Little Croc’s Big Bite

Porsche is a shrewd company not used to making mistakes. This small sports car manufacturer, lest we forget, recently had the wedge in its back pocket to buy a stake in VW. So when they release a car that is so good it could almost show the door to the iconic 911, you know there’s a method to their madness.

The Cayman S is good, so good it will have you wetting yourself with joy every time the road is dry and empty. But there’s a simple reason why it will never spell the end of the range-topping 911 as some have predicted: the snobbery that simmers just below the surface of all half-civilised societies.

Rich people will continue to buy the more expensive 911 simply because of the sticker price and bragging rights at the golf club, or the yacht club, or wherever it is such bonus-spewing money junkies hang out these days. For them having to explain that the driving experience, not the fact it was cheaper, swayed them to this ‘junior’ model is simply unthinkable.

See in theory the Cayman was just a Boxster with a roof, but with Porsche’s engineering skills this mid-engined mass-market machine has turned into something else. Pound for pound it is, technically at least, the best Porsche on the market right now.

And all it needed to be quicker than the more expensive 911 cross-country was a Limited Slip Diff, which was vetoed by Porsche’s marketing department for precisely that reason. Still, if you’re the type to tinker with your car then there is a selection of tuners that will do the work. It will be cheaper than a Carrera and, trust us, the 295bhp Boxster with a hat on would be faster.

I got to take on the hill course at the famed MIRA facility, where manufacturers come to iron out the bugs in their handling. Now it’s not quite the Nordschleife, but some of the elevations and direction changes are more severe and this roller-skate from Stuttgart just held on everywhere.

It even looks cool now, compared to the push-me-pull-you travesty that was the Boxster. The cab-forward stance and reprofiled haunches have finally given this thing a sense of direction and there’s a real animal intent missing from the effeminate open-topped roadster.

Now despite the enthusiastic introduction, the 3.4-litre Cayman S costs £43,930 and so is in direct competition with the Z4M Coupe – a sexier and altogether more brutal muscle car. And while the Cayman has the looks, you’re going to need to love cerebral sports cars to come down on the Porsche’s side.

Or the simple fact that it’s faster. From a standing start the Cayman S will pile through the 60mph barrier in 5.4s and will keep pulling at the leash all the way to 171mph, more than respectable and enough to brush aside established Autobahn left-laners from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

The Cayman S shares half its components with the Boxster S, but is lighter at 1340kg and twice as stiff, so it was bound to be good in the corners. But the real surprise comes in the forgiving feel on the limit from this mid-engined set-up, which traditionally makes for a car more nervous than a deer on a firing range. There’s feedback aplenty through the wheel yet the rear stays planted to the road thanks to masses of mechanical grip and the small wing that adds downforce to the equation at higher speeds.

As it stands to get the most from a Cayman S requires a racer’s instinct for minimal inputs, the 911 is the car to muscle through corners on opposite lock – this one needs to be nudged gently to the apex. It’s all about momentum rather than muscle and this machine will feel less potent than its nearest competition if you trash your speed on the way in to the bend.

It takes a deft touch to keep a mid-engined coupe like this sideways for any serious length of time, too, go beyond its limits, large and forgiving though they may be, and the car will undoubtedly exit stage left in a cloud of tyre smoke and debris.

This is the rapier, while others offer broadswords. It’s a car for linking bends and finding lines, do that and Porsche’s mid-range sportscar will blow you away with its clean-cut skills. By the way, go for the Ceramic brake upgrade, even though it will add 10 per cent to the sticker price of the car.

Racing discs truly make themselves felt on a car this light and cut stopping distances to ribbons. With a few thousand spent on the LSD this car could feel a whole lot dirtier and truly match the opposition for X-rated, sideways thrills, and blitz them on the stopwatch.

Sadly the stock Porsche is no match for the Z4M Coupe on pure entertainment, but it’s a close-run thing and purists might prefer the more intuitive steering on offer in the Porsche.

So buy the Cayman S, spend €20,000 on mods and you’ll have a car that’s faster than the 911. And you’ll be able to walk into the yachting club, or the golf club, or wherever, and explain that your mid-range Porsche actually costs more than the 911, but is absolutely worth every penny. Then take your 911-owning friends for a ride and watch their faces hit the floor.

Without the modifications, it will still prove a connoisseur’s choice and a surprisingly swift addition to the trackday fold. As long as there are bankers with bonuses to spend the 911 will remain on top of the tree, pumping even more into the Porsche coffers, and that leaves them free to produce stunning drivers cars like this.

Let the good times roll.

Gallery: WCF Test Drive: Porsche Cayman S

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