911 Turbo vs Cayman
The Cayman was launched to critical acclaim in 2005 with the 3.4S model, shortly followed a year later with Porsche’s entry level coupe – the 2.7. I really liked the shape, decided to buy one two years ago and haven’t regretted a minute of it. The Cayman is a great drivers car. Beautifully balanced and sparkling performance keeps it at the top of its game in the two seater coupe market. It has a distinctive shape and is relatively rare on the roads.
However, it’s streets away both in price and performance of Porsches top end Coupe model, the ultimate 911 Turbo. Two cars at the extremes of Porsche’s coupe market so I thought it would be interesting to see just how big of a gap there is between the two. First up, the price – and that gap is a big one. With the Gen1 Cayman now coming in at around 20k on the used market, the 997 Turbo’s are clocking up nearer to £70,000.
I meet up with Mark, the owner of the 997 Turbo that you see on these pages. A big Porsche fan, Mark has also owned a Boxster and a Cayman before this. “You are going to love it,” he says, setting my expectations pretty high.
First up, some detail on the Cayman. This is a 2006 2.7 model with 227bhp. It has the optional toys of “S” wheels, heated leather interior, Bose stereo, cruise control and the rear wiper. When driving the 2.7 Cayman it treats you well. The power delivery is controllable with a welcome kick across the midrange. Changing gear up and down when driving spiritedly on country lanes rewards you in spades and you feel like you’re at one with both car and road. A grin will stretch from ear to ear and the Cayman makes you feel daring and safe without generating an over confidence that could ultimately be your undoing on the twisties. The engine sound is perfectly Porsche – flat 6 and tunefully noisy.
As with any sports car of this ilk, care is still required in the wet but thankfully today is a beautiful one. I arrive at our meet point and park up next to the Guards Red 911 Turbo. Despite being the same colour, Mark’s 911 is distinctly redder than mine. “I’ve noticed this before” he comments. “You can have several guards red cars parked next to each other and not one of them looks the same”.
Time for some 911 action. Mark hands me the keys and in doing so becomes my new best friend. His car develops a whopping 480bhp and has pretty much every toy you can think of. The car looks more imposing than the Cayman with large scoops, splitters, spoilers and vents leaving you in no doubt that this a serious performance car.
A short journey follows allowing me time to get used to the controls and some gentle squeezing of the throttle to assess the power delivery. This 997 is the Tiptronic model and is 0.2 seconds faster than the manual. I drove a 3.4PDK Cayman last year and loved it so had high hopes of this range topping auto Tip’.
It didn’t disappoint. In fact, to say that would be doing the car a hideous injustice. After a tentative trial drive I gave it the big boot, engaging the Sports Chrono button meaning power delivery is keener and the gears selected lower. This allows for more rapid escape when you nail the loud pedal. And the acceleration is just astonishing. The figures quote getting close to being twice as fast as the 2.7
Cayman and it certainly feels like it. The feel of the power is almost addictive – dropping the gear and feeling that momentary lag whilst the turbo’s spool up is a real gripping dose of anticipation. This car is absolutely rapid.
On a rolling start to compare both cars we accelerate at the same time. With the 911 in full auto (non Chrono) mode, the Cayman jerked ahead. “I’m winning!” I thought, and just as I was thinking “I’m still winning” the auto gearbox in the 911 dropped down a cog and it started to surge forward. Not a fraction of a moment later the turbo kicked in, the concert exploded from the engine and exhausts and the 911 disappeared under a crescendo of noise, making the Cayman look like it was standing still.
Mark commented afterwards that it would have been even faster in its gear change had Sports Chrono been engaged, I figured this feature is a must have on a car such as this. It delivers a more immediate acceleration and adds a little more fun to the experience. However when testing I opted to turn off the active dampers after only a short time – with Sports engaged the active dampers bounce you over anything but the most perfect of road surfaces like a rag doll. The sensation of a jelly-in-a-pot isn’t one I care for much on a daily commute. I suspect the dampers are more a track-focused addition.
One of the first things immediately noticeable coming from a Cayman is that you feel at home in the 911. A few extra dials and modified air vents aside its pretty much business as usual. Some criticise the familiarity of the Porsche interior across the models. From Boxster to 911 they are all nigh on the same and this can reduce the exclusive feel of the higher end models. I think this is actually good thing and Porsche must agree albeit perhaps more for financial purposes than to satisfy those of us in the lower ranks of the ownership hierarchy.
From a marketing perspective it allows owners buying an entry level Porsche to get the same quality and tactility as those who choose to buy the 911 Turbo. With a driving and ownership eye this makes moving up the Porsche ladder a familiar, safe exercise. Each model feels the same, it’s just the more you pay for your model of choice the more of a rewarding (and fast) driving experience you will receive. The fit and finish will still be as you’d expect regardless of the model chosen.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the 911 Turbo. I knew it was fast but I wasn’t expecting it to be so astonishingly effortless in its power delivery – at any speed. When putting the boot down the 911 engine sounds rather akin to that of the Cayman – until the turbo kicks in. At that point the noise goes from musical to a raucous concert and the accessibility of the power is utterly unbelievable. Yet, if you want to cruise along at steady pace the Turbo will happily oblige.
Where the Cayman feels perfectly planted when driving, the 911 has a slightly lighter feel to the steering. Yet it does feel like a heavier car to drive. Its a strange sensation and although it’s sure footed and never feels out of control you do become aware through the feel that all the weight is knocking around at the back of the car. The difference in handling in real world conditions is likely to be negligible – both cars are beyond my capabilities as a driver and at legal speeds, unless your taking liberties will doubtless ever reach their limits. The interior is relatively the same so it’s the power that makes the difference in these cars. Even at very high speeds the 911 surpasses expectations. If the turbo is loaded up at any point on the dial it will start pulling – and keep pulling until you run out of bottle.
Both of these cars are great in many ways. Both are truly ‘Porsche’ in their own right and they both look very distinctive. The ‘frumpy’ look of the standard Carrera is balanced out nicely by the Turbo’s wide arch and large spoilers. But which would you rather have? Neither of these cars are disappointing and lets forget the financial aspects for a second. For me it’s an obvious choice and without bias (of course), I’d choose the Cayman.
It just needs a little more power and maybe some pretend back seats. Obviously they would need to move the engine back a bit and if they could just shove a turbo in there as well…..