Porsche Cayman pictures and hands-on

Porsche revealed its new Cayman in Los Angeles yesterday at the 2012 LA Auto Show, and we were in town to get a first glimpse. The sister car of the Boxster unveiled earlier this year in Geneva, the Cayman appears at first glance to be very much a “same again” piece of design and closely follows the Porsche evolution-not-revolution design philosophy.

READ: 2011 Porsche Cayman S review

Look a bit closer though and there are some big (for Porsche) changes here. Lighter, longer and lower with a longer wheelbase than before, the whole proportions of the car are now shifted rearwards somewhat, with a longer, fuller rear end, which sees the previous car’s flying buttress rear wings and duck’s-back tail end disappear. In its place you have a look that is more mini 911-like in silhouette.

In our view that’s not a bad thing. And, that said, you’re unlikely to mistake a Cayman on the road for a 911 as it adopts the Boxster’s new, distinct form and rear light treatment and those different doors (previously, 911s, Caymans and Boxsters shared exactly the same door).

Inside there’s good news too. The new interior of the Boxster is adopted too – complete with that rising centre tunnel that was inspired by the Panamera. It’s a much classier place to sit than before and we like that you can now add splashes of contrast colour - on the show car there was a grey-with-tan scheme - without having to paint the entire interior, dashboard and steering wheel a shade of tan or red if you weren’t keen on black leather seats.

You get a bigger, quicker-reacting centre touchscreen too and the right-hand dial of the gauge pack is digital so that it can display things like the turn-by-turn navigation instructions. The only problem with all this that we can see is that to make your interior not look bare, Porsche makes you p(l)ay that clever trick of spending thousands on options. You get all the buttons that flank that centre console functioning only if you tick boxes for extras such as special suspension, exhausts and so on. Oh, and full leather across the dash top will likely cost extra too.

Still, all signs are that you’ll forget about that once you get behind the wheel and head out on a drive. The Cayman’s lighter than before and sits on a new chassis which has more even weight distribution. This extra lightness means that the engines are downsized, with the Cayman now coming with an entry level 2.7 litre flat six engine.

Fitted with the automatic double-clutch "PDK" gearbox most owners will choose, it will fire the car to 60mph in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 164mph (in Germany). And when you’re not driving like that, it should be capable of around 35mpg and 180g/km emissions. Pretty good for something so scrorchio, we think.

Of course, you can have a 6-speed manual gearbox too and there’s the obligatory higher output S model with a 3.4 litre engine that drops the 0-60 run down to 4.7 seconds. Expect both to make you feel like a driving god and make a rather wonderful noise.

Of course, the engine’s still in the middle of the car, behind you and your passenger’s heads which is not only central to the driving experience, but allows Porsche to offer the on-going novelty of two boots - one in the front under the "bonnet" and another under the rear hatchback. Fast and practical? What’s not to like?

The basic price will start at £39,694 when the car goes on sale in the UK in next spring. Expect to be looking at a good few grand more once you’ve ticked a few very necessary options boxes.

Is that good value? Well, it’s always been odd that Porsche charges more for the Cayman – a coupe – than it does the Boxster with it’s more complex/expensive-to-build droptop and the extra sensory experience open driving brings. And the Boxster’s now a car that even the most blokey of blokes ought to be happy to be seen in. But if you must have a coupe, then we suspect that the new Cayman might give big brother 911 something to think about – especially given that car costs at least 30 grand more.

Chances of it being the best sports car in Porsche’s range? Let’s just say we can’t wait to drive it.



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