PALMA DE MAJORCA, Spain – With the new Cayman R, available in Canada as a 2012 model, Porsche has borrowed just about every page from its Boxster Spyder playbook to create the lightest and fastest Cayman ever. The power-to-weight ratio is the end-all of automotive performance, so making the car lighter while giving it more power will significantly improve its dynamics. This is precisely what the engineers at Porsche have done with the Cayman R, which is 55 kilograms lighter than the Cayman S. And its engine develops 10 more horsepower for a total output of 330 hp. The Cayman R’s chassis is also 20 mm lower and its centre of gravity is 22 mm lower than the Cayman S. And its engine develops 10 more horsepower for a total output of 330 hp. The Cayman R’s chassis is also 20 mm lower and its centre of gravity is 22 mm lower than the Cayman S. The numbers might not read like much, but, believe me, this new car raises the bar significantly in terms of performance. Here at the RennArena race track, the Cayman R proved to be totally at ease, thanks to its perfectly weighted and exceptionally communicative steering. With the optional ceramic brakes, the braking action was stellar, with immediate response and very good pedal feel, while the standard locking rear differential made for quicker corner exits. The Cayman R is available with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, which delighted thanks to the very precise, short-shift lever throws. But Porsche’s latest track-day weapon can also be had with the seven-speed double-clutch PDK gearbox, which now features proper steering wheel paddles that are set up exactly like those on its competitors – upshifts selected via the right paddle and downshifts via the left. Porsche has finally seen the light and ditched the previous arrangement consisting of awkward and counter-intuitive steering wheel buttons.
Acceleration times are quicker with the PDK gearbox, but the Cayman R is more satisfying to drive with the manual transmission.
Aside from a few laps of the race track, most of my time with the Cayman R was spent driving on the extremely slippery, wet roads of Palma, which compared with snowy or even icy roads in Canada. Under these conditions, the car’s electronic aids proved to be very useful, especially given the fact that it comes standard with a locking rear differential and high-performance tires.
The electronic stability control was very busy on the drive up mountainside switchbacks – not only when power was applied but also during the turn-in phase to help overcome the prevalent understeer. Applying power at mid-corner, with the locking rear differential sending power to both rear wheels, had the electronic stability control working to effectively control acceleration.
Under these treacherous conditions, the challenge was to drive just fast enough to remain below the threshold where the electronic stability control kicks in. This was easier said than done, given the peculiar pavement I was driving on, but I was secure in the knowledge that the electronics were constantly on the alert should the need arise.
With its standard fixed rear wing and more pronounced front spoiler, the Cayman R certainly looks the part and can easily be differentiated from a run-of-the-mill Cayman or Cayman S.
Inside, the extreme weight-saving measures mean the car does not have regular door handles but red cloth pullers. It’s also devoid of an air conditioning system (which can be added as a $2,010 option) or even a radio (a basic unit can be added as a no-cost option). The standard one-piece sport bucket seats are very form-fitting and can be adjusted fore and aft. Wide adjustable seats are available from options list.