Ownership Review written by Joey Keys
Since a young age I’ve been fascinated by Porsche, 911s in particular. When I was growing up, I would always stop and stare when a 911 went by on the street. I also begged my parents to take me to the local Porsche dealership to take a look at the cars on the forecourt, all shiny in different colours. One time, when I was about 12, a salesman came out and invited me in to the dealership and let me sit in a brand new 911, it made my year! He also gave me a 911 brochure, which was a hardback book. I studied that brochure for months, reading all the technical features – not necessarily understanding them! I was hooked, sadly it took a long while before I could afford one, they were always in the back of my mind. I worked my way through the hot hatch phase, followed by budget sportscars until finally I started to see older 911s falling into my price bracket. I went to look at a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 996, in Basalt Black with Red seat belts. I loved the look but sadly it looked a bit tired, like it needed some TLC. I stepped back from having an interest again for a good few months.
The next model to peak my interest was the Cayman S, particularly the generation 2 cars, 2009 onwards. They had the classic Porsche shape, updated with modern technology and from what I could glean from internet reviews, more predictable balance at the limit than the equivalent 911. The mid mounted engine was updated with direct fuel injection and corrected some known weaknesses in the first generation cars too. Another benefit was the lower CO2 rating, so rather than paying £540 per year for a 2007-2008 Cayman S, my late 2009 is only £315 per year to keep taxed for road use.
Some see the Cayman S as a ‘poor mans’ Porsche in the same bucket as the Boxster, but having driven all three from different years I can honestly say there is no such thing as a ‘poor mans’ Porsche, they all share components, the interiors are not built to a inferior quality, in fact I prefer some of the design details like the air vents on the Cayman and Boxster compared to the 911. Many of the sporting and luxury options are available from the 911 range too, so in essence you can get the Porsche for you at a lower price point. The two seat setup with a useable boot compared to the 2+2 911 is also more day-to-day practical (as long as you don’t have small kids that fit into the rear of a 911 cabin.
After a week of poring over the sales brochure, a PDF version I found online, I decided that the ideal specification for me was an Aqua Blue Metallic car with 19-inch Sport Design wheels, heated hardback sports seats, satnav and bluetooth. Any other extras fitted would be a bonus. Turns out I hit the jackpot with mine, a pretty much fully options Aqua Blue Cayman S. It has a very rare option, the factory aerobat, which adds a subtle pair of front bumper extension and not so subtle fixed rear spoiler, mounted just above the retractable spoiler, which is electronically disabled from deploying at speed. I found the car on Autotrader, listed with a dealer who trades from home. He’d bought it from JZM, who took it in part exchange against a 911. They don’t tend to stock Caymans, other than the ultimate GT4 and GTS models. I went to see it the same day I stumbled across it. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to buy it. It even came with illuminated door entry guards which lit up with ‘Cayman S’. I can’t imagine ever speccing that from new, it is pure exuberance.
The test drive was pure bliss, the ride quality at all speeds was simply sensational. In all honesty I found that the car rode to stiffly with the Porsche Active Suspension (PASM) engaged, I hardly ever switch it on, the B-Roads around me are simply too rough for it. I still engage it at least once a week to make sure it works. I’ve had numerous mechanics tell me that you need to use everything in a car regularly, especially things like the air conditioning system and sunroof. Mechanisms and valves seize when not used over winter months. Something to bear in mind with any car!
I’ve owned my Cayman S for 18 months, I use it all year round, mainly at the weekends though. I especially love taking it out on my favourite local roads for the sheer fun of it, either early in the morning or late afternoon. The roads are generally empty, my playground. The balance of all the controls is perfect, the steering communicates wonderfully, without overloading you with every bump on the road. The brakes have a huge amount of feel too, you can gauge exactly how much stopping power is required, with no sudden initial bite to jar you or your passenger forwards into your seatbelt. And the suspension, especially in normal mode soaks up all the unwanted road noise but still passes through the road information to give you the confidence to push on without sweaty palms.
The cabin of the Cayman S is a wonderful place to spend time, the touch points are made from high quality materials, just like in the 911. The controls are perfectly placed for you to reach without stretching. The displays are clear and easy to read even with a glance. I can’t honestly fault anything, even the two fold out cup holders are a feat of engineering, their damped movement is almost stress relieving (not quite – but you get the idea!) With the striking Aqua Blue Metallic paint and Aerokit the Cayman S looks sensational from every angle, I like the subtle daylight running LEDS in the front bumper. I also love the multi spoke Sport Design wheels. Together, the options raise the sporting image of the car in my opinion. The basic shape though is also very beautiful, the rear haunches especially a shapely curves that I find myself running my hands over as I walk up to or away from the car.
The only slight disappointment for me is the rattly sound at startup, I noticed that the generation 2 cars DFI engine doesn’t have the tuneful startup like the previous generation cars, it sounds quite tappety initially. This soon disappears and as you head off and the revs rise the flat six howl is there, just like in the 911. Further down the line I’ll most likely get the factory switchable exhaust fitted, I have found out that it is a relatively straightforward job for a OPC (Official Porsche Centre) or Porsche Specialist. From another car I’ve been in, the sound is transformed when the valves are opened with a switch that can be retrofitted on the dashboard, next to the suspension and retractable spoiler buttons.
I’ve really gelled with the Cayman S, I instinctively know how to drive it fast on an open B-road. It didn’t take long to confidently drive it, but even now, 8,000 miles down the road I feel like I am still perfecting my driving technique behind the wheel. That is why I love it so much, it hasn’t got boring or over familiar, it is growing with me, the experience is being enhanced with every mile we share. I’ve still yet to take it on track, this car to me isn’t a regular track car, its a fast road car to savour when the roads are dry and empty. However I am sure I will venture out on track at some stage. Maintenance wise I’ve had a good run with the Cayman S, the only thing I’ve had to do is a minor oil service, at the time it was also fully inspected by my Porsche Specialist of choice, Matt at PorschaCare. He found no worn components underneath. I expect in the next year I’ll get the front brake discs replaced, along with pads all round and brake fluid. Thats it. The tyres seem to be lasting very well, they are Porsche N2 rated Pirelli P-Zero, they cope very well even on a cold, slightly damp road surface.
In the long term the Cayman S is a keeper for me, I have yet to come across another in the high specification that I stumbled upon, so I value it being with me and feel honoured to be its custodian. I joined the Porsche Club Great Britain to attend some of the events and it always gets some praise from other Porsche owners. I’d struggle to find anything in my price range that feels as special. Also I’ve noticed that the newer 718 has gone in a different direction, the styling is much more bulbous, and the engine is a four cylinder turbo! That should ensure that the earlier Cayman S cars like mine always have an enthusiastic audience, even if it is just me!
Written by Raj Hunjan
The Porsche Cayman S was an instant hit with critics and enthusiasts alike. Many saw it as the final acceptance by Porsche that the engine shouldn’t be out back, however it took them a good few years before they didn’t feel the need to hold the baby Cayman S back compared to the 911, they both had a place in the market.
With the useable rear boot area, the Cayman S is the more practical Porsche sportscar for a couple. The equipment list grew into pretty much the entire 911 option range, allowing for even the addition of an LSD to enhance the cornering dynamics to 911 levels of control at the limit. For those seeking Porsche thrills at any price, don’t overlook the Cayman S.
Prices for the Porsche Cayman S start at just over £20,000 and go up to £32,000 for low mileage examples at Porsche main dealerships. Manual cars with big option lists demand a significant premium over basic cars. Our choice would be a manual gearbox car with sports seats, sport chrono plus, satnav, telephone module. PDK are also highly desired so if you prefer not using your left foot don’t rule it out for its collectibility.
The 3.4 litre flat six is derived from the 3.2 litre Boxster S block, mated to the cylinder heads from the Porsche 997 S 3.8 litre engine. Check for oil drips caused by a leaky rear main seal or intermediary main seal, this is typically a 996 issue but a handful of cases have arisen with the 3.4 litre Cayman so check the engine thoroughly. There should be no clunks or unusual vibration when idling. If the engine misfires this can be caused by a cracked coil pack, there are six in total. Fortunately their replacement cost is low.
The manual and PDK transmission are both reportedly trouble free, check the transmission changes cleanly. The clutch is also a reliable unit, owners should see over 60,000 miles between changes.
The Cayman S was equipped with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) so check this is working, the only weak points are the lower wishbone joints and bushes which will wear first and cost around £250 each excluding fitting.
Check if the car is fitted with the optional carbon ceramic brakes or the standard steel items. The carbon ceramic items are very expensive to replace. There should be plenty of life left in both the brake discs and pads.
Check the tread patterns for uneven wear across each tyre as this will indicate suspension misalignment. Also check for any damage on the alloy wheels themselves.
There should be no body or chassis corrosion since the Cayman S is fully galvanized, nonetheless check the entire car thoroughly.
Porsche recommend servicing the Cayman S every 20,000 miles, or every two years. A major service including replacing the spark plugs is recommended every 60,000 miles.
“It almost goes without saying that the Cayman S accelerates, brakes, steers and handles like, well, a Porsche, and measurably better than before. A 7500-rpm redline accompanied by a glorious, Chewbacca-like howl starting around 4500. The new direct-injection boxer six is lighter, has fewer moving parts, consumes less oil and gets better fuel economy.”
Road & Track, 2009
“Even though Porsche was clearly trying to reign the Cayman back, all but the most committed Porschephile will admit it has always been snapping at the 911’s heels. Others will even (whisper) that the Cayman is the better car. More so than the throttle or amazing brakes, the steering connects you directly to the Cayman’s core. The Cayman S has always been a brilliant car, and it’s just got better.”
CAR Magazine, 2009
“It’s a beautifully balanced car, which thrives on fast cornering and general hooliganary. The mid-mounted engine means the turn in to corners is faster than much of the competition, but the steering is so pin sharp that, even on slimy roads, it’s easy to correct the line and never nerve-wrackingly twitchy. You find yourself inexplicably driving down the high street in second gear with 4,000rpm on the dial.”
2006 – The Cayman S fastback coupé (987c) was first unveiled and went on sale in late 2005. Both the Cayman and second generation Boxster roadster share the same mid-engined platform and many components, including the front wings and trunk lid, doors, headlights, taillights, and forward portion of the interior. The design of the Cayman’s body incorporates styling cues from classic Porsches; 356/1, the 550 Coupé and the 904 Coupé. Unlike the Boxster, the Cayman has a hatchback for access to luggage areas on top of and in the back of the engine cover. The suspension design is fundamentally the same as that of the Boxster with revised settings due to the stiffer chassis with the car’s fixed roof. The Cayman S was powered by a 3.4-litre flat-six mated to a 6-speed manual transaxle. An electronically controlled 5-speed automatic (Tiptronic) was also available on the S and non-S versions.
2009 – A facelift of the Porsche Cayman followed in February 2009. The Cayman S gained direct injection. Both the Cayman and Cayman S maintained a 10 bhp power advantage over their roadster sibling, the Boxster. A limited slip differential is now a factory option on the Cayman, so it was no longer inferior to the 911.
2012 – Final production Cayman S rolled off the production line.
Buy MotorStars Magazine #50 which contains our full 14 page article about all aspects of buying, owning, the factory options, available colours, technical specification, part prices for the Porsche Cayman S (987.2): click here