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2012 Porsche Cayman Overview

The best Porsche gets better for 2012 with two new high-performance trims. Joining Cayman Base and S trims are the lightweight R and stylish S Black. Not that the Cayman needed any help—the S trim was already nipping at the iconic heels of the 911 with a more focused vision and all the soul Porsche has stripped away from that rear-engine throwback.

This midengine sports car starts with the Base trim, powered by a 2.9-liter boxer-6 engine that’ll provide 265 hp at 7,200 rpm and 221 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, which is good enough for a sprint to 60 in 5.5 seconds. The traditional 3-pedal 6-speed manual provides the best driving experience, but the 7-speed PDK automated manual will impress, with shifts so fast you’ll forget the paddleshifters hiding behind the steering wheel. Expect an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city/27 highway with the 6-speed and 20/29 with the PDK.

But if 2.9 liters aren’t enough, you’ve got options. The familiar S trim returns with its 320-hp, 3.4-liter boxer-6, and while the extra 55 horses get all the press, it’s really the 273 lb-ft of torque at 4,750 rpm that change the character of this car. Adding 52 lb-ft of torque to a car with a curb weight under 3,000 pounds and an engine tucked snugly behind your right ear means things will be different. More specifically, they’ll be about a half-second different, and the Cayman S should arrive at 60 mph in around 4.9 seconds—the same sub-5-second neighborhood the non-Turbo 911s inhabit.

From here, things get really dangerous. Cows don’t get much more sacred than the 911, and Porsche is protective of its baby, but it seems someone was looking the other way when the Cayman R was designed. Here we get some paltry additions, like another 10 horses that show up 200 rpm later thanks to a sport exhaust, but the Cayman was already powerful enough. As any boxer will tell you, the real way to maximize performance is by dropping a weight class. For a midengine welterweight like the Cayman, it’s never been more true.

Whereas the Base trim lives with 17-inch alloys and the S bumps up to 18 inches, the R sports special, lighter 19-inch units that drop evil unsprung weight. Aluminum skins and suspension parts, a smattering of carbon fiber and a lighter steering wheel all contribute further, but these are tame changes compared to things like losing the AC and stereo, utilizing cloth door handles and switching to carbon-fiber sport seats. The steering wheel is even lighter for a total weight savings of 120 pounds. You can add much of this back, and most would argue that the 26-pound AC unit is a worthwhile addition. Still, the R gets more massaging before it’s ready to debut with a 20mm drop for its retuned sport suspension, a standard limited-slip differential and an aero kit that adds unique front and rear fixed spoilers. With all this, the Cayman R can match the Carrera to 60 mph. Did I just see someone in Germany flinch?

On paper it’s gorgeous, and on the track it will likely outperform you, but the Cayman R can leave a bit to be desired on the street, with a severe lack of amenities and a harsh ride that treats comfort as an unproven concept. All this makes the Cayman S a much more livable option, but if you need to feel special, Porsche has an option for you as well. Deutschland is going dark this year it seems, with “Black” versions of the 911, Boxster and Cayman. For the Cayman, that means you’ll get the 19-inch wheels, exhaust and air intakes from the R, as well as black cloth seats with leather trim, black-faced gauges and black trim throughout to complement the black wheels, black paint, black, black, black. With only 500 being sent to the U.S., it would be best to get in line early, especially with a Bose stereo, navigation and Xenon headlights included in the price, which is incidentally a few thousand less than a normal S with the same features.

Sure, the Cayman doesn’t have the heritage of the 911, but it certainly has the chops, and with its midengine layout, low center of gravity and perfect weight distribution, it’s got all the feel the 911 is missing. Like it or not, Porsche has been engineering the soul out of its venerable icon for years now. Lucky for us, it seems to have been saving every ounce excised for application in the Cayman.

Now about a turbo option…


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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