From the Fleet: 2012 Porsche Cayman R
FROM THE FLEET are brief synopses of manufacturer-supplied rides that happen to end up in my laneway – JL
One look at its sales figures and you’d be forgiven if you thought Porsche was trying to get out of the sports car business. Of the German automaker’s sales of 1,771 units to the end of August this year in Canada, its Cayenne SUV and Panamera sedan made up 65 per cent of those numbers, with the evergreen 911 2+2 at 22 per cent.
With Porsche following its aging demographics and pushing the rear-engine 911 2+2 further into grand touring mode (Porsche club racing-ready GT3 RS 4.0 and GT2 RS excepted), that leaves the remaining 13 per cent to the lone “sports cars” in the lineup: the entry-level two-seat Boxster/Cayman clan, topped by the new-for-2012 Cayman R.
I loved the visceral thrills of last year’s $70,500 Boxster Spyder convertible. But its sadomasochistic top apparatus made it strictly a garage queen for Canadians. So when Porsche sent me a Cayman R—essentially a hardtop version of the Spyder—my expectations were sky high.
Cribbing from the Spyder’s formula, the R is a stripped-down, lighter weight (1,295 vs. 1,350 kgs) back-to-basics model of the Cayman S. Like the Spyder, heft has been trimmed via the use of aluminum doors, lightweight 19-in alloys, one-piece bucket seats, the deletion of the radio and other interior bits (i.e. A/C), and a 10-litre smaller (now 54L) fuel tank. And in typical Porsche fashion, the stripped-down R costs $4,700 more than a $70,900 Cayman S.
Underneath, the R’s suspension’s been slammed by 20 mm. There’s now a rear locking diff to prevent squealing tires on track days. And the S’s 3.4-litre six-cylinder has been bumped up by 10 hp to a Spyder-spec 330 (torque is unchanged at 273 lb-ft).
The Spyder I drove last summer came with a snickety-snick, six-speed manual. But this year’s R press car had the optional ($4,180) dual-clutch, seven-speed autobox. Unless you plan on spending plenty of days at the track, where the auto pays dividends in out-right lap times, or need to shave tenths-of-seconds from your 0-100 km time (the manual takes 5.0 s, the auto 4.9, 4.7s using launch control from the $1,100 Sports Chrono Package Plus) sports car fans should stick with the stick.
Thankfully, when it comes to attacking back road corners, the raciest Cayman yet doesn’t disappoint compared to the more lithesome Spyder.
First, the R’s steering is brilliantly clear and accurate. It’s the appetizer to a menu that will have you eating corners like a fat kid swallowing Smarties. An initial alert turn-in is followed by a better-balanced exit strategy than the heavier, rear-engine Carrera. Throw in the exhilarating cackle from the optional ($3,210)) sports exhaust, and the straight-up support from the five-point-harness-ready alcantara/leather seats, and the R delivers a pure sports car experience Cayenne and Panamera owners can only read about.
Speccing my own Cayman R, I’d go for a less attention-grabbing colour than the Laugh-In-era lime green of my tester. Say, Meteor Grey Metallic ($820). And while I’m sure the R’s exclusive fixed-rear wing’s functional, it looks like a cheap Canadian Tire accessory.
Bottom line: When it comes to getting a car to where YOU want it go on a Sunday morning coffee run, the Cayman R is the best sports car in Porsche’s garage without a soft-top (er, that would be the Spyder), and one of the increasingly rarer Porsches that will remind you how the company earned its vaunted reputation.