By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
You’ve probably seen the bumper stickers on old compacts: “My other car is a (fill in the blank with favorite ultra-luxury or super-sporty brand).”
In a way, the self-mocking placards were a humorous bid to dignify the well-worn family mobile or commuter vehicle. They were saying, “Sure, my daily driver isn’t much, but back at home is a stretch model that would fit right in on a Grey Poupon commercial.”
The bumper stickers also broadcast what people felt: that even if they had a super-duper car, they wouldn’t be driving it to such mundane places as work or the store. The pricey wheels would be there for conquering twists and turns in the mountains, quiet getaways in the country or just to park in the driveway so all the neighbors can see.
Porsche, in redesigning the mid-engine two-seater Cayman for the 2014 model year, is moving to bridge the gap between the weekend fun car and the weekday 9-5 vehicle.
The carmaker launched its national rollout April 27.
According to John Glasgow, certified brand ambassador and sales professional at Baker Porsche in Charleston, there’s a fleet of changes: “a longer wheelbase, more headroom, a more comfortable car to drive every day.”
At the same time, the 2014 Cayman and its features-laden sister Cayman S haven’t lost their high-performance stripes. The models are “really aggressive,” Glasgow said. They sport a flat six-cylinder boxer engine that yields 325 horsepower and 273 pounds-feet of torque.
“Ideally, the (mid) engine is going to be almost track-ready,” Glasgow said, since it provides 50-50 weight distribution.
Available transmissions are a six-speed manual gearbox and a 7-speed automated manual, which Porsche calls PDK, that doesn’t require shifting but in effect uses two electronic clutches to anticipate and more precisely time gear changes.
The new Cayman starts in price around $53,000, while the Cayman S begins about $10,000 higher. A well-equipped Cayman S with automatic transmission at Baker Porsche this week was priced at just more than $75,000.
Even with their sporty powertrains, the reworked models offer perks for drivers who want creature comforts as well.
Dual climate control is a new interior feature, and a touch screen navigation-communications system is also available. Because the engine is in the middle of the car, the Cayman can free up cargo space in the back as well as in a hold under the hood.
Gas mileage averages 24 mpg including 21 mpg in the city and up to 31 mpg on the highway. Assisting with the fuel efficiency is “auto start-stop,” in which the engine shuts off when the car is idled in traffic or at a light and restarts, using a second battery, when the driver lifts off the brake.
Another attraction is how Porsche assists buyers in customizing models. “There’s still 100 different features on Porsches you can build (via computer screen),” Glasgow said. That way, purchasers can claim they have “the only model of its kind in the U.S. at that point,” he says.
Judging from a few hour period with the new Cayman S coupe, Porsche took great strides in designing a full-fledged sports car that’s also capable of handling daily driving routines.
First off, the two-seater clearly still is a high-performance “almost track ready” roadster. The engine is responsive and powerful, and the automated transmission moves through gears noticeably but smoothly.
Further, the driver has options to enhance the performance. At the touch of a button is sport mode, which condenses gear ratios from seven speeds to six. The Cayman S transforms into a real speedster then. Combined with impeccable handling, the sports car seems ready for the Autobahn and offers a plausible explanation for why the speedometer goes up to 190 mph. A second, equally exhilarating, option is to bump the shift into S and use paddle shifters on the steering wheel. A rear spoiler lifts up at 50 mph or so and drops down at 70, or it can be raised at all times.
Needless to say, the coupe passes the high-performance test. In trying to grade the daily driving features, the first thing that came to mind, almost unbelievably, was locating the drink holders. There are two holders, folded into a space above the glove compartment and which pop out when pushing a metal release bar (sometimes reading the owner’s manual comes in handy).
Seating, while predictably low to the ground, was roomy and comfortable. The test model included optional, 14-way power seating for the driver.
Cargo areas where spacious enough for a bag or two of groceries and a piece of luggage.
The center console is laid out well. Along with the touch-screen system, redundant buttons control audio functions. The climate control system is user friendly. There’s no rear camera for reverse, however.
If there’s other quibbles, they’re not major. The Cayman S has the inherent shortcomings of a two seater — as in you can’t get more than two people in the car. A tall wagon it isn’t.
And, that may be the point: what kind of daily driving is planned. The Cayman S is not going to replace a family car, a sedan or even a regular coupe. But for driving to and from work, light shopping, a trip for two, it’s a comfortable, enjoyable ride. And for the open road, well …
To learn more, visit your local Porsche dealer.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.