2009 Cayman S PDK

The 986 Boxster had a sibling – the Boxster “S”. I drove one and thought it was a bit faster than my Boxster 2.7. But it wasn’t that noticeable, just more of a free feel to the acceleration. Disappointing, if I’m honest.

Well, this week whilst my Gen1 2.7 Cayman is in the body shop I’ve got a generation 2 Cayman 3.4 “S” PDK. Here is my review on the ‘slightly faster’ version of my car, with comparisons between the two.

“I hope its a white one”

I got the call on Saturday morning from Newcastle OPC just checking that everything was in order for today. “We’ve got a nice Cayman ‘S’ for you to drive” said Mark, the sales manger. Excellent, I was quite pleased. I gave my lady the news – “I hope its a white one, I like white ones” came the reply. “Or yellow”.

My Gen 1 Cayman 2.7 is bright red. Red is probably about as sporty and noticeable as you can get, right?

Wrong…

The Porsche Cayman 3.4S PDK

The Porsche Cayman 3.4S PDK

We arrived at the centre, and there it was. Gleaming in the summer sunshine, looking about as obvious and conspicuous as you can get. Nothing quite says “Look what I’ve bought, everybody!” than a bright white car with a red model logo down the side. If god were to spec a Cayman, I reckon he’d have a white one. And if the devil then stole it, it’d look something like this.

The Devil is in the detail....

The Devil is in the detail....

Cayman "S"

Cayman "S"

18" black wheels with red calipers. Very purposeful...

18" black wheels with red callipers. Very purposeful...

PDK Wheel and some red dials

PDK Wheel and some red dials

In the metal it looks magic, right on the money and bang up to date. It makes a serious statement that you’ve got something fast. The daytime running LEDs look very sharp. In the day, the fog-lamps light up with LEDs. When the sidelights are switched on, you get a line of LEDs instead. The main beam emits a lovely white halogen glow (litronics?), which raise up as you turn them on.

First impressions

Starting up the car gives a lovely rumble, more so than the 2.7 – and giving that famed auto-transmission throttle blip. This car comes with red seat-belts and red dials, presumably to match the red callipers and side logos. It works well, I like it. I also notice that the speedo goes up to 190mph. One-hundred-and-ninety miles per hour. Wow, I’ve never had a car which needed a dial that goes round that much. Happy days.

190 MPH. Sounds fast...

190 MPH. Sounds fast...

Its got 19″ wheels, touch-screen sat nav and the PDK gearbox – which has no less than seven forward gears.

A Lovely place to spend some time

A Lovely place to spend some time

Driving

We called in at the local retail outlet on the way home (girls: clothes – you know how it works), and was immediately aware that this car gets noticed. By pretty much everyone. Not one for the shy, this. Such an unusual specification is bound to be seen though.

Cruising towards the motorway, boot laden with new ladies garments, it becomes apparent that the ride is significantly less crashy than mine. And its on 19″ wheels. My girlfriend noticed this immediately, having recently had a back operation and likening it to the ride when my car was on its 17″s. I must investigate why the 18″s have caused such an upset on the ride on my 2.7, but that’s a story for another time.

So, all good so far. It drives nice (automatics – lovely!) and its more comfortable than expected – even on 19s. I think road noise is on a par to mine. The gear changes in full auto mode are almost un-noticeable. There is no jolts during changes.

Pedal to the metal

Soon enough we arrive at the start of the motorway. Its a flat road, the motorway starts straight off the roundabout. Time for a pedal-push, expecting something ‘a bit faster’ than my 2.7. What happens next is nothing short of astonishing.

Sh1t a brick, this thing shifts. I mean, not just a little; it absolutely flies. Its savage in its delivery of immediate, relentless power. The car dropped no less than five gears in an instant and projected forwards with such speed, the horizon high on smacked us in the face. Such was the ferocity, my lady grabbed her seat and shrieked at me “Paul, I don’t like this!”. Naturally, I stopped and normal cruising became its limits for the entire journey home.

I have to admit, it even took me by surprise. I smiled a nervous smile as I stopped pressing the loud pedal. 70mph was reached from about 40mph in just over the blink of an eye. The engine howl when under load is intoxicating – stunning – a real drama of thunder. With a considered right-foot, the pretty innocent white Cayman changed. You can imagine those day-time running lights glowing red, horns coming out of the side vents and the front grill snarling at every motorist in front, demanding they move or be trampled on by this rampaging beast. Its a properly quick car. The stats say 0-60 in 5 seconds dead, and to 100 in 11s, and I’ve no reason to doubt that.

I’ve taken a few people out in the car, and its delighted and scared them all in equal measure. Being the driver you know what to expect. But as a passenger in this low-down small 2 seater as it forces you back in seat, seeing a car that’s half a mile in front come into full view within seconds, it must feel a tad uncontrolled.

Handling is pretty much the same as you’d expect. I don’t take cars to the limits as I’m not a racing driver so can’t really comment on this unfortunately, but you know what to expect. Its just faster going in, and coming out of the corners.

Fame at last

Driving home, Andy Durant was kicking out his bangin’ choons on Galaxy – imagine my surprise we got a shout out on the radio “driving back from Newcastle in our new Porsche”!!

My lady had texted the show whilst we were driving (I hadn’t noticed, been too much into my driving pleasure!). Cool!!

Maestro, Where am I?

The sat nav is great. Its better than the one in the Cayenne (which was very good), as it has a touch-screen and Bluetooth for the telephone (worked with Nokia, not Sony-Ericsson – but I didn’t try very hard). The radio is lovely, listing all the available stations on screen and you can just press the one you want. It also tells you what radio show (and track) is playing at the time (if the radio station transmits this information). The stereo was Sound Package Plus and doesn’t sound as clear as Bose but its still more than acceptable and I wouldn’t be disappointed with this specification. However, if your an audiophile you will want to spec the Bose.

The Radio/Sat Nav and other controls

The Radio/Sat Nav and other controls

At first I found the fact that the route map always spins around to show true-north which was confusing when approaching a junction, but I’ve since found an ‘always north’ button, which keeps you heading up the display all the time. Bloody brilliant. Sav Nav lady is also very clear – she even speaks street names, towns and A road names and the clarity of the information, both spoken and shown, makes my 2 year old tom-tom look like a child’s plaything. She even changed my route automatically due to a traffic problem. Wow! I also think the routes that I have tried are better than the ones that tom-tom chooses.

Sat nav downside – you still can’t enter a full postcode so if you don’t know the street name your screwed. Oh, and it doesn’t display the Porsche logo on start up. Why?!

Other than that, it knows everything. Everything!!

Interior

Everything else is pretty much the same as the Gen 1, with the exception that the centre console is black which looks a bit nasty and ‘normal car-ish’. I much prefer the silvery-grey colour of the Gen 1.

Leather Interior

Leather Interior

Gears

PDK – most of the time I had it in full-auto. I tried manual a few times, via the steering control (I didn’t try the semi-stick this time round). I couldn’t work it properly on my experience day, but after a few days of usage I’m happy to report that I ‘get it’. It actually makes sense, feels logical and becomes second nature. But, if buying an auto I don’t see much point in using them to be honest – the cars brain does it all perfectly for you. Oh yeah, and a note for tallies – you can actually extend your left leg fully due to the lack of a clutch pedal. Oh the joy!!!

The Gear Stick

The Stick of Fury

A negative point on the gearbox is that from stationary it doesn’t like to be surprised. If you put your foot down it feels like its about to stall, then jerks to life. If you’ve planted too much you could go wayward as it grabs and then gives you a huge dose of power. Just take your time when moving off at junctions! It also can’t hold itself on a hill like normal autos, and there is the well documented split second delay between putting your foot down, and the gearbox deciding how fast you really want to go.

Conclusion

This car turns just about every head that you pass. People literally stop in the street and watch you drive by. Kids wave and give you the thumbs-up. Driving through traffic, it was bizarre to glance over and see everyone in the queue on the opposite side looking at you. And I mean everyone. Amazing what a white car with black wheels and red bits can do! This has a massive road presence. This colour combo is a classic reference to days of old, and does for Porsche what red does for Ferrari. It just ‘is’.

After a few days of driving, I’m getting used to the expectation of the speed. Initially, I thought it was too quick. My 2.7 feels like a sports car. The 3.4 PDK feels like a supercar. You can choose to avoid the blistering acceleration by not firmly planting the pedal (there is that extra inch of forced-push which means “go as fast as you can”), but to never use that would be missing the point entirely of the ‘S’. A manual might be more sedate to drive, as it’ll only be as quick as the gear you select. Passengers also get a warning when you change down with a manual clutch. The PDK just does it, and does it perfectly.

Me

The 2.7 is a great happy medium. When I go for a drive in the 2.7, I can drop it into second or third and go round a bend at a speed which feels fast and accelerate out feeling like a driving god – even though in reality I’m doubtless hardly testing the cars real limits. A 2.7 gives me a lovely sense of sportiness in the twisties, whilst always remaining safe.

With the 3.4 PDK, it changes gear so promptly and moves so rapid there probably isn’t a public road where you can use its full potential. With this kind of power, every gap in the traffic becomes an overtaking opportunity. In a manual, I can choose the gear, and use the clutch to control how quickly the gear change comes into play. The PDK gives you a perfect gear change to the perfect gear every time. That 0-60 time will always be what it says on the tin – and boy do you know about it. Driving onto the motorway yesterday I gave it some beans on the (upward) slip ramp. A second later I looked down at the speedo had already hitting the legal limit. In the brief time I had glanced at my mirror and decided to take my foot off the pedal it had added another 12mph. You need some severe discipline to keep your speed under control with this baby.

This Gen 2 PDK ‘S’ is what I believe anyone who thinks “Porsche” would expect. Its that utter instant, rapid, uncatchable speed that will totally thrill anyone who gets behind the wheel, or in the passenger seat. The in-gear speed is where it gives the best impression. Flooring it at 40-50mph delivers power in spades. This is a real “Porsche” in every sense of the word. In these colours it just defines the marque perfectly. I’m going to miss it when its gone.

Final thoughts

My 2.7 is bright red. It looks like a sports car, and goes like a sports car. It’s a perfect driving machine.

This 3.4 PDK is white. It looks like a racing car, and moves like a racing car. It can be both sedate and sporting and will turn into a rocket on request. And when it does the performance is nothing short of exhilarating. If you can handle the pressure of speed limits, and have a pocket deep enough to tick the ‘S’ box, this is THE model to buy. Perfection, made better.

July 2009

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