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If you like the Porsche Boxster but aren't convinced a convertible is the fastest way to get around in life, Porsche has your alternative: the Cayman, the hardtop version of the same architecture, and in many ways, a perfect substitute for the bigger, more expensive 911.
It's changed very little for the 2011 model year, and that's great news. The Cayman looks the part of a Porsche, from its sexy, pert rear end to the classic fall of its roofline, up to the raised profile of its front fenders and headlamps. The cockpit's less heritage-sprinkled than it could be, but it works well, and can be dolled up in your choice of colors and trims.
Performance is stunning. Either with the adaptive suspension or without it, the Cayman grips the road tenaciously, and charges with the same urgency of the 911. There's a reason for it all, of course, since the flat six hammering away behind your ears is related to the bigger engine in the 911. The Cayman's steering is just as precise, its brakes bind with a direct feel that's hard to find outside the Porsche brand, and the ride doesn't go to pieces even with optional 19-inch wheels. A Cayman S with the PDK transmission and Sport Chrono package unfailingly generates one of the most vivid sportscar experiences you can find anywhere.
Bluetooth and a universal audio interface are now standard, but the Cayman isn't exactly plush, in stock form. Cruise control is an option; we recommend the adaptive sport seats for superior back comfort, and they're complemented by the adaptive headlamps. Porsche's navigation and audio controller has dozens of maddening little buttons, but the LCD screen is crisp and the maps render beautifully.Not every driver can afford a Porsche 911 in a lifetime, but if you're on the bubble, the Cayman is the perfect no-compromise compromise.