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Porsche Cayman S


The next generation Porsche delivers beauty and performance

You can't imagine a radical new skin for Porsches, and the 'next generation' Boxster and Cayman cars look little different, bar alterations to the head and taillights and small changes to the rear - the Boxster getting diffuser inserts and the Cayman a wind deflector plate.

The biggest alterations are under the bonnet, with greater capacity and power for the entry-level engine, now at 2.9 litres, plus direct fuel injection and more power for the 3.4-litre S variants, and the introduction of the PDK double-clutch gearbox until now only available on 911s.

But let's forget the entry-level powerplant; hell, let's forget the Boxster, for it was the Cayman S I drove last week.

This water-cooled six-cylinder boxer engine now delivers 235kW, up 18kW. When mated to the optional PDK ($6000)and Sports Chrono Package ($2400) with launch control the car will get from zero to 100 in 4.9 seconds. Try it yourself and you're smacked back into the seat, the engine howling just behind your ears; there's no doubting you're in a mid-engined sports car.

There's a boot at both ends - the combination delivering a generous 410 litres of luggage space, albeit in two bites. And the engine sits between you and the rear hatch, well hidden and topped by a luggage net.

Our test car had the PDK fitted, accessed via the gear lever or the steering wheel-mounted paddles. It's a superb set-up, not only changing gear a fraction quicker than a manual and accelerating faster, but delivering up to 16% better fuel economy too.

Leave it in auto if you're cruising round town, or change manually for a B-road fang. Down is at the flick of a finger while the system's so well designed you literally only roll your palm inward to change up.

Speaking in purely objective terms, PDK is better than a manual in every respect - including that of control, for you retain firm grip of the wheel at all times.

From the heart? I still love a well set up manual transmission in a car like this, for that hand-foot-car relationship is more involving, and you don't buy a sports car to remain detached from the driving experience.

Speaking of experience: Porsche-snobs may bemoan the softer cabin approach, but I can't agree. What's wrong with having seats that are comfy as well as supportive; having touch-screen satnav, clever cupholders that tuck out of sight when not in use; what's wrong with a bit of comfort, even in a sports car, especially nowadays when it's more likely to double as your daily driver.

A car like this supplies a cossetted commute, then goes feral for fun; the enhanced suspension and steering set-up has further honed the car's already incredible ability.

These vehicles aren't cheap - the standard Cayman starts at $130,000, the S with PDK and Sports Chrono as tested at $163,400. But that's considerably less than the equivalent 911. The Cayman may not have the iconic rear-engine layout of the headliner car but it'll be quicker for most drivers, on most roads, most of the time, while delivering most of the beauty and sense of occasion you expect from the brand.

The 911 will always be the pinnacle of Porsche aspiration, but this Cayman S is no also-ran.

See new and used Porsche Cayman for sale here.

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