First drive: Porsche Cayman R 2012 in Dubai
Driving while sitting two inches away from a raspy high-revving engine is rather uncommon for most people. It’d mean you’re either driving a Ferrari 458 or a Toyota Hiace. But somewhere in between is the Porsche Cayman, supposedly the most balanced sports car in the world. We can now confirm that, after our stint with the Cayman R.
The Cayman R continues the Porsche tradition of offering more for less. More money for less features, that is. The R gains lower suspension, 10 horses and other minor upgrades, but various other things were changed or removed to reduce weight, such as the addition of a fixed spoiler instead of a pop-up one, lighter-weight wheels, aluminium doors, carbon-fibre seat backing, removal of the a/c and stereo, the replacement of inner door handles with cloth straps, and the removal of the shade over the gauges, all adding up to weight-savings of only 55 kilos.
Hilariously, our test car was equipped back with an a/c as well as the heavier PDK automatic gearbox, turning HID headlights, surround-sound stereo, parking sensors, sports exhaust and even a touchscreen navigation computer, all extra-cost options that probably put most of the deleted weight back on.
The Cayman is rather practical in terms of space, at least when compared to sports cars such as our BMW M Roadster. The tub under the bonnet and the other tub under the rear hatch both add up to significant space for groceries. There is even a net over the carpeted engine compartment to hold smaller items. The a/c is good, while the thin pillars offer up an airy cockpit with good all-round visibility. Of course, they’ve deleted the cup-holders too, but we hear the regular Caymans get them.
Not practical are the optional racing-styles seats, which require you to drop into them rather than slide in. This means that when you have to come out again, it’s like trying to pop your butt out of a bucket. But hell, they’re amazing for holding you in when the driving rampage starts.
The R comes with a 3.4-litre flat-6 generating 330 hp at a raucous 7400 rpm, and 370 Nm of torque peaking from 4750 rpm, with an optional “Sport Chrono Package Plus” system somehow adding extra kick (or just a psychological boost, what with that tacked-on lap-counter on the dash). It revs hard and sounds brawny while doing it. The engine doesn’t kick as hard as today’s turbocharged machinery, but rather, builds up power gradually, with the PDK flicking through the gears at lightning speed, whether in manual or automatic mode. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 6.1 seconds in the summer, enough to keep up with most muscle-cars. Our as-tested fuel economy of 14.9 litres/100 km however, is nothing to brag about.
The Cayman R’s priorities lie elsewhere though. The suspension, the mid-engine setup and the controls, all were tuned purely for handling. And handle it does; there is no discernible body roll around corners as we pointed the car wherever we wanted. The steering is sharp, very firm, and full of feedback.
There doesn’t seem to be any understeer dialled in either, unlike most street-cars. When we gradually dipped the throttle further around a turn, instead of the front going wide, the rear stepped out a bit and we brought it back in line rather easily before the stability control could intervene. That’s how beautiful the balance is. We couldn’t really comment on overall grip, because just then we realised that our car’s tyres were halfway worn down by other journalists. The brakes felt mushy too, probably for the same reason. We assume they would be phenomenal otherwise.
The Cayman R isn’t designed for comfort. The ride is harsh, the tyre roar is horrendous and the interior padding is firm. Still, you get cold air, cruise control, power windows and leather on everything, so the ambience is as good as the price promises.
And pricey it is, starting at Dhs 233,700, with our optioned-up car coming in at Dhs 291,450. It is not cheap by any means, but the Cayman R is as close to driving a real race-car as you can get without actually signing up for one of those local motorsports events that nobody watches.