2012 Porsche Cayman Review

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The Car Connection
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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
January 24, 2012

The 2012 Porsche Cayman is a potent mix of performance, comfort, and cargo space, and a leader in the sports car segment.

Do you love the Porsche Boxster's performance, styling, and price, but want a hard top? If so, the Cayman is what you're looking for. It's built on the same basic architecture, and in many ways, it's a great stand-in for its bigger, more expensive brother, the 911.

Few changes arrive for the 2012 model year, though a new Cayman R model joins the ranks. Not changing much is good news, however, as the Cayman is already a great car. Sexy lines, classic Porsche details, and the clear look of a dedicated sports car mark the outside, while inside, there's perhaps less Porsche heritage than we'd like, but it's a coherent, well-styled cabin, and highly customizable.

Performance, as you'd expect, is fantastic. Grip is phenomenal, with or without the optional adaptive suspension, and power from the mid-mounted flat six sings. Steering is precise, the brakes deliver pedal feel that's rare outside the brand, and the PDK dual-clutch transmission clicks off shifts with unflappable ease. The 19-inch wheel upgrade adds style without destroying the ride quality, and the Sport Chrono package sharpens the whole car into a truly vivid experience.

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Three Cayman models are available: Cayman, Cayman S, and Cayman R. The base Cayman comes with a 265-horsepower 2.9-liter flat six-cylinder, while the Cayman S upgrades that to 320 horsepower and 3.4 liters. The razor-edge Cayman R, which strips out about 120 pounds by reducing features and content, gets a 3.4-liter six rated for 330 horsepower.

Seating is perhaps the one weak point in the base Cayman configuration, with somewhat less bolstering than we'd like given the car's capabilities. The upgraded adaptive sport seats are much better, though the active bolsters during cornering can be distracting. Headroom is great, as the roof is higher inside than it appears to be outside, and the long-haul comfort in general is very high.

Standard Bluetooth connectivity and a universal audio interface make the base-spec features list a bit more thorough, but cruise control is still an option, as is navigation, as are the adaptive sport seats, adaptive headlights, and adaptive suspension. Using some of the higher-tech optional features can be frustrating due to the button-heavy control scheme, but the LCD display is crisp and clear.

The 2012 Porsche Cayman hasn't been rated by the NHTSA or IIHS, but all models include dual airbags for driver and passenger, pre-tensioning seat belts, side-impact protection, standard ABS plus stability and traction control, and optional dynamic cornering lights.

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2012 Porsche Cayman

Styling

Like a leaner, cleaner 911, the 2012 Cayman's styling is nearly perfect.

The Cayman's lines are all Porsche, so much so that to the untrained eye, it might be mistaken for its bigger, more expensive brother, the Porsche 911. For 2012, there are few changes to the Cayman's look, though it does gain a sportier model, the Cayman R.

Though it shares most of its style and underpinnings with the Boxster, including the roadster's subtly flared fenders and low, sloping nose, the addition of the 911-esque teardrop canopy brings both models together in a harmonious, yet still unique, way. Rear fender air inlets give a decidedly sporty look, while the powerful flanks and rounded rear flow seamlessly to resolution.

Inside, the Cayman again looks a lot like a 911 Jr., with the same basic center stack configuration, most of the same trim and color options, and the same deft blending of buttons with background. Oval vents and a centrally-mounted tachometer are focal points, though the dash benefits greatly from the fitted leather upgrade.

One gripe in the cabin is the cheap-looking piece of plastic across the passenger side that flips down to reveal a pop-out cup holder--it's jarring with the rest of the interior, and little more than lip service to true convenience.

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2012 Porsche Cayman

Performance

The 2012 Porsche Cayman might be the 911's smaller sibling, but it's a fighter, with nimble handling and brisk acceleration a threat to cars both in its class and above.

Fitting into the narrow range of performance between the Cayman and the lower tiers of the 911 line, the Cayman is designed from the ground up for quick acceleration and balanced handling.

Good for 265 horsepower in base trim, powered by a 2.9-liter flat six-cylinder engine routed through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission, the Cayman can hit 60 mph in as little as 5.4 seconds with the PDK. Tack on the Sport Chrono package, which sharpens the fuel delivery and shift timing, and that drops to 5.2 seconds. The manual transmission is quick, too, at 5.5 seconds to 60 mph. Sport Chrono is only available with the PDK.

The Cayman S boost performance with a 3.4-liter engine rated at 320 horsepower, dashing to 60 in 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 171 mph in PDK models, or 172 mph with the manual. Again, adding the Sport Chrono package drops that to 4.6 seconds.

New for 2012, the Cayman R jumps output another 10 hp to 330 hp, shaving 0-60 mph acceleration to 4.7 seconds in standard form, 4.6 seconds with the PDK, and 4.4 seconds with the PDK and Sport Chrono package. It's also lighter, by as much as 120 pounds.

No matter which model you choose, handling is finely balanced. The optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system gives the driver adjustment from Normal to Sport. Whichever mode, with or without PASM, however, the Cayman's steering is direct and communicative, translating the nimble chassis's movements clearly and meaningfully.

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2012 Porsche Cayman

Comfort & Quality

Roomier than you'd expect and well-finished in quality materials, the 2012 Cayman's cabin is a pleasant place to be--so long as you think of the noise as the song of the road.

As beautiful and balanced a sports car as the Cayman is, it's not a comfortliner. The cabin is close, cup holders are few and fallible, and the noise level never lets you forget you're in a car built for speed before comfort.

That said, the base seats are comfortable if a bit under-bolstered for spirited driving. The adaptive sport seats improve on that, but at the expense of potentially distracting inflating/deflating during cornering. Both sets of seats are well-suited to long drives, provided you can deal with the Cayman's other minor faults.

Headroom isn't one of those faults, however, with the arched roof providing plenty of cranial space. Cargo room is surprisingly good, too, as long as you don't have particularly large packages to stow: there's space behind the mid-mounted engine and in the front trunk. Porsche even offers a fitted luggage set to make the most of every available cubic inch.

Storage in the cabin isn't fantastic, but there is room for small items in the center console. Build quality throughout the cabin is top-flight, as are materials for the most part; a few interior plastic pieces don't quite live up to the standard set by the rest of the space.

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2012 Porsche Cayman

Safety

The 2012 Porsche Cayman brings dynamic handling and a strong set of standard and available safety equipment despite the lack of official crash-test ratings.

As an expensive, relatively low-volume luxury sports car, the Cayman hasn't been crash-tested by either the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). Despite that fact, a healthy set of standard active and passive safety equipment does right by safety-minded buyers.

Dual front, side, and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control are all standard. Upgraded ceramic composite brakes, dynamic cornering lights, and parking sensors take braking and visibility to the next level.

The Cayman's rearward visibility isn't great, however, and there's no rear-view camera available.

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2012 Porsche Cayman

Features

Though it comes with a decent set of standard features, the 2012 Porsche Cayman can be loaded up and customized with many, many more.

The 2012 Cayman's standard feature set isn't precisely cornucopial considering its base price, but given that it's a sports car as much as a luxury car, that's a good thing. Available options allow buyers with an eye for comfort and convenience to outfit the car with a fairly long list of upgrades.

Standard equipment includes: power windows, locks, and mirrors; an anti-theft system; leather-trimmed seats; and a CD/AM/FM audio player with universal media device interface and Bluetooth capability.

Optional extras are more lush, with automatic climate control, cruise control, a heated steering wheel, sport seats, heated and ventilated seats, larger alloy wheels, sport exhaust, the Sport Chrono performance package, and Porsche Communications Management system available. The PCM system groups controls for navigation, audio, and communications on a large LCD screen.

A wide range of upholstery, trim, and appearance options can be had--and on the Cayman R, many of these, as well as the electronic conveniences, can be deleted for performance.

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2012 Porsche Cayman

Fuel Economy

Handling prowess, luxury accommodations, and compact-car gas mileage--what's not to like about the 2012 Porsche Cayman?

As a luxury sports car, the Cayman could be forgiven by many of its buyers for less than stellar gas mileage, but that's not a necessary concession. The Cayman with PDK gets a respectable 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for a combined 24 mpg, according to the EPA.

With the manual transmission, the standard Cayman rates slightly poorer, at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for 22 mpg combined.

In Cayman S trim, the PDK model gets 20/29 mpg city/highway for 23 mpg combined, and the manual version scores 19/26 mpg for 22 mpg combined.

The stripped-down, higher-performance Cayman R leverages its light weight to deliver the same economy as the base model despite its more powerful engine, rating 20/29 mpg with the PDK and 19/27 mpg with the manual.

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September 21, 2015
2012 Porsche Cayman 2-Door Coupe R

Reliable, fun, fast and fuel efficient.

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Like the title says it is reliable, fun, fast and fuel efficient. The car has been faultless and the dealer is great. The manual transmission is a joy to use and if you follow the shift arrows gets good fuel... + More »
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Styling 10
Performance 9
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