Great headline, no? Undoubtedly, the new 2012 Porsche Cayman R is one of the easiest pure sports cars to drive. Ever. Packed with a rear-mounted 3.4-liter, 330-horsepower, 6-cylinder Boxer engine, the Cayman has enough power to make you smile—while clenching your butt cheeks in fear—but not enough to get you into stupid and costly accident trouble. This easy confidence comes from a balanced weight distribution, a lower-than-usual center of gravity, and race car-like computer-monitored tech: stability management, anti-lock brakes, engine drag torque control, automatic brake differential, and anti-slip regulation. It does not drive itself, but it helps prevent you from driving like an idiot.
By going with aluminum doors and trunk lids, stripped-down seats and the lightest 19-inch wheels in Porsche’s toy box, the Germans dumped the equivalent of Lady Gaga in weight—try 121 pounds—compared to the Cayman S. Hell, they even made A/C an option on the R-spec so maniacal weight weenies can boast about shaving 33 pounds from their rigs.
Your first clue that this Porsche is built for speed, not comfort, comes after you slide into the drive’s seat: instead of proper door handles, you pull the door closed with a nylon web strap.
Light Is Right
One thing about lighter cars: they handle the twisting canyon roads better than a bloated muscle car, and the stiffer they are, the better. Fortunately for the Cayman, its heritage comes from the open-top Boxster, which, being a convertible, required an extra dollop of stiffness to begin with.
Plopping a roof on the Boxster to create the Cayman only made the car more rigid. And to help the Cayman R’s svelte figure stay glued to the road, Porsche installed a rigid spoiler on the back. No automated spoiler here—that would add weight.
In fact, if you want to make the Cayman R any faster, the easiest—and cheapest—option is to starve yourself like a ballerina. Or kick your girlfriend out of the shotgun seat, then remove the seat altogether.
Seriously High Performance
On the road all the Cayman R’s gaudy specs, its weight-loss diet, and its racing suspension produced one of the stranger experiences of my short car-reviewing life: a sports car’s pure performance limited only by the side lumbar support of its driver’s seat.
Zipping up the east side of Southern California’s Ortega Highway as it snakes skyward from Lake Elsinore, I zoomed into a long 15 mph curve well above the suggested speed, looking to find the limit of the McPherson strut suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars connected to 19-inch high-performance tires. Ever so lightly, I pushed the gas, waiting for the telltale feel of the car at its limit, the shrieking tires, a slight drift, the blinking of the stability control activation light. Instead, my six-foot frame compressed the side lumbar support so much that I was sliding out of my seat. Feeling out of control, I eased off the gas and noticed that I was exiting the turn at 52 mph.
As I cruised over the mountains and down to the Pacific Ocean, I wondered how fast I could’ve gone if I was cinched into a stiffer seat with a five-point harness. Best guess: 65 mph. Easy.
For all its stripped-down track-ready glory, the Cayman R isn’t an optimal day driver or long-distance road tripper. The seats are stiff and if you lose the A/C, this Cayman is pretty much undriveable in the desert or humid summers that blanket much of the country.
Plus, burning out first and second gear in stop-and-go traffic constitutes a borderline criminal act of torture to such a fine machine. Piloting this beast through the day-to-day grind that is your commute and errands list should drive you insane. Why? Because once you unleash this Cayman’s full range of performance, you’ll be too spoiled to tolerate sitting behind a minivan in gridlock.
Best sports car ever? Perhaps. Which is why it’s better to save it for those early weekend mornings when the streets are empty… or budget your expenses so you can afford regular trips to the local racetrack.