The Porsche Experience
News and Reviews from Stuttgart’s finest.
On 22nd March, the Official Porsche Centre (OPC) Leeds ran their Cayman Launch Party event to celebrate Porsches latest 2 seater sports car. The invitation dropped through the post, offering free food and drinks, lots of nice cars and an early opportunity to see the new Cayman, what Porsche nut wouldn’t?
The event was the usual launch affair, with historic cars on display in the showroom alongside the newer cars and of course the new Cayman – initially under wraps, before removing the vails later to great fanfare.
It was an enjoyable evening and the new Cayman looked fantastic. Below are pictures of the evening, apologies for the quality the setting on the Camera was incorrect, but it will give you a flavour of what went on and the cars that were there.
14-15th September. Porsche Leeds held an open driving weekend, whereby you could take as many cars as you wish for a test drive. Throughout the weekend, OPC Leeds had an extended demonstration range covering a large portion of the available trim levels throughout the different models.
I had particular interest in two cars – The 991 Cabriolet and the 981 (either Boxster or Cayman), 2.7 PDK.
The “long meandering background diatribe”.
The rationale for this choice is that I currently own a 997 Carrera S Cabriolet and there are a number of things that don’t hold this car as ‘perfect’ in my eyes. It is quite fidgety, the sports exhaust is always loud, even when not enabled, the switchable sports suspension is all but unusable on the UK roads as it is far too harsh and the car has the occasional rattle like every cabriolet seems to. So a lot to dislike then? Well, in perspective these things are all relatively minor – as a package the 911 is hard to beat and the back seats are a real boost for me as it allows it to be used as a family car.
I wanted to see if the 991 really was ‘that’ good – and did it address all these issues? The 997.2 I tested didn’t and was much the same as my Generation 1 model, so could the 991 really be the giant leap that the new inflated prices suggest, or just marketing gimmick?
My second option was the 2.7 981. I’ve had a Cayman 2.7 before and loved that car. The power delivery was smooth and fast without being rapid. It felt like a great drivers car. The new Cayman looks like a wonderful thing. They had several in red at the dealership and that would be the colour I’d buy. It looks fantastic. Whilst waiting for my salesman, I was inspecting the Cayman closely and also noticed some more of the finer details of the design – such as the way the lines below the door handles almost concave in a sharp angle. I am still a big fan of convertibles, but the Cayman really looks the business.
Why not the “S” then? Well, simply put, the S models are too close to the price of a used 991 and in all honesty, the 991 would be the choice for us for practical reasons. However, the 2.7 I could afford to buy now if it was good enough to warrant a change from my current 997. So I guess I’m saying I’d have one because I couldn’t afford a 911. And yet I have a 911. Weird huh? Anyhow…
I was greeted at the showroom by a very friendly young whipper-snapper by the name of Will. A very sharply dressed chap who had just started at the Porsche dealership, having been offered the job from VW and (I think) makes him the youngest salesman in the OPC network. He had a refreshing honesty about him and made no illusions that he was new and still in training, but equally would have no issues in referring me to one of his seniors, should my questions exceed his knowledge. As it happens, this wasn’t necessary as I know enough about these cars and I knew what I wanted out of the day – the objectives where; Is the 991 better than the 997 and is a 981 a worthy contender for my money over the 997 Cab? Simple questions which required a simple drive and several blasts of a few buttons and the go pedal to determine. I’m nothing if not easy to please.
First up, the 991. I couldn’t tell you much about the optional extras as I was more interested in the drive, but it did have the sports exhaust, sports chrono and the sports-plus buttons – all of which I made use of!
Immediately noticeable on the 991 is its comfort. The seats still have that great Porsche design, but they feel more supportive. It also feels like there is more room than the 997, but the cabin still retains that driver-focussed cocooned feeling. The materials used are also a step up in quality.
As we set off on the drive there is none of the rattle or noise that is usually attributed to convertibles. It’s quiet (as much as a sports car can be), comfortable and very refined. This could easily be a daily driver. The flat-6 hum is always there and as the car warms up I start to press on. The exhaust sounds tuneful and the PDK gear changes are predictably repaid.
This model is the auto-PDK and comes with the steering wheel buttons rather than the paddles, but I have to admit they do feel rather intuitive to me. I’ve had a car on loan for a week with these in the past and, now used to them, I think they are fine-and-dandy if you fancy some manual gear change action!
For now though, I just put the boot in and the PDK happily obliges with 3 downward gear changes in an instant and we teleport down the road. The noise is great and the speed feels much faster than my current 911 – although a lot of this could be attributed to the gearbox.
It feels much more planted than the 997. Gone is that strange rear-engined sensation and this new model feels like a car that you can really have fun in – much the same as the Cayman I owned previously.
We now enable the sports exhaust and the difference is immediately noticeable and very apparent. It sounds absolutely superb and when putting the boot in now, listening to the engine shout it best notes it feels like Christmas and I’ve just got all the toys. You can get to very, very, very silly speeds in a matter of a few seconds and still in 3rd gear. This, the 991S is how I always imagined a 911 would drive and sound.
Changing the mode to “sports plus” makes the gear changes much keener. The car remains in a much lower gear for a lot longer – driving along the motorway it didn’t want to move up from 3rd gear for example, unless I forced it. This is the mode that you’d use on a race track I expect. It also engages the stiffened suspension and unlike in the 997 which was practically unusable, it still maintains a composed ride in Pothole UK.
We shortly arrive back at the dealership after a brief tunnel run which had me completely exhilarated and giggling like a school girl. Whilst Will returns to the showroom to get the keys to the 2.7 Boxster PDK, I’m left staring at the 991S Cabriolet trying to work out how I can get my hands on £100k quickly. Nothing has sprung to mind by the time Will arrives back so we jump into the more affordable Boxster and head out.
My previous 986 Boxster was a 2.7, as was the 987 Cayman. I loved these cars, particularly the Cayman and wanted to see if that 2.7 power really was enough power, or whether I was looking back with rosy tints. The first thing I notice in the Boxster, being 6’4 is that the cabin in smaller than the 911. I’m touching the roof and the seat is pressed back as far as it will go. It’s a slightly compromised position compared to both the 997 and the 991. Those extra two dashboard dials in the 911 are immediately noticed as MIA too; I’ve got no temperature or oil gauges. A quick play with the on-board computer and I still can’t find them. Hey-ho, it’s not my car but we give it a little while to warm up anyway.
Driving the car is a familiar experience, obviously. I’ve driven enough Porsches now for this to be as samey as it gets. The Boxster looks great, the Cayman looks better – a really striking car with a supercar flair, particularly when dressed in red! But I also think the 991 looks good too in cabriolet form.
In terms of noise, the Boxster with its standard exhaust is distinctly more muted than the lairy 911. When cruising along you could be in any ‘normal’ car it is so refined and quiet. As we approach the motorway ramp, it is now time to try the pedal-stamp and see how the PDK fairs in this lower powered car. I put the boot in and the gearbox drops a few cogs and … well … to be truthful, my heart sinks. In my peripheral vision, Will’s head had not bounced into the headrest, a-la 991. My chest didn’t form part of the middle section of the driver’s seat either. It was almost one of those awkward silences when you feel you should say something. “Errrrmmm”, was the best I could come up with. “I think I’ve been spoiled by the 911”. Will laughed, “Perhaps we should have done them the other way around?” he suggested. The Boxster certainly wasn’t slow, it got to 70mph very quickly but it didn’t do it in a way that made you think “holy, holy, holy, f*ck!” The tunnel run echoed the same, it sounded nice but it didn’t scream its way through. In truth, tonking in the tunnel in the 2.7 made me feel like I was a bit ‘try hard’ to onlookers. Perhaps the sports exhaust would address the noise issue?
The plus side though is I can imagine Mrs Paul O would love the new Boxster 2.7. It isn’t as shouty, it is much more controllable to drive than the 997 and it looks very nice indeed. It is a sports car in every sense of the word.
You might consider this text as comparing apples with much larger, more expensive apples, but the objective here was to see if a 2.7 could be a viable alternative to the 997 and equally if the 991 addresses some of the 997 Cab’s shortcomings. As much as I really would like one of these cars, regrettably, the 2.7 left me wanting and is definitely wouldn’t be a good replacement for a 997. As a roadster, it is undoubtedly top of its class but is definitely overshadowed by its bigger brother the 991. The 997 is my preference for now – and I wouldn’t have ever realised it until I went back to try the Boxster 2.7.
That said, the 991 simply eclipses all. With back seats included to provide true family outings, this is a great car indeed and the one I want. The one I really, really want.
Time to empty the piggy bank and put it all on black…
I’m a Porsche fanboy. It was never the poster on my wall as a teenager (that was the Ferrari F40), but after being introduced to the brand originally via the Boxster, I’ve been hugely impressed with the way that Porsches can offer serious power and prestige, yet are useable as every day cars. Over the years I’ve grown rather attached to the brand so this, the first 9ff I have seen, generates a natural curiosity.
Based on the 997 Turbo S (Mk 2), the original car develops 530bhp. The 9ff modifications move the power up to whopping 650bhp for this PDK edition. A manual 9ff car would hit a mind-boggling 700bhp!
Inside, the car is business as usual for the 997 Porsche. No extreme modifications in here, all is kept pretty standard. Most of the work for 9ff is done under the bonnet – barring the bonkers paintwork, but that was owner Ade’s choice! The 9ff modification list is pretty extensive and included bigger turbos, upgraded intercoolers, ECUs and suspension.
This car is the first Gen2 Turbo that 9ff completed and Ade is very happy with it. Today Ade is driving the Ford, so I’m out in the car with his brother, Steve. “It’s a mad car” he says “I always laugh in disbelief whenever I drive it. The power delivery is insane”. I ask for a demonstration and the loud pedal is pressed. The turbo’s spool up, the car hunkers down and off we go like a rocket. All of the cars here are, obviously, very fast but nothing can match the 9ff for its out and out speed.
The custom exhaust extracts every last decibel from the flat-6 Porsche engine and the striking paintwork helps to keep the car as noticeable as its peers out on the roads today.
What I particularly like about the 9ff is the accessibility of its power. There is no drama, no manual gate or high-concentration required. You can amble through town as an every-day car, but when you want to really move – either in the twisties (Turbo’s are 4WD) or on the track, with a hard right foot you can turn this into one of the fastest cars in the world.
Photos by Dom Fisher (DFishPix)
The Porsche Carrera GT was launched in 2004, following a surprise appearance in concept form at the Geneva show in 2000. Such was the interest it was put into production, becoming an immediate car legend with blistering performance, extreme power and a road presence like few other cars of its time.
The Carrera GT has a 5.7 V10 engine, originally designed for racing and was available from the factory in five colours as standard but if you wanted white, it was special factory option only. The Carrera GT develops 612bhp and has a carbon fibre monocoque chassis to keep the weight down. As a result, this special Porsche tips the scales at just 1380kgs – a remarkable feat given its size. This light-weight ensures a 0-60 time of less than 4 seconds, and a top speed in excess of 200mph.
The owner of the car you see here arrives in the GT on our indifferent Friday afternoon, all eyes are immediately drawn as it lights up the road with its dramatic shape. From the front quarter, the GT’s wide and low stance is very distinct and with the huge raised spoiler the rearward proportions are balanced out neatly.
From the front square-on looking through the windscreen, your eyes move through the silver surround detail in bucket seats, past the roll-over hoops and notice a hint of the rear deck … and that large spoiler. It all provides an exciting, confident racing car image. It looks fast from every angle, even stood still.
Getting into the car is something of a delicate manoeuvre – especially when the car isn’t yours.
“Try not to knock the side sills as you get in.” the owner requests. The seats are lower than the sills, so you step over the sill and drop into the low slung Porsche racing bucket seats. My 6’4” frame is carefully contortioned – arms and knees bent at angles that I didn’t know I could master as I drop into the spotlessly clean interior. Bum on seat, I heave my right leg into the foot well and we are ready for the off.
The key turns, the engine starts. The instrument dials in a Carrera GT are similar to those found in a 997 model, except that these are GT orange. Not white or black. Orange. Thanks to that lightweight construction and the resulting minimalist interior, you notice immediately inside the cabin there are lashings of carbon fibre all around you. It has a functional design, but isn’t without its creature comforts. The dashboard for example still looks plush, as does the centre console and despite being in a buttock firming racing seat it isn’t uncomfortable either.
The car even has musical abilities outside of that made by the engine, with an exceptional sound system that you just wouldn’t expect in such as stripped out and focussed sports car. And let’s not forget that wooden gear knob that looks so affectionally out of place in a car such as this.
On tick-over, the engine has a typical Porsche grumble. That undertone of unrefined aggressiveness. As we pull off onto the road it becomes very apparent just how big the car is. Looking forward, the bonnet disappears from view and, due to its size, so do the cats-eyes in the centre of the road. All Carrera GT cars were built left-hand drive, which means that here in the UK, as a passenger I’m sat towards the centre of the road – and the CGT only just fits on these country lanes, the rumble under tyre confirming that you’re on a narrow stretch of road.
Just being in this car makes you smile. It’s a very special car and provides a real sense of occasion. Personally, it’s also one of my all-time favourite cars and I hoped that it was going to live up to expectations. As we cruise down the road I look behind me and the aesthetics continue to excite. Those giant rollover hoops, intertwined with the brake light assembly. Further back are those defined racing scoops protruding over the engine bay. The anticipation to see what the engine underneath is capable of is spin tingling, like when you get on a roller coaster for the first time. You know instinctively know it’s going to be good – and scary.
And it is. We’re clear of traffic, so we stop momentarily to sample the set-off acceleration. The first attempt was a muted affair as the power delivery is so keen that the traction control kicks in to keep things safe. My driver grimaces and stops the loud pedal “It’s better with traction control off” he says, pressing the appropriate button on the dashboard. Time for round two and I cling onto the seat as the GT’s 612 wild stallions are unleashed and we slither off the start line.
The traction grabs just a second later and the car launches ahead at break-neck speed. The revs shoot up to 5,000rpm and the noise changes from purely-Porsche to simply race-car and my grin turns to laughter as the car just continues to force you back in your seat. I could be at Alton Towers.
Regaining composure, I try to pull myself out of the seat (a simple, but effective measure of a car’s power, I find) and my body is having none of it, the inertia keeping me welded to the chair. I love it!!
As we power through the gears I can only imagine this is what Formula 1 would feel like if it was to be a road going car. Suck to the chair, senses are in overload. The engine noise is intoxicating with its high pitch sound (I’m pleased to tell you it does sound exactly the same as Anthony Hopkins’ car in the “Fracture” movie). We have now caught up with a pocket of traffic but no matter, with the sheer power of the car, every gap becomes a simple overtaking opportunity.
“Visibility is the only downside to this car”, the owner tells me. “Being left hand drive, it makes overtaking more difficult”. He has had a number of left-hookers though and doesn’t find it to be too much of a hindrance as we safely manoeuvre around the slower traffic.
In the bends, the car is firmly planted and minor movements on the steering wheel are transferred precisely in the direction of the nose. The Carrera GT is quite simply Porsche’s finest hour and it has lived up to everything I had had hoped it would be.
The roof is a semi convertible affair. You can remove the carbon fibre panels to allow top-down motoring and sample the GT’s audible delights in full concert. Be careful not to drop one though, as a replacement will cost a cool £5,000.
The GT does get a lot of attention. “Sometimes a bit too much,” he laughs “people think I’ve bought it to show off, but that’s not the case. This is my dream car and I just love driving it”.
I love it too. Now where is that lottery ticket….
There is a new Boxster in town and I received an invite to attend the launch party at the Leeds Porsche Centre on 19th April 2012.
It was a busy invitation-only affair; the Boxster generates an expectedly large amount of interest from Porsche owners and enthusiasts. The showroom had a special display of the evolution of the Boxster range. Starting the range is an original 356 mid-engined prototype (regarded as the inspiration behind the modern day Boxster). Next to this was the original 986 (red, with an interesting shade of green for the interior!), a facelift 986 in a lovely orange colour and finally the 987 model.
The new 2012 Boxster – and the reason for the event – occupied the lion’s share of the showroom with three examples on display for our perusal. The colours were Black, Silver and an interesting, yet weirdly appealing, shade of brown.
Disappointingly, all three Boxsters were the “S” model, all heavily specc’d including electric seats and Sports Chrono. This meant it wasn’t possible to compare the standard Boxster and “S” models in appearance, nor see what would be in place of the chrono clock – nor try out the different seating options. However, it was a launch party so it was to be expected that they would all be huge in spec to maximise desirability.
The new Boxster looks great. Really great. It is a nice evolution of the old shape and has a larger, more purposeful appearance about it. In Silver it looks fantastic and the Black looks traditional Porsche – svelte, subtle and nicely drawing your eye away from some of the cheaper plastics. These cheap-bits were primarily the new side air-vents which did look a bit nasty up-close and also the rollover hoops. They didn’t look premium at all and I think I’d specify a colour option (either silver or painted) to make these stand out.
Test drives were available and I’m booked to try out the car on the road in the near future so am looking forward to see how it drives. On appearance however, I think the new Boxster looks great! Those new rear lights look both different and weird and the front looks more aggressive. The word is that it took styling cues from the Carrera GT – and with a C-GT in the showroom to compare you can certainly see the similarity. But the lights resemble the Toyota MR2 as much as they do the GT.
Inside it is a nice place to be and the cabin is nicely laid out with a big screen for the Sat/Nav and audio system. The dash seems to cocoon you in luxury more than the outgoing model. My only gripe on the interior is those cheap, cheap, cheap 80’s looking blanking buttons that Porsche have introduced down the length of the centre console. They just highlight that you couldn’t quite afford all the optional extras. This is the new layout in all Porsche models. Towards the back of the showroom was a new 911 and this car had a huge array of options bringing the base price to £95,000. It still had three blank buttons on the 80’s console. One wonders just how much you have to spend to fill them all!!
In terms of price, starting at just under £38,000 (which would be closer to £45k if you add only a handful of options like leather, bigger wheels, sat-nav and the PDK gearbox) does make you raise an eyebrow. Although only a natural cost rise over the outgoing model it does feel pretty expensive for what is an entry level car that is no stranger to depreciation. That said, I’m certain this won’t stop the Boxster selling like hot-cakes and if it drives like it looks (and we can be sure that Porsche have made sure it does) then it won’t disappoint!
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…..
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
£72,000. That’s what I reckoned this car would cost. Not even close. After a check on the Car Configurator, adding all the options this baby is clocking up just shy of £92,000. Wow!
This is the latest Porsche 911. The Generation 2 model of the 997 with LED running lights, fussy rear lights and a more powerful engine (385bhp and 0-60 in 4.5 seconds). Porsche have kindly (finally!) leant me a 911 for an extended 24 hour test drive and being a demonstrator model is stocked to the rafters with toys and noise. It is also a cabriolet – a welcome surprise as I’ve missed the roof down action from my previous Boxster.
As I settle into the car my immediate thought is to drop the roof. However, with the revised 997 roofs, I couldn’t find the manual catch lever – or the auto buttons to lower the roof so my first journey is one in a closed environment. It’s a nice place to be too, with full leather interior and the more luxurious sports seats it is a cosseted, yet distinctly sporty ride.
A little more on those optional toys; We have the PDK 7 speed double-clutch gearbox, Sports Chrono, switchable sports exhaust, heated leather interior, phone preparation, Bose Sound system and a curious button labelled “Sports Plus”.
First things first – that Exhaust button gets pressed. The exhaust note is good as standard but with the option enabled has an additional raspy effect. Deep and throaty indeed it is. Marvellous!
Travelling on the road, I hit the Sports button. The transmission immediately drops a couple of gears, keeping itself closer to the optimum rev range for immediate speed. It also sharpens up the dampers which unfortunately is too fidgety for the unsmooth British roads. I suspect this is aimed more at those who favour track days; thankfully you can disable this option to keep the ride more comfortable. Does that make me sound old?
Putting the boot down is just a marvellous experience – and with Chrono enabled a face-grinning superlative experience is guaranteed. The pace pick up is rapid – rather bonkers quick, with the exhaust spitting its most aggressive growl it gives you an instant “want one” feeling.
I’ve driven a PDK model before in the Cayman and thoroughly enjoyed it and the 911 provides a similar experience. If you put your foot down hard, it will drop a couple of gears ready for lift-off. However, if you’re really put the boot in the gearbox acknowledges the immediacy of your request and finds the perfect gear for maximum takeoff.
The result of all this means you can go from meandering to blistering speeds with a mere squeeze of the go pedal. When you do, the acceleration is wonderful – the noise is addictive and the push back into your seat is fantastic. At a set of traffic lights I floored it and looking behind I was astonished to see just how much ground I had covered, with other motorists transformed to just dots in the mirror.
So quick is the 911 PDK it doesn’t taker more than a few seconds to be breaking the laws of the land so unless you are risking a ticket, this wholesome noise – and your satisfied grin – is relatively short lived on a long straight. You need a few bends to break up the drama and allow for some handling experience.
The 911 handles effortlessly and although doesn’t generate quite as much feedback through the steering as a Cayman it certainly isn’t lacking. The driving ‘feel’ also informs you of the heavy lump that is hanging around at the back of the car and I would imagine that if you gave this a good boot on any moderately slippery surface you’d find yourself sideways in quick time. Thankfully I didn’t find any of that on my test and a dashing of rain gave me a chance to turn off the Sports options and just cruise.
In this mode the 911 is a great GT car. You’ve got toys a plenty, a wonderful stereo system, a Sat Nav which knows all of the traffic hotspots – even showing you maps of the affected areas – and heated seats to keep your bum warm in the cold.
Before long the sun is back out again and I start on the convertible roof again. After much confusion followed by internet help I discover how you drop the roof. Unlike the Boxster of old, there is no manual catch – the whole operation is now simply automatic. Press and hold the button near the handbrake and the roof lowers in full in around 30 seconds.
Topless motoring is fantastic and with the 911 it allows you to hear all of its vocals undiluted. If you have left the 911 Cabrio buttoned up in a car park, you can lower the roof on your way back to the car just by holding one of the buttons on the remote control. Very flash!
The only downside to convertibles, even new ones such as this is that they have a habit of generating rattles and squeaks at random inside the cabin when the roof is up.
This particular model has the two-tone leather, with a half black/beige dashboard and sand-beige seats and door cards to match. I like it, but Sand is a colour that isn’t favoured by many – including my good lady. “I’m not sure about all this brown business” she says when first introduced to the car! 🙂
This model also has the clear glass rear lights and the optional 911 logo on the boot, much to the delight of passing youth on their bikes; “Woooow! A 911!!” one exclaims as we park up on the driveway.
And what of the Sports Plus button? I have to admit, I didn’t get chance to try this out too much – when pressed, it drops the gears even lower but I’m not sure what else it does. That is until I was a few hundred yards from returning the when I realised it is used for the Launch Control. Doh! I would have loved to have played with that, but apologies in advance that it didn’t occur to me! So many sporty options in sports cars nowadays….
So how does it compare to the Cayman? It is noticeably faster and louder too – in a good way. It has back seats but no boot so that could be concluded ‘a draw’. It’s also infinitely better than the 996 model, which I never really bonded with. But at £92,000 you’ll needed some pretty deep pockets and some mega depreciation balls to take the plunge on this car. For that money, you could actually buy a used 997.1 Coupe, a Cayman, Boxster AND Cayenne – and still have plenty of change to run and insure the whole fleet.
Has the 911 now made it onto my to-do list? I’m pleased to say that this 997 is enough of a step away from the other models in the range (Cayman, Boxster) to warrant moving up a cog come change over. A truly fantastic flagship sports car that really can be used every day – heading to the shops, sitting in traffic or blasting around a track at silly speeds it is the do-all companion for any motoring enthusiast.
My only criticism is those rattles with the roof up (accepted though for a convertible, almost certainly won’t be heard in a coupe) and that it feels a little too vibratey when idle – I suspect this is the auto transmission balancing the clutch when stationary.
If my next car is once again a Porsche – it will likely be a 997 911. But personally, I’ll be in .1 edition – until the PDK models come into my budget, as £92,000 just makes my eyes water…!
I don’t think there is a greater motoring experience than the feeling of wind-in-your hair on a great care free sunny day down your favourite twisty road. I bought a Boxster to satisfy the roofless craving and ran it for three years. Here is my retrospective thoughts on the ownership experience, along with the problems encountered and the financial impact in doing so…
My introduction to the experience of Porsche ownership began in 2005 with the 2001 986 model Boxster 2.7. Having owned an MR2 before this, I was looking to move up the motoring ladder and a recent promotion meant that the Boxster was now on the radar. So I set about looking for one. There were loads for sale, but there was also a lot of rubbish out there.
My journey took me several hundreds of miles to be met with lots of disappointment and frustration. From cars that were generally tatty (one hadn’t even been cleaned!), cars having rust(!) and one which I initially purchased until the agreed day of inspection by a professional at which point the seller backed out.
I eventually found my car 100 miles from home, in Lapis Blue. The owner had just washed it as I turned up and in the sunlight it looked great. Lapis has a purple tinge which gave the car a more unique colouring than the midnight blue colour that I had originally purchased.
Time for a test drive.
The owner lived on a farm and there were plenty of small, quiet roads to give the car a road test. The roof was down and the ride was enjoyable. Then I took a turning down a narrow road with a church that was in the final throws of a wedding celebration. The photographer – and all the guests – were out in the middle of the road. And there was me, sheepishly creeping towards them – roof down – with another bloke sat next to me.
That was my first experience of fully fledged self-consciousness. As I shrunk into my seat (as best as a 6’4″ bloke in a small sports car possibly can), I uttered various apologies as the waves parted allowing us through.
The seller – my passenger – seemed largely oblivious to the attention – something I later attribute to having owned the car for some time, you become incognizant to the attention the car can attract. My spirits were heightened to a ‘done deal’ level as we crawled past the attractive bridesmaids who dutifully commented “oooh, nice car”.
20 minutes later, I had me a Boxster, subject to inspection.
The inspection report (done by Peter Morgan, if you ever need one in the UK) highlighted a few niggling faults, but nothing to be too wary of. Overall the report stated it was a good buy, at a decent price. Slightly over what I wanted to pay, but this was a 2.7, rather than the 2.5’s that I had been looking at previously. In fairness, I couldn’t tell the difference between the engines but from a resale perspective I figured a 2.7 would be a better bet with the added bonus that I was stretching to a newer car, with presumably newer and better internal components. It also had the revised Tequipment model wheels, which are similar to the “S” model wheels but less rounded with a more edgy design. I liked them a lot.
Driving home, after buying my new car was both a wonderful and scary experience. I’d just paid £18,500 for a Porsche. That’s by far and away the most I’d ever spent on a car and I’d just bought a legendary badge with a preconception of wealth. That made me scared and proud. With these thoughts I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. Maybe I should have stayed within my comfort zone and bought a ‘normal’ car? I stepped out of the box with the MR2, maybe this was a step too far?
“Porsche Panic” – a common affliction that affects mere mortals who purchase desirable Marques – started to settle in on the way home. However, after about 30 minutes this feeling subsided as I thought “aah, fek it!”. Pressing the loud pedal a little harder and glancing in the rear view mirror at those wide Boxster hips helped to bring me to a grinning calm.
I was in a Porsche Boxster. Me. I’d got one. It was all mine and truth be told, I couldn’t be happier!!
Driving and Ownership
Driving the Boxster is fantastic. Walking outside and seeing the sun shining on those rare occasions in Britain comes with the immediate thought “TOP DOWN!!” – and you’ll find excuses to drive places. Weekends away and regular days out became a very common occurrence. Its a feeling I’ve never had before or since in another car. The lapis blue looks fantastic when clean – it really gleams in the day, and looks dark and shiny at night. However, it attracts dirt like the colour black and requires lots of cleaning to keep at its optimum pose level.
The car has taken me all over the country and I’ve only ever had positive comments about the car. It turns heads, people ask you about it and kids will point and mouth “Porsche” as you drive by. From a pure vanity point of view, its cool! Porsche is now common enough that it won’t attract much attention in the car park, meaning you can leave it at Tesco’s without worrying that it’ll be a photo opportunity for passers by, nor a noticeable item worth a punt by a thieving chancer.
The car handles beautifully and inspires confidence when applying effort to your driving. You can corner at speeds which are both safe and fun, and feel like your being rewarded for your efforts.
The interior of the 986 is very curvy and there are some neat little styling cues marking a notable attention to detail in the cabin. The swooping lines which follow along the doors and door pocket covers look great, the instruments are nicely placed to glance at (I love how Porsche deem that the rev counter is more important than the speedometer!). The Becker stereo (with Sound Package Plus option) kicks out some meaty bass without being overbearing. The standard speaker system is pretty terrible though, getting very breathless at even moderate volumes. The Sound Package Plus, or the Bose are definitely worthy of consideration if you like your choons bangin’.
As a tallie, its perhaps a little too cramped inside and longer journeys require a couple of stops to get out for a stretch. A small price to pay for such a rewarding driving experience though.
I purchased a Smart Top relay for my car, meaning you can drop the roof whilst moving at up to 30mph. This is a great feature, meaning you don’t have to pull up with the handbrake on to active the roof mechanism.
I also bought a set of clear lights to freshen up the face of the car. A worthwhile investment, and makes the car look more modern. Clear lights came standard from 2003 model cars, whereby all the indicators are either ‘smoked’ or clear in colour, rather than yellow. This lessons the ‘chucky egg’ effect of the front assembly.
For the summer time, I bought a set of “Speedster humps”. These are genuine Porsche items from the Tequipment range. They affix to the hard top fixing kit and attach to the roll bar. I thought they looked pretty smart, and covered the visible fabric when the roof was down.
As my car was kept outside, I also sourced a hard-top for the car. This required additional Spinlocks to be fitted, so that the roof can be mounted on the car (cost about £50). These will only have been pre-fitted to cars which have had a hardtop at some point in their life, so most cars will need these before a hardtop can be attached. The hardtop was brilliant – it made the cabin noticeably quieter and warmer for the winter months, and gave the car a different look to the convertible. Two cars for the price of one; can’t be bad!
All these items (except maybe the humps!) are a good investment if your thinking of purchasing. Although the initial outlay is expensive, you recoup most of these cost if you sell them on again separate to the car itself. Over 3 years, although the above items cost around £1,700 initially, they were all sold on for about £1200 with most of the loss being from the hardtop and humps, due to having them re-sprayed in blue (you won’t recover this cost, as all colours tend to sell for the same price). However, as the roof saved the aging fabric from the harshness of the winter months, this meant that I didn’t have to buy a replacement during my ownership.
As mentioned, my Boxster was inspected by Peter Morgan who also writes for 911 & Porsche World magazine. One of the photos he took of my car was later featured in the Boxster buying guide supplement in one of the magazine issues. I was delighted when browsing the magazines in WHSmiths I saw my car proud of place on the back page! I bought 3 copies!
Reliability and Costs
Now, you may have heard about the ‘legendary build quality’ of Porsche. So had I, one of the reasons for looking at the Boxster. Back in 1996, when the Boxster was introduced, this statement of Porsche was based largely on one car; the iconic 911. By all accounts, this was a supercar and rivalled the likes of Maserati, Lotus and Ferrari – all of which seemingly required nothing more than a stiff breeze to have the internal engine components shrivel up and die, leaving you stranded in whichever bus stop or lay by you could coast to. By comparison then, the everyday supercar from Porsche really was something special. You could actually use it in all weather – any time that it suited you. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily should do. This superb reliability compares well to other supercars of the same era – but not really compared to that MX5 you were considering, nor the German engineering that comes from the VW Golf on your driveway.
20,000 miles a year takes its toll on a Boxster – and it will cost. Its a high performance machine and whilst its true that most will probably never leave you stranded in the same way that other prestige sports manufacturers might, it will cost a fair bit to keep going. There are plenty of users who report problems on the 986.
It was reported that Porsche themselves became concerned about the reputation that 986 and the 996 were gaining that the 987 was positively designed to be more reliable. To date, this appears to hold true – forums are less littered with disgruntled 987 owners – and as an owner of both cars in some guise I would agree that the 987 is certainly better put together.
But don’t let that put you off – the 986 is a superb car and hundreds of owners will tell you that its been trouble free motoring since they have bought it. Don’t forget though, whilst you can buy them now for 5 or 6 grand, they were £35-50,000 new – and the running costs maintain that prestige.
For info, here is a list of expenditure over 3 years with my Boxster. Many of these items are quite common, according to the specialists who looked after my vehicle during its ownership;
MAF sensor £351
a clamp for something £1.48
electrical fault – £558.13
hard top kit £120.33
reseal cam box bolts £32.32
New steering rack £187.55
(oil seals, ignition coil pack, rear anti roll bar bushes, brake fluid change) £344.65
wheel bolts £113.36
Radiators x 2 and Air condensers x2 £930.61
Rear screen – £250
Front screen – £60 (excess)
1 minor service (approx 400?)
1 major service (£550)
1 lot of front tyres (approx £200)
2 (or 3) lots of rear tyres (approx £300 per set)
full set of brakes (£300)
Hard-top – £700
Speedster humps – £400ish
Smart Top – £120ish
Clear Lights – £500ish
Depreciation over 3 years – £9,000
An approximately total of around £12,000-£13,000 over 3 years of ownership, using independent Porsche specialists for most of the repair work.
Where is it now?
I sold the car back in 2008 to a local chap, who still has the car now. He’s put a personalised number plate on the car and I still see him driving around from time to time – always with the top down – and always with a big grin on his face.
In the end….
On balance, it was a fantastic car. Despite the downsides of the breakdowns and sometimes eye wateringly expensive repair bills, it remains a fantastic car. If I had the room and finances to store the Boxster and the car which replaced it, I’d probably still have it now. I guess that holds true of all my previous cars, but the Boxster was not only great to drive – it actually made you feel a little special, just for driving it.
If you love driving and aren’t bothered about other peoples preconceived ideas about these cars, then get one bought. Highly recommended.
September 2005 – November 2008
6 months after I bought the Boxster, it was due for a service. I took it to the main dealer, which then gets you on the radar for various events which take place at the Porsche Centres in your area. One such event was a free 111 point inspection on your car, just before winter. The idea being that you can ensure your car is in tip top shape for the cold months ahead.
Whilst the car was in for inspection, I was invited to take a test drive from anything on the forecourt that took my fancy. Happy days.
So, my choices were a Cayman 2.7 (a car which I had my eye on for a purchase a few years down the line – assuming I worked hard enough), and a 911 C4S for comparison. And really, I just wanted to drive one!
First up was the Cayman demonstrator. With just a few hundred miles showing on the clock on this brand new car, the salesman caned it down the highway from cold. Mental note to self, don’t by a demonstrator.
That aside, I was impressed with the Cayman. The interior was more modern when compared to the 986 Boxster. It felt a little quicker, but not overly so, but it was a manageable car that anyone can drive; fast, but not put-you-in-the-hedge fast. The engine was also a bit more throaty than my Boxster, perhaps some of that being attributed to the fact that its in the cabin with you.
After a demonstration of the frighteningly capable braking quality and it was changeover time. Myself and the driver swapped sides and I got to give it some beans. The car pretty much sold itself onto my to-do list for the next purchase in a few years time. It looked good, felt modern, was a bit faster than my Boxster and felt like I would be upgrading.
However, I also wanted a go in the iconic 911. I’d not driven one up until this point but was well aware it was a top-of-the-tree supercar. A bit out of my price range at the time and I was very excited. I kept my cool as I asked the sales man to get one out for a ‘comparison’!!
His response surprised me as he went for the keys. “Now you’ve driven the Cayman, your going to be disappointed with the 911”. Disappointed? Really?! I realise it was the previous generation model (996), but it was a C4S – quite high up in the range and only a couple of years old. I was sure he was wrong and couldn’t wait to have a go!
As I took the keys and sat inside my first impressions as I got into the car was that it looked the same as the Boxster, but with a few more dials. Having owned the Boxster now for several months, this was noted as “nothing special”.
I’m not overly struck so far, but wasn’t expecting anything with the interior – I already knew that both the Boxster and the 911 share a lot of the same parts. Starting her up was nice though, a very meaty rumble. As I pulled onto the road I couldn’t help but think “Look at me, I’m in a 911. A Nine-Eleven. Me.” I was so excited inside, but tried not to show too much to the salesman who was probably expecting a little more decorum than the re-enactment of an overly excited child.
The exterior of the C4S is nice though. It has the extra wide hips and the red stripe across the boot lid – a nod the the C4S models of old. In Silver with the larger turbo style wheels and the low stance it looks really nice. Very purposeful, reminding others at a potential traffic light grand prix not to bother.
As the car warmed up I got to a nice straight road and put my foot down hard. My excitement started to deflate. I was expecting something iconic, savage, brutal. An awesome grin to go with an awesome piece of machinery. But it didn’t happen. The car sounded great, sure, and it went quickly. But it didn’t go that quickly, and it didn’t sound a million miles away from the Boxster, or the Cayman. Certainly nothing that a sports exhaust couldn’t fix. The car moved fast, but not so fast that it made the Boxster feel like a shopping trolley. It didn’t make me feel like I’d bought a “poor mans Porsche”. Ditto on the twisty roads. All of these cars are significantly more capable than my abilities, so I’ll never know which ones are better than others – they all corner really well but mid engined cars are generally known to be a more secure option in the hands of amateurs. Either way, they all went around the bends as hard as I dared push them, so the 911 didn’t leave wanting – but it didn’t excel from the other cars either.
If I’m honest, I wanted it to be amazing and to put the Boxster firmly in the shade. I secretly wanted to get back in the Boxster and to feel underwhelmed. Why? Well, because its good to have something to aspire to. I love cars, they are what make me work harder each year to try and earn more money simply so I can spend more on the next model in my hobby. I’d got the Cayman planned now, but then what? The 911 certainly wasn’t that amazing and for the extra money it just didn’t satisfy any cravings. Plus, the 2 seaters look much better.
This left me in no doubt that the Cayman was the next car for me. The old shape 911 was a disappointment, but maybe I was expecting too much.
People, largely whom have never driven any Porsche, say that the 911 is the only model to get. I disagree and I’m quite happy to say that the significantly cheaper little sister is a great car in its own right and whilst it will never put the legendary 911 in the shade, it certainly is a perfect little Porsche in its own right.
For anyone who hasn’t owned/driven a Boxster, then the 911 will feel fantastic. But if you’ve had one already, you might find this a tad disappointing.
The 997 however, that might well be a different story. And as soon as I’ve been in one I’ll be sure to let you know…
Jan 2010(r) October 2006
6.15am. That’s close enough. My alarm is due to go off at 6.30, but its near as damn-it. Certainly better than my last 2 attempts, waking up at 1.30am, and 4.17am. Like a child on Christmas day, I can wait no longer and I’m up and ready. Time for breakfast? Of course there is. But I’m not having any, too excited.
My appointment is at 10am at the Porsche Driving Experience Centre at Silverstone. The journey is around 2 and a half hours. With 1 hour contingency.
So, off I go in the Cayman, picking my Dad up on the way – he’s coming along as my non-driving guest and is really looking forward to it. The relaxing journey down consists mainly of conversation around cars, driving, and bad habits of passing motorists. We pick up a fair amount of traffic on the M1 as we pass the 12 mile contra flow. A broken down lorry in lane one ensures that traffic is pretty solid as we chug past the road works.
After a stop at a services, we arrive at Silverstone at 9.50am (good job we added the extra time allowance). Driving up to the barrier, the security guard pops his head out. “Porsche Experience please” says I. “Turn right here, a mile down that road”, comes the reply. Great stuff. Almost there! Driving down the road, parallel to the Silverstone race track is cool. There is just us on the road. And its a nice new road. Weather is looking good. Very good.
A few minutes later, we arrive at the Centre. It looks like a typical showroom affair. Very nice. We pull up in the car park, next to a sea of Caymans. Lots of red ones, including mine..
The entrance looks even more dramatic with the eye-candy on offer…
As we enter the building we are met by an immaculately presented receptionist. After announcing our names, she gives us our day passes and
explains how the event works. The passes have our name on them, along with the Porsche logo and a picture of a Cayman. My Dad hasn’t been to anything like this before and is absolutely made up with having his own Porsche name-badge. “I’m keeping this as a memento!” he says proudly, smile beaming from ear to ear as it puts it around his neck. He decides that he’ll keep his Ford hat on though, as he feels more comfortable in it…!!
We pass through the showroom, which dons a few racing cars, a 911, Cayman and Boxster. All looking very nice indeed…
My slot is a 10.40am. Time for some breakfast now. We get a Window seat looking over the Centre handling circuit and grab some coffee and bacon sarnies. The Caymans are all lined up outside in every colour imaginable. It looks great.
To the right of the cars there is a wash bay, where the cars keep being sent for a good clean. I was wondering how I could sneak mine in there to save me a job at the weekend. Upstairs in the restaurant there is a big Scalextric track which provides some good entertainment, and a selection of car magazines to read next to the comfy-seats. To the left of the restaurant is the Options board, which shows you many of the different customization options you can have for the interior and wheels when specc’ing a new car.
Whilst having breakfast, the centre manager from Porsche Newcastle comes over to say hello, mistakenly assuming my Dad was the one who bought the Cayman. The cheek! Dad sheepishly removes his Ford cap.
10:40 arrives and we are greeted and taken for an overview of the building and the cars which are in the showroom, including a £70,000 Cayman with all the trimmings. Looks fantastic…
Then its my turn out on the track. Hurrah!!!! First up, the skiddy stuff. I am reminded on the way to the skidpan that we aren’t actually supposed to be going full-tilt on the track as yet. You get to test the power of the brakes first by accelerating down a hill and then stopping really close to the end. I was amazed just how quickly these cars can actually stop. Then we head down a section of tarmac which is covered in water, mimicking a road of ice. A sheet of water sprouts up randomly from the floor and you have to try to avoid it. Having the car swirl all over the shop is a good reminder as to how dangerous the roads are in bad weather if you have to suddenly change course.
Then we head onto the twisty section which is half the slipperiness of the ice section, and is like a polished marble effect on the floor. This allows you to get the back end out and do some great slides out of the corners. I absolutely loved this bit, getting the rear out and then doing that thing where you let go of the steering wheel and letting it shoot round to correct the lock was awesome!!
Next up track stuff. My instructor was great, helping me to get the most out of my car and telling me when to brake, lines to use etc. This was good as I’ve never done anything like this before. It felt really quick into the corners but my Dad said it looked slow from the viewing platform. haha!! I think the latter was probably true, but it felt quick at the time!! Here I am…
So… Cayman S. Very nice – very quick!! Love the engine note, and the effortlessness of the acceleration. this was a manual car. I then had a go in the new non-S model. It had PDK. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference really in speed from my current 2.7 and I struggled with PDK. I couldn’t get the hang of pushing the thing forwards to change up a gear. My driver had to keep pointing the direction which I needed to move the paddle or stick, engine merrily revving its heart out whilst I worked it out.
After a good few laps in each car we headed over to the final skid section, which had a kick-plate as you drove onto the water drenched area. The plate knocked your back wheels randomly left or right, causing you to go into a skid. This was good, but I managed to catch all of the skids and keep the car level (driving around 22mph), as did most in our group. One notable exception was a lady who was pirouetting every time, looked very funny. Then my instructor turned off PSM to demonstrate just how much the computer assists you without always realising it. I put my foot down and turned the car in to cause a skid. The loss of control was immense, with the car like a spinning top. With PSM on, it was much, much harder to force the car to skid. PSM – the button of doom. I’ll leave mine on I think!
A couple more laps, and then it was game over. I met up with my Dad and we went for another brew, followed by a presentation on the Cayman. This was delivered expertly by one of the Porsche staff at the centre and was about the history of Porsche and the development of the Cayman. On the questions section I asked about the double-clutch system, and how it knows whether to change up or down. The answer, by the way, is that the second clutch is continually monitoring what your doing with the accelerator and will keep changing the pre-selected gear (up or down) depending on which one your going to require.
Our final ride of the day was in the Cayenne, where we were treated to some off-road demonstrations of what the 4×4 can do. I love these cars!
This finished with a fast-lap in the new Cayenne Diesel to show off its capabilities as both a driver car as well as an off-roader/mummy-machine.
A lovely Turbo was also in the showroom…
We finished the day with another look around the showroom and then headed off back up the M1 to home. The distinct lack of any salesmen meant that we could indulge in each car for as long as we liked without any hint of sell or attention. Brilliant! The interior in the Cayenne (an orangey colour) and the 911 (red) really looked good!
The Porsche Driving Experience Day. Absolutely brilliant, unforgettable day out for me and the ol’ man. Sometimes the best things in life are free – you just have to have paid a small fortune beforehand in order to get them.
I don’t know at what point in history that the worlds fashion starlets decided that utilitarian farming workhorses will forever more be the cool, must-have status symbol, but when they did Land Rover clearly benefited well. Even the Range Rover Sport, which are as square and ugly as the very first off road car to come out of the factory, seems to be a best seller. Unlike the staple sports-car icon bereft of the rich and famous, it seems that a cars exterior design was no longer important. Comfort, and size, mattered. And so every luxury brand got in on the act, including Porsche with the mighty Cayenne.
I’ve got one for a few days as a courtesy car. Here is my story….!
Christ, its big. I mean, its massive!!! When you stand square on in front of it, you realise just how much metal there is on these beasts.
As the Porsche driver rolled onto my driveway on Monday, I noticed the “S” plastered in shiny silver on its posterior. Fek me, a brand spanking new Porsche luxury mobile, in black. A quick check on the Porsche configurator reveals a list price of around £61,000. Not the boggo standard model I was expecting.
It came with PCM including sat-nav and telephone, heated electric memory seats, Tiptronic, Porsche crests on the leather (love them!), 20″ alloys and a boatload of other stuff including a couple of “Sport” buttons. This is gonna be fun.
£20 went down the green tube on on Monday. Followed by £15 Monday evening, then another £20 Tuesday afternoon. The light was showing red again when I handed it back on Wednesday.
Upon arrival, job one was to take it for a spin and to show everyone in the vicinity the new toy. Firing up the car, I’m met with a wholesome growl of the engine. Raaaa!! Love it. I convinced my lady that it was an absolute requirement of my very existence that I had to sink my right foot into the floor “just once”. A reluctant agreement ensued and my boot went down. Pause for anticipation and the thing starts to move. Its fast, picking up speed with a nice pace – not as fast as I was expecting though, but delights and fun all the same.
We arrive home and I park up and as I disembark I hear a distinct hissing sound coming from the suspension. Its moving!!! The car is actually moving down!! Wooohooo!! Air suspension! For a car with no gadget auto-spoiler, those geniuses at Porsche have given us another toy to wow the crowds. “Look at me” in traffic, car goes up, car goes down, car goes up, car goes down. I made a point to leave it in “load” whenever it was parked as its about 3″ lower and makes the car look fantastic on its 20″ wheels. Everyone commented on this.
30 seconds have passed since I got back home, so time for another spin – on my own this time. Working out these the air suspension settings, I hit the “Sport” button. “Chassis Sport mode” says the readout. Yeah! Sport! Then I press the other, bigger sport button next to it, lets see what that does for me. Two sport buttons. Must be a super-sport model, this.
Oooh, what a transformation! The car turns from comfortable luxury motor into a snarling beast desperate to get moving. Every blip of the throttle its dropping a gear and getting ready to fly. Its then that I realise that when I put my foot down earlier I didn’t actually engage the throttle in its entirety. There is a good few inches extra which requires a more considered push to engage.
On a rolling start, I nailed it (back seats laid flat, of course to get the best possible acceleration! 😉 ). Give the gearbox a second to realise that you meant it, and off it flies. It’ll drop down a cog or two and you head for the horizon at blistering speed. The acceleration is so impressive that you can’t help but beam your best grin, as its mighty 2.5 tonne weight is projected down the road akin to a dainty little sporting number. My friends and family all did the same thing – huge grins when you press the load pedal, couple with delights of disbelief. The engine sounds like something from the TV series “24”. Yeah, I’m Jack Bauer, me! Until, that is, that I meet a Cayenne Turbo in traffic the following day, piloted by Alan Sugar’s twin – and giving me a curt reminder that this is probably a more realistic demographic of ownership.
This is a seriously good piece of kit. In comfort mode, its much more relaxed, wallowing a little more over bumps and giving a ‘take it easy’ feel out of the steering. This chassis/suspension malarkey isn’t just a gimmick, which surprised me as I can’t usually tell the difference when toggling with gadgetry. Sport turns it much more into the car-feel that we know and love with our lil’ 2 seaters.
Sat nav is also very good – being the only one I’ve ever seen which can find my address! The parking sensors are brilliant, with fruity colour lights beeping and flashing away at you, spreading outwards on the dash, and above the rear passenger seats! It makes you feel like your in a cocoon of eyes, watching every panel as your drive, all nervous and desperately trying to make it clear that your getting close to something. The glove box is air conditioned too. Cool, literally! But why are there no drinks holder in there though?
The interior downsides are that the seats are just like every other car seat in that the headrests don’t support the heads of tall people. Whiplash would ensure in the event of something unfortunate. The seats in the Boxster/Cayman/911 are the only cars I’ve ever driven that are contrary to this.
You get noticed too, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. In my Cayman, it turns heads. People look with a relaxed admiring gaze at the shiny red blob on the tarmac – and kids point and shout. With the Cayenne, a lot of people notice the car – and then they immediately notice YOU. It feels as though they are looking to see which tasteless, over indulgent celebrity (or, even worse, a wanna-be) is knocking about in their town.
The car really tugs with your morality though. I love it, absolutely love it – its big, its comfy, its quiet when you want, throaty when you don’t and very fast. The Cayenne is great to drive. I also like how it looks (although this divided opinion greatly when I was showing it off). The facelift shape, and the air suspension means it looks nice from all angles, with the only question mark lying with the square-on front view.
But, it feels like you shouldn’t like it. It seems to epitomize everything that is wrong with society. Its big and exclusive, aggressive, anti-social, angry, loud, expensive and selfish. And footballers like them.
But its a Porsche, and is a truly aspirational badge to own. For me, it does everything you could ask for – but it does drink a hell of a lot, coming out around 18mpg on the runs when I checked.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Its got 19″ wheels, touch-screen sat nav and the PDK gearbox – which has no less than seven forward gears.
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.
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!!
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.