2008 Porsche Cayman Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 19, 2008

The 2008 Porsche Cayman can be just as much of a blast to drive as the flagship 911 sports car; if you watch the options, it’s a deal, too.

To bring you the most knowledgeable and comprehensive review on the 2008 Porsche Cayman, the experienced editors and reviewers at TheCarConnection.com looked to some of the best reviews on the Web, then added their own comments and insight from driving the Cayman and Cayman S.

The 2008 Porsche Cayman slots between the Boxster and the 911 in Porsche's sportscar lineup. Mechanically, it's closely related to the Boxster roadster.

Two different horizontally opposed ("flat") six-cylinder engines power the 2008 Porsche Cayman. A 2.7-liter makes 245 horsepower in the standard Cayman, while the S gets a 295-horsepower, 3.4-liter version. The standard Cayman has a five-speed manual transmission, but the Cayman S upgrades to a six-speed manual; a five-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual control is available on both. The Cayman S also gets different suspension tuning, larger wheels, a central dual-outlet exhaust, and red brake calipers.

According to Porsche, the Cayman S model can accelerate to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds (0.7 second faster than the Cayman) and reach a top speed of 171 mph. The 2008 Porsche Cayman with the five-speed manual is rated at an economical 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway.

Review continues below

Both 2008 Porsche Cayman models are a blast to drive, with very sharp steering and braking response; all the pieces come together to make an average driver feel good, yet there's enough capability as they gather for a seasoned driver to experience a good deal more out on the track. All the while, the flat-six engines pump out a sound that's an event in itself. The optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system brings Normal and Sport settings for firmness and allows the driver to set it according to driving style.

The Cayman's interior feels rather intimate and narrow, with seats that are comfortable and supportive, but for enthusiastic driving or if you plan to spend much time at the track, you might want to upgrade to the excellent adaptive sport seats, which have power-adjustable side bolsters. Ride comfort is acceptable for a sportscar, but it can still be jarring on rough surfaces; the interior in the 2008 Porsche Cayman can also be noisy and tiresome on coarse surfaces.

Compared to the Boxster, the 2008 Porsche Cayman has more cargo space due to its hatchback design, and like all of Porsche's sportscars, there's a significant amount of cargo space under the hood in front.

For 2008, there's a new Porsche Design Edition version of the 2008 Porsche Cayman S. Developed in conjunction with Porsche Design Studio, the firm that also produces consumer goods, the Design Edition comes with coordinated extras like a briefcase, a pocket knife, and sunglasses. The model is only available with a black finish on the outside, plus leather and Alcantara upholstery on the inside, also black. It comes with PASM and rides nearly a half-inch lower than the standard Cayman S, also getting its own 19-inch alloy wheels.

Cruise control, an alarm system, air conditioning, leather seats, and a five-speaker sound system are standard on the base 2008 Porsche Cayman. The options list is lengthy on the Cayman, and if you don't watch them, the price can be driven up near that of the more expensive 911. Highlights, some grouped into packages, include several different steering-wheel designs, more aggressive-looking wheels, a Bose surround sound system, bi-xenon headlamps, automatic climate control, a sport exhaust system, an in-dash navigation system, all sorts of trim options, and special-color upholstery.

The 2008 Porsche Cayman has not been crash-tested by either of the established U.S. programs, but it comes with dual side and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and the performance-tuned Porsche Stability Management stability control system.

10

2008 Porsche Cayman

Styling

Dramatic yet familiar exterior styling on the 2008 Porsche Cayman makes for one beautiful (and lustworthy) vehicle.

The Porsche silhouette is one of the most instantly recognizable on the road today, and the 2008 Porsche Cayman carries all the best cues of classic Porsche styling. Similar to the Porsche Boxster that it's based on, the Cayman adds distinct styling elements that give it a flavor all its own.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously approve of the styling, which Kelley Blue Book says makes the Cayman "unmistakably a Porsche, displaying numerous classic styling cues not only from the 911 but from a host of the marque's previous street and competition cars." Cars.com reviewers write that it "has pronounced front fenders finished with elliptical headlights and a low hood," and while similar to the Boxster up front, "the Cayman S' appearance veers away from the Boxster's the farther back you go." Car and Driver raves about the rear styling of the Cayman, saying Porsche’s "going-away view is arguably the sexiest perspective..."

The 2008 Porsche Cayman comes in two major trims, base and S, and from the exterior Kelley Blue Book says that "a key visual differentiator between the two models is that the Cayman S wears 18-inch wheels fitted with lower-profile tires than those that wrap the 17-inch rims on a base Cayman," and they find that "the top-line variant also has a subtle black front spoiler lip" and "a large single oval exhaust." Edmunds reviewers remark that "also available for the 2008 Cayman S is the Porsche Design Edition 1," which "has added design features such as black paint with matte black stripes, 19-inch wheels, a chrome-plated sports tailpipe and a custom interior color scheme." Furthermore, a newly announced Cayman S Sport offers bright colors like orange and electric green.

The praise for the styling of the Porsche Cayman is not limited to the exterior. Many reviewers also love the interior styling, which Kelley Blue Book says features "easy-to-scan gauges -- with black faces on the base Cayman and satin-aluminum dials on the Cayman S,” as well as “well positioned main controls and supportive bucket seats." Edmunds loves the gauges as well, finding them to be "large and easy to read." However, some reviewers fault a few of the interior elements. Although ConsumerGuide approves of the "racy design" that "puts the tachometer appropriately dead ahead on the instrument panel" and the fact that the "control layout is logical," they also note that "the audio and climate systems are governed by too many undersized, look-alike buttons." Cars.com agrees, saying that "the radio button layout isn't the best, and the sun visors are tiny." Overall, however, Kelley Blue Book finds the cabin "well-finished."

9

2008 Porsche Cayman

Performance

The 2008 Porsche Cayman is great in almost any situation, and practically peerless on twisting roads.

When it comes to performance, the 2008 Porsche Cayman receives rave reviews. It may not be the fastest off the line, but in terms of overall driving experience, few cars can match the Cayman Porsche.

The 2008 Porsche Cayman lineup features two engines, which Edmunds says are "a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed ('flat') six-cylinder engine that generates 245 hp and 201 lb-ft of torque" on the standard Porsche Cayman, while "the Cayman S is powered by a 3.4-liter flat-6 that puts out 295 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that both engines are very capable, and ConsumerGuide says that both "have smooth, ready power for any situation," though the "S models have noticeably more muscle." Car and Driver finds that the 2008 Porsche Cayman S "rockets to 60 in 4.8 seconds," while Cars.com has the base Cayman Porsche down for "zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds." Autoblog reviewers heap particularly high praise on the Porsche Cayman S, writing that the engine "sings an enthusiast's tune," and "frequent trips to redline are positively addicting."

The 2008 Porsche Cayman also features three distinct transmissions. Edmunds reviewers find that the base Porsche Cayman "comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, with an optional six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons," while on the Porsche Cayman S "a six-speed manual transmission is standard, and the automatic is again optional." ConsumerGuide is impressed with the manual options, writing that both of the manuals offer "smooth shift and clutch action." Autoblog adds "the shift knob glides into position effortlessly" and "with the precision of a surgical tool." On the automatic, Cars.com writes that the "Tiptronic S five-speed" comes with "a manual-shift provision."

Aside from providing ample power for the lightweight Porsche Cayman, the engines are easier than most sportscar powerplants on the wallet. Car and Driver says that the 2008 Porsche Cayman "gets respectable fuel mileage -- as much as 20 mpg city and 29 highway when equipped with a five-speed manual," which they note is "better than some economy cars." The official EPA estimates for the base 2008 Porsche Cayman are 19/26 mpg with the automatic and 20/29 mpg for the five-speed manual, while the six-speed manual offers mileage of 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. On the more powerful Porsche Cayman S, the EPA says to expect 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway with the automatic, while the manual returns 18/26 mpg.

When it comes to handling in the Cayman, Porsche’s new coupe is nearly without peer. Kelley Blue Book says "even among all the legendary Porsche models, it's hard to recall a car that feels so utterly right under virtually all dynamic conditions." In listing the 2008 Porsche Cayman as one of their 2008 All-Stars, Automobile writes "when the road goes squiggly, there are few cars on this planet that can keep up." In terms of steering, Autoblog reviewers rave that "the feedback and response is exemplary" and the Porsche Cayman "needs zero input to hold a steady line." Furthermore, they note the 2008 Porsche Cayman has "nearly indiscernible body roll." When it comes time to stop, Consumer Guide finds that "braking is strong and confidence inspiring." For drivers who can afford it, Edmunds would "highly recommend the optional PASM suspension package," which in "Normal mode meets the demands of practical daily driving and handles bumps in the road without sacrificing performance, while the Sport mode takes thrill-seeking weekend drives to a whole new level."

6

2008 Porsche Cayman

Comfort & Quality

Tight room and lots of engine noise may not be a problem on the track, but daily commuting in the 2008 Porsche Cayman could be another story.

The 2008 Porsche Cayman features excellent build quality and some rather nice materials, but it’s a small car with a small interior—by design.

The 2008 Porsche Cayman seats two inside a cabin that Cars.com says is "definitely on the cozy side," though they feel "it's not the least bit cramped." Edmunds reviewers find that the "seating is comfortable and supportive and the cabin affords a surprising amount of headroom," but they also mention that legroom is just "OK." The sport seats inside the 2008 Porsche Cayman "may look a little meek compared to the highly bolstered ones in some sports cars, but the side bolsters are plenty capable of holding you in place during aggressive driving," according to Cars.com. However, for serious driving enthusiasts, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com suggest opting for the "adaptive sport seats," which ConsumerGuide says include "adjustable side bolsters, power seats," and a "memory system" for both the driver seat and mirrors. The one complaint that seems to arise frequently regarding the seats is comfort and support during long drives. Cars.com reviewers register "some soreness after a good five hours of driving," while ConsumerGuide mentions that in the Cayman, Porsche's seats "lack long-distance lumbar firmness."

One area where the Cayman shines unexpectedly is cargo space. ConsumerGuide rates it above the class average for cargo room, reporting that there are "cargo bays front and rear for more luggage-carrying possibilities than in many two-seaters," though they also mention that there is "little in-cabin storage space." Kelley Blue Book agrees, deriding the "dismal cupholders" inside the cabin, but adding that "stowage space under both the front hood and beneath the rear hatch" gives it "a good deal more practicality than may be apparent at first glance." Compared to its Boxster relative, the Cayman's "hatchback body style offers more cargo capacity than the Boxster, with 9.1 cubic feet in the rear and a front trunk (or 'frunk') that brings total storage capacity to 14.5 cubic feet," says Edmunds.

In typical Porsche fashion, the 2008 Porsche Cayman features exemplary build and materials quality. Kelley Blue Book calls the interior of the Cayman "compact but well-finished," featuring "lots of leather and brushed aluminum accent trim." Cars.com agrees, praising the "mostly nice materials throughout and fine build quality" evident in it. Even ConsumerGuide can't help but gush about the "rich-feeling, carefully assembled cabin materials" that "enhance the sophisticated ambiance," but they mark Porsche down for charging extra "for amenities some rivals include as standard, including full leather upholstery."

Unfortunately, the exceptional build quality on the 2008 Porsche Cayman doesn't translate into a quiet ride. ConsumerGuide notes that "the engine's location behind the seats means more mechanical ruckus than in front-engine designs," and other reviews read by TheCarconnection.com also mention obtrusive ambient noise levels. Autoblog says that the 2008 Porsche Cayman has "minimal sound insulation to keep the din at a palatable level."

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2008 Porsche Cayman

Safety

While no crash tests have been conducted, the 2008 Porsche Cayman has extensive safety features, with slightly reduced visibility.

When it comes to safety on the 2008 Porsche Cayman, there is little in the way of objective safety measures to report. Like most Porsches, the 2008 Porsche Cayman has not been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

However, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show a high level of approval for the standard safety features on the 2008 Porsche Cayman. Edmunds reviewers report that in the Cayman, Porsche offers standard "antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control and torso- and head-protecting side-impact airbags." The side impact airbags are of a rather atypical design, as Cars.com notes that "unlike most cars that have side curtain airbags mounted in the roof, the Cayman S' curtain airbags are installed in the doors, like the Boxster roadster, and inflate upward." Among the various safety features, the stability control receives the most attention in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Car and Driver is particularly impressed with its operation, finding that "the intervention threshold of the stability-control system is commendably high."

One of the few drawbacks to the Cayman is the fact that driver visibility is compromised in some directions. Kelley Blue Book lists this fact as "the only real shortcoming" of the Cayman Porsche, and says "the prominent roof pillars can block sightlines to the sides or rear." Reviewers at Autoblog notice some visibility issues when driving on the freeway, with the "low stance minimizing visibility." For an overall impression, ConsumerGuide concludes "visibility fore and aft is excellent, but the view to the rear corners is compromised by excessively thick roof pillars." They also report that a "rear-obstacle-detection system" is available as an optional feature to help improve driver awareness from within the 2008 Porsche Cayman.

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2008 Porsche Cayman

Features

Standard features can disappoint, but if you have the available cash, there are some nice options available on the 2008 Porsche Cayman.

The 2008 Porsche Cayman is a sportscar first and a luxury car second. As such, the standard features list can leave some a bit disappointed.

Edmunds lists the standard features on the base Cayman Porsche as "heated outside mirrors, a CD player, cruise control, a trip computer and full power accessories." To that list, the Porsche Cayman S adds only an "upgraded sound system" and "variable-intermittent wipers," according to ConsumerGuide. Kelley Blue Book writes that both trims of the 2008 Porsche Cayman "are equipped to put the driver's needs first," which explains the lack of too many comfort and luxury features. In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, complaints about the features generally focus more on what is absent from the standard features list than anything noticeably wrong with the features that are included. For example, Cars.com derides the fact that there's neither "an auxiliary input jack for connecting a portable music player" nor "satellite radio" standard. They are also disappointed to find that there aren't "any steering-wheel audio controls" as a standard feature on the Cayman; Porsche offers them as an option, but Cars.com thinks that "they shouldn't be at this price.”

Compared to the standard features, the options list on the 2008 Porsche Cayman S receives a much more positive reception from reviewers. Edmunds writes "the number of options is dizzying, particularly in regards to customizing interior trim and styling selections." Kelley Blue Book says that "nifty upgrades start with the Sport Chrono Package that can keep track of your lap times, intensify throttle response and alter shift mapping of the Tiptronic S transmission," while "bi-xenon headlamps and four different kinds of 19-inch alloy wheels" are also available. ConsumerGuide adds that the Preferred Package brings "heated seats" and a "Bose sound system," while stand-alone features include a "navigation system" and "automatic climate control." However, Cars.com once again steps in to offer some criticism, finding that the "optional automatic air conditioning system, for instance, has only one zone, not two." Car and Driver also mentions that, with the Porsche Cayman's options list, "you don't have to check many on a Porsche order sheet to produce big price escalations."

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