, and we occasionally beat the synchromesh in fourth gear on our (possibly abused) tester." The six-speed, however, gets overwhelmingly positive reviews. AutoWeek likes it so much that they say, "Getting up to speed, however, is arguably the best aspect of the overall Cayman experience," and adds that, "Throws are short and precise; never once did the shifter hang up between gates during even the most aggressive shifting maneuvers." Consumer Guide echoes the praise and says the six-speed "has smooth shift, clutch action."

The Cayman gets an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 on the highway when matched with the five-speed manual transmission.  With the six-speed manual, the 2.7-liter gets and estimated 19 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway. With the Tiptronic transmission, the base Cayman gets 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway. The Cayman S gets an EPA-estimated 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway with its manual transmission, while the Tiptronic gets 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Handling and Braking

Handling is the 2008 Porsche Cayman's strong suit. Because of its mid-engine layout, the car is almost perfectly balanced, and that balanced is reflected in what many reviews say is near-perfect handling and composure -- a contrast to the brand's marquee 911 models, which can have tricky handling because of their rear-mounted engines. Edmunds says, "With the history books steeped in tales of aft-engined Porsches swapping ends at inopportune moments, it's no surprise -- and frankly somewhat comforting -- to learn that the Cayman S, although midengined and rear-drive, is set up to understeer when overcooked into tight corners." Car and Driver says that the Cayman's mid-engine configuration "lends confidence-inspiring stability at high speed, along with the excellent turn-in steering characteristics that this layout provides."

In addition to the mid-engine, which the Cayman shares with the Porsche Boxster, having a fixed roof also increases the coupe's handling prowess. No matter the course or the drive, Automobile Magazine says, "this car almost never sheds its composure." AutoWeek says that on a twisty course, "You can really feel the g forces pulling it to the side, and the Cayman feels like it was designed specifically for this. You just turn the wheel and the chassis doesn't move off-line through the whole turn." Car and Driver adds that the Cayman makes race-car like driving easy: "You'll look like a hero with the standard-equipment PSM stability control, which needs a lot of prodding before it starts making minute brake adjustments to keep the Cayman on course." Edmunds, taking a stance that could be blasphemy to 911 purists, says "one can argue that this is the company's best-handling car."

The suspension plays a big role in the Cayman's excellent handling, tightening up when needed, but providing a ride that's comfortable enough for everyday commuting. USA Today says: "Short-wheelbase sports car. Must be harsh-riding, right? Nope. Another nice surprise. Firm, yes. Disagreeable, no." Consumer Guide adds that the ride is "[f]irm, controlled. Cayman traverses bumps, cracks, patchy pavement with little undue harshness." The suspension set-up for the Cayman S and Cayman is the same, though the settings are slightly modified. Still, Edmunds reports that the Cayman has "about the same fantastic cornering behavior, prodigious grip and maniacal laughter that an S provides."

The well-balanced ride and handling is complimented by a very good variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering system that Edmunds reports "provides precise control and quick reflexes, yet the Cayman is also stable at triple-digit speeds." The set-up also adapts to driving conditions.  The Los Angeles Times says, "At low speed, the Cayman's variable-assist steering has almost no self-centering tendency to it -- which is nice if you're throwing elbows on tight canyon roads -- but as speeds build, the steering becomes more focused."

The Cayman's brakes are the perfect compliment to its acceleration and handling abilities. AutoWeek says, "Slowing from autobahn speeds feels just as impressive as reaching them, the Cayman's vented and cross-drilled brake discs -- slightly smaller than those found on the Cayman S -- doing a fantastic job of erasing momentum in a hurry, and with a satisfyingly firm pedal feel." Optional ceramic brakes are available on the Cayman S. As Automobile Magazine points out, "the ceramic brake discs are exactly half as heavy as the standard cast-iron units, but that particular decrease in unsprung weight also decreases your net worth by about eight grand."

Performance Options

Though the Cayman performs very well on its own, there are a number of performance upgrades buyers can opt for. Upgrading to the Cayman S adds a 295 horsepower 3.4 liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. The Cayman S comes standard with the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), but PASM, which allows the suspension to automatically adjust to driving conditions, can be added to the Cayman as a stand-alone option that most reviews say is worth getting.

The Sport Chrono Package is also recommended in a number of reviews. Available on both the Cayman and Cayman S, the package comes with a chronometer for tracking lap times. It also increases throttle responses and increases the limits of the Porsche Stability Management system (PSM). Loosening the PSM controls allows the car to be driven more aggressively. PASM is also available as part of the Sport Chrono Package.

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