2011 Cayman R Driving Event
I am a marketing man’s dream. I love Porsche. Why? Because they are nice to me. I’m a regular guy yet they treat me like I’m someone special. They send me a free magazine every few months, they write to me about stuff, they even call occasionally and give me free test drives. All because I bought one of their cars. They even give me free track day jobbies in the hope that I’ll buy one of their new cars. Well, Mr Marketing-Man this philosophy does work because it makes me want to buy a new car – just because you are so generous!
Porsche’s latest dose of niceness comes in the form of a Cayman R test drive. Here is my story…
Aaah, the Porsche Cayman. I’ve got one. I love it. Just a basic one, mind – but its still bloomin’ fantastic. Next up in the rung is the S model. Faster and louder. And now, there is the Cayman “R”. Faster and louder still. “Radically Porsche”, apparently.
I was invited, with a friend, to the Porsche Experience Centre at the Silverstone track to try the entire model range out back to back and see just how good the “R” is.
For those unfamiliar, the Porsche Experience Centre is a thing of motoring exquisiteness. Sat adjacent to the hanger-straight at Silverstone race track the building looks like a typical Porsche showroom. However, the back garden to this building is extra special, sporting a full on “handling circuit” (not a “racing track” it was pointed out to me 😉 ), and a 4×4 off road section. In the middle of the circuit there are numerous different friction surfaces, ranging from ice simulation, to low friction and everything in-between.
Today, we arrive just before lunch and are treated to a 3-course meal on the house. It is something of a lar-de-dar affair, a far cry away from my pie-and-peas favourite. A fussy eater I may be, but I’m not turning my nose up at Porsche food! Hell, no.
I had Salmon for a starter (delivered in small square chunks, carefully put together to form something resembling a pink Rubix Cube), followed by a mushroom and leak pie – in a flying saucer dish no less, which played havoc with my knife when I had finished. It just wouldn’t balance in the bloody bowl! For pudding I had a melon and chocolate pudding which was deliciously sweet.
A nice start to the day.
Whilst we wait to be called up for our turn on the track, we enjoyeda stroll around the atrium at the Cayman variety which are on display today. The one that really grabs attention is the Kermit green Cayman S! Very attention-seeking indeed! Also in the corner is a real Porsche racing car and whilst we are free to get in and out of the cars, that one looks a bit too much of a squeeze!
After a few minutes we are rounded up and gathered in the introduction room, where a classic Porsche speedster is sitting in the corner. Intro’s and safety over, its onto the track!
The standard Cayman had a power boost in 2009, when the engine was upped from 2.7 to 2.9 litres, dropping the 0-62 time to 5.8 seconds and increasing BHP to 265.
One the track, it feels largely the same as my 2.7. When you put the foot down, you get the same ‘feel’ in the acceleration. The engine sounds the same and gearing feels very similar too. A great car, but not really offering anything over my car if I’m honest.
The S now has 320 bhp and the difference from the 2.9 model is immediately noticeable. Its louder and has an immediacy to the pick-up. The handling is the same as above and the options on both cars are similar. It handled predictably excellent and the acceleration was brisk and fun!
The R has 330bhp, with a 0-62 time of 5 seconds dead (reduced if you take the PDK option and reduced even further with the Sports mode enabled).
The first “R” model I tried was the automatic PDK, with the flappy paddle option – although on this occasion I left it in full auto mode. The car had the Sports Chrono options and, with Sports mode engaged, it was pretty good at getting into the right gear, leaving me to concentrate more on the road.
I also tried the manual car afterwards. I was a somewhat excitable when trying these cars out, and after a the laps in the other cars I was belting the cars around at a merry old rate. Overtaking quite a few people too. After a slightly over ambitious corner attempt, resulting in some eye-widening rear wiggle my instructor commented to another at changeover “He’s all over this isn’t he!! Can’t get enough of it…!”. 😀
So, is it any different to the “S”? Well actually, yes it is. For a kick off, there are no niceties like air-con or door-handles and a radio is an optional extra. It’s all about the weight saving. The car is lowered 20mm and the chassis is setup accordingly – this is noticeable compared to the “S” where the latter feels more road-focussed and perhaps a little ‘spongy’ by comparison. The “R” is stiff with even less roll. Driving around a race track with its bright yellow, big wheeled, large spoiler exterior (and matching coloured centre console); with the sports exhaust shouting at you and the rawness of the engine performing behind your head, as you head out of a corner on full tilt sweating on the summers day you feel every inch the racing driver. I found this car completely satisfying and at-home on the track.
One of the “R” models had the special racing seats, which I believe are tailored to your body shape to ensure it’s a perfect fit – just for you.
All of the Caymans inspire confidence on a track such as this, but the R takes it that notch further.
When stood on the viewing platform from the outside of the Porsche building, you can hear the different models driving around – The 2.9 was almost silent from this distance, which matches the oft-spoke comments that you can’t really hear my 2.7 on the outside, although they all sound great from within the cabin!
The “S” could be heard as it headed out of the corner and along the straight and sounded very nice.
However, the “R” stole the show, rasping its way along the straight with sonorous noise that made you in no doubt which of the multitude of colourful Cayman’s were donning the “R” badge.
The fun stuff
Aside from blasting the cars around the circuit for a merry old hour or so, we had a go on the kick-plate. This is a water soaked surface with a kick-plate at the start that forces the car into a skid as your rear-wheels drive onto the surface. The idea is to approach it at around 20-22mph which allows you a chance to catch it and control the skid.
20-22mph. Wipers on. I set off, got the car to 22mph and looked ahead. As the plate kicked me off to the left the car went into a mental pirouette that would have ballerinas looking on with envious eyes. Once again in fits of giggles I asked the instructor what went wrong;
“Anything more than about 24mph and you’ve no chance. How fast were you going?”
“Dunno”, says I. “I got it to 22mph then looked ahead.”
“Aaah – you are supposed to keep your eyes on the speedo. You were probably doing a hell of a lot more than that”. Whoops!
We also got a go on the low-friction surface which demonstrated how good these cars hold the road, even on the marble-type surfaces. I managed to get the back-end out a little, but it was hard work and the car wanted to stick to the road.
Finally, we were treated to an off-road demonstration in the new Cayenne range. Going up and down hills with an angle of 1-1, and balancing the car on two wheels across large humps was a real eye opener as to what these cars are capable of. I was surprised at their capabilities, given the low-range box has now gone from the new models. I bet they can do the school-run too!
There is also a “human performance centre” in the building, where athletes and racing drivers can come along and have their body composition and fitness measured to ensure they are as lean and capable as possible for their chosen sport. Also in the centre is a high-humidity room, with a bike and treadmill to help sporting type people train for events in hotter climes than ours. We were then invited to have a go on a reaction board which tests your ability to react quickly – it’s a lot of fun and the group got quite competitive!
The Cayman range is as good as ever, and the Cayman R is without a doubt the best yet. More of a racer than its road focussed siblings. Without the aircon and creature comforts it feels, drives – and sounds – like a track-weapon. The engine note on the manual and PDK were distinctly different, and my instructor couldn’t explain this. However the manual sounded distinctly more mechanical. I’ve been in a GT2RS and you can hear every cog and bolt in the engine working for your pleasure, and the manual Cayman R gave a mirroring impression to this rawness. Coupled with a lack of air-con but including the ceramic breaks, big spoiler and laugh-a-minute acceleration and handling, this car has smiles per miles in bucket loads.
Is it the best the Cayman could be? Probably not – a full on stripped out RS model would be the way to go, but this is certainly the best yet and if track days are your thing this is the model to go for.
Conversely, if you want air-con and all the other optional extra’s for day-to-day driving, then just buy the “S” as you’ll be missing the point of the “R” yet still paying for the privilege.
If you’d like to visit the centre, Porsche offer a range of options which can be tailored to your needs – either driving in your own car, or one of theirs. I’d highly recommend it as a day out, it improves your knowledge of your cars handling abilities and demonstrates clearly your limits in wet conditions, whilst having a lot of fun in the process. Take a look here for more information : www.porsche.com/silverstone