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2012 Porsche Cayman

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2012 Porsche Cayman Review

KBB Editors' Overview

By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 7/9/2012


For decades, critics have regarded the mighty Porsche 911 as the quintessential sports car for its impeccably well-rounded performance and venerable racing pedigree. As the entry-level alternative to the 911, the mid-engine 2012 Porsche Cayman delivers the razor-sharp handling and striking design for which Porsche vehicles are known, but at a reasonable price point. While both the standard Cayman and the more powerful S variant are among the most energetic performance cars on the road today, Porsche has embraced the minimalist spirit and offers perhaps the rawest example of a modern sports car in the all-new Cayman R. And, though the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK are slightly less expensive, enthusiasts who refuse to settle for anything less than the purest driving experience are left with one choice: The 2012 Porsche Cayman.

You'll Like This Car If...

If a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car is consistently occupying the number one spot on your automotive wish list, but you can't afford the lofty sticker prices of the exotics, the Porsche Cayman might be the car of your dreams. With a starting price that undercuts the Lotus Evora by nearly $14,000, the Porsche Cayman is decidedly the most affordable mid-engine coupe on the market.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you favor high levels of luxury and comfort over dynamic performance in your next 2-door sports car, the compliant road manners and lushly-appointed cabins of the Mercedes-Benz SLK and the BMW Z4 will deliver on your expectations.

What's New for 2012

For the 2012 model year, the Cayman lineup adds an Ipanema Blue paint finish to the color palette along with the new high-performance Cayman R, which offers a 330-horsepower version of Porsche's renowned 3.4-liter boxer engine, revised suspension componentry and additional weight-saving measures.

Driving It Driving Impressions

Even among the range of legendary Porsche models, we find it difficult to recall a car that feels so utterly terrific under virtually all dynamic conditions. A very rigid body structure and renowned capabilities in suspension tuning endow the Cayman with the ability to deal with the most demanding roads – or racetracks – with remarkably impeccable poise and control. The conventional hydraulic-assisted steering transmits a quick, responsive feel, while shifts from the manual gearbox are direct and concise. Each of the three Cayman models possesses a unique set of traits: The base Cayman, at 265 horsepower, delivers a world-class sports car experience without the world-class price tag. The Cayman S adds 55 horsepower and a hint of exclusive design elements to the mix. And, while it packs only an extra 10 horsepower over the Cayman S, the Cayman R's reduced weight, revised suspension and bare-bones interior make it a lethal track-day weapon – and, perhaps surprisingly, a wonderful daily driver.

Favorite Features

MID-MOUNTED ENGINE
There's a reason why Formula 1 cars and the majority of modern supercars utilize a mid-engine layout – no other configuration offers the favorable weight distribution and overall balance of a mid-mounted engine.

6-SPEED MANUAL
While a manual transmission may not boast the cutting-edge technology and microsecond shift times of modern-day dual-clutch gearboxes, only the standard 6-speed manual can unlock the Cayman's full emotional potential.

Vehicle Details Interior

Simplicity is the predominant aesthetic inside the 2012 Porsche Cayman. After all, the 2-seat Cayman is a driver's car, thus reserving flashy interior adornments and dazzling displays for more mainstream sports cars. The cabin affords a surprising amount of headroom, but cramped legroom and generally tidy quarters can produce a feeling of confinement during long hauls. Though we believe the standard seats are adequately comfortable and supportive enough to handle most spirited driving situations, Porsche offers a pair of sport bucket seats, which feature a lightweight carbon fiber construction and aggressive bolsters for optimum lateral support.

Exterior

Unquestionably Porsche, the Cayman's classic shape is comprised of contemporary 911 design themes mixed with distinct styling cues reminiscent of the marque's iconic race cars of yesteryear. The hatchback design offers greater cargo capacity than the Porsche Boxster, with over 14 cubic feet of space split between the front and rear trunks (comparable to most mid-size sedans). If form over function is your cup of tea, the Cayman offers a myriad of stylish accessories for a custom-tailored appearance.

Notable Standard Equipment

In base trim, the 2012 Cayman includes 17-inch alloy wheels, an automatically-deployable rear spoiler and a Homelink universal garage-door opener. Despite its near $53,000 starting price, iPod integration and automatic climate control are offered as optional equipment. The Cayman S has bigger front brakes, an additional 55 horsepower and larger 18-inch wheels. The range-topping Cayman R sheds just about everything deemed unessential to the relationship between driver, car and road, though practical niceties like air conditioning and a stereo can be optioned for an additional cost. Six airbags and Porsche's Stability Management System highlight the active and passive safety features for the 2012 Cayman lineup.

Notable Optional Equipment

Although we prefer the standard 6-speed transmission, Porsche offers its renowned dual-clutch, PDK automatic transmission for every Cayman trim level. PDK is essentially two half-gearboxes in one unit that anticipate gear selection and execute shifts at astonishing speed. The optional Sport Chrono Package Plus allows the driver to monitor information, such as lap times for track days, and features Launch Control along with faster gear changes on PDK-equipped Caymans. Also available are racing-derived Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), a sport exhaust system and four types of 19-inch alloy wheels. An Infotainment Package brings a 6.5-inch touchscreen unit with navigation and an upgraded sound system, As is usual with Porsche models, the 2012 Cayman offers a seemingly endless combination of interior materials and colors.

Under the Hood

The standard 265-horsepower 2.9-liter "boxer" flat-6 engine and the 320-horsepower (330-horsepower in the Cayman R) 3.4-liter six in the Cayman S both benefit from the same VarioCam Plus technology used on the flagship Porsche 911. This system precisely controls intake camshaft timing and valve lift to enhance both total response and fuel efficiency. While the entire Cayman family comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, those who prefer an automatic can opt for the optional dual-clutch automatic transmission, which includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Porsche claims a manually-shifted PDK Cayman S can dash from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds, with the lighter and slightly more powerful Cayman R hitting the mark in a mere 4.6 seconds.
2.9-liter flat-6
265 horsepower @ 7,200 rpm
221 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400-6,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (manual), 20/29 mpg (automatic)

3.4-liter flat-6
320 horsepower @ 7,200 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg (manual), 20/29 mpg (automatic)

3.4-liter flat-6
330 horsepower @ 7,400 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (manual), 20/29 mpg (automatic)

Pricing Notes

The 2012 Porsche Cayman has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $53,000, making it the most expensive car in its class. The Cayman S begins closer to $63,000 and the stripped-down Cayman R is around $67,000. The PDK automatic transmission adds about $3,500 to the bottom line. Transaction prices change like the weather, so be sure to take a look at the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the 2012 Porsche Cayman. Over time, the Cayman S is projected to hold slightly more of its original value than a base Cayman, but its resale percentages also are expected to be slightly lower than those of key competitors, including the Mercedes-Benz SLK350, Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Nissan 370Z.

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