DRIVEN: PORSCHE CAYMAN R
An extreme performance badge revived, but in name only?
In basic terms, the R is 55kg lighter and 10hp more powerful than a Cayman S, thereby improving the power to weight ratio to go with the chassis changes that have been made. The weight loss - taking the DIN weight down to 1,295kg - is achieved through the fitment of the aluminium doors from the GT3/Turbo saving 15kg; the lack of air conditioning saving 12kg (although basic a/c is a no-cost option); fixed back lightweight bucket seats saving 12kg; very lightweight 19" wheels shedding 5kg (shared with the Boxster Spyder); no radio saving 3kg (although again, the basic sound system is a no-cost option) and various other minor items - RS door pull straps, no cup holders, no door pockets, a 10-litre smaller fuel tank - save the final 7kg.
Porsche's PDK gearbox is an option - with rethought algorithms - and in Sport Plus mode it works well on a circuit if that's your thing. But it's still awkward at times on the road, and on a car such as this not only does it bring a 25kg weight penalty, but it also takes the driver one step away from the action. Driver involvement - particularly as the gearbox and clutch are such a pleasure to use - counts for more in a car like the Cayman R than the ability to engage launch control.
Predictably, the R rides more firmly than a Cayman S, but first impressions (admittedly on mainly smooth roads) suggest it's far from uncomfortable. And the benefit, of course, is a car that responds more keenly, feels more agile, more alert. The alcantara trimmed 'wheel is utterly faithful in is accuracy and offers excellent road feel: the R will move around beneath you on say, dusty roads, but in the dry at least, it's not a threatening car, principally due to the communication it offers and also the sensation that all the mass is mounted low and centrally between the wheels. On a track it's benign, always on your side even with the stability system switched off, and with good stamina. The ceramic brakes are an expensive option as ever, but you really value their power and resilience, not that the standard iron set are poor: they need a lot of abuse before the pedal starts to go a little long.
Could Porsche have gone further with this car? Yes, certainly they could. Talking to Jan Roth, project leader for the Cayman line, it's clear that the car has been sharpened to a clearly defined point. For example, Macrolon was considered for the rear window like the GT3 RS, but as the material isn't legal for the US market the cost and volume numbers just didn't add up. Put a/c and a stereo back in it and the diet program suddenly doesn't look too clever.
Maybe the badge is wrong - maybe it should be a 'GTS' like the recent wide-arch 997 variant, or perhaps more appropriately, the return of the 'Club Sport' line.
But none of that makes it any less of a loveable car, or a great drive. And if you're on a budget, it makes it that much easier to snap up an early Cayman S and set about creating your own version.