2012 Porsche Cayman new car reviews

Sure, you can call the Cayman a Boxster with a hardtop, but it really is its own beast.
After one week of normal use, our Cayman's white wheels had become filthy.
The interior is cozy but effective.
There's a cargo hold out back.
And a frunk up front.

Better than: Porsche Boxster
But not as good as: Corvette Grand Sport
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 73.47

Porsche's history is dotted with mid-engine models, from awesome Le Mans racers to the famed 914-6. A few years ago the mid-engine formula made a return visit with the Boxster, and the hard-topped Cayman eventually followed.

An all-new Cayman that mirrors the recently introduced 981-chassis Boxster is expected, and we recently spent some time with the outgoing model. A few interesting notes about our particular test car:

• Wow, it was white--like Miami Vice white: white paint, white wheels and even some white details inside.

• Notice that it was a Cayman and not a Cayman S. It's been a while since we have seen a non-S Porsche in the press fleet.

• No PDK, either, as this car had a regular three-pedal shifting mechanism, not the ever-so-popular PDK twin-clutch. (But hey, we're not complaining that we got to shift out own gears; call it a pleasant treat.)

• Our test car didn't wear $30,000 in options but wasn't totally stripped, either. There was no extra charge for the Carrera White paint. Something called a Convenience Package added $2230—that included bi-Xenon headlights, integrated rain sensor and a few other niceties. Other extras included heated seats ($525), Boxster S II wheels ($1235), Sound Package Plus ($700), spoiler lips painted to match the exterior ($485), wheels painted exterior color ($1490), Carrera white instrument dials ($690) and center console painted to match the exterior ($730). All told, options added about $10,000 to the tally.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Put a roadster and a hardtop next to each other, and I'm going to side with the open car almost every time--although I think I might be swaying from the Boxster camp to the Cayman crew. The hardtop just changes the chassis attitude. The Boxster is no slouch, but the Cayman might be the one that I take home with me.

We put a couple of miles on this one both in town and on the highway, and I enjoyed it. It's comfortable, quiet and just fits like a glove.

If there was a downside, the clutch was a bit clunkier than I remembered, though. I also wasn't a giant fan of the white-on-white treatment. I'd have to go with something a bit more subdued. I built a blue one on the Porsche website that was pretty boss. My friend has a dark metallic gray one with a paprika interior that's cool. The bright colors are a bit too much for me. Yes, I'm getting old.

Also, I realize that the Boxster gets most of the press (and sales) but the Cayman has a loyal following among PCA members--at least among our local group. At our last outing, half the cars were Caymans. Okay, so we had just six people for breakfast, but three drove Caymans, two came in air-cooled 911s, and one drove a 914.

Used Cayman prices also seem to have dipped lately, as we have noticed some Cayman S prices below $30,000. That's still a bit of money, but that's also a pretty good deal.

It's been a while since I have driven a Cayman. I'm now looking forward to the new one.

Alan Cesar Alan Cesar
SuperDork

I was not impressed. The body-colored dashboard was a clever use of cheap, hard plastic in the Fiat 500. On a $40,000 car, it feels like they're making a fast grab for your wallet.

Wait, that's not right. This Cayman isn't $40,000; it's $60,000. A lot about this car feels very cheap, which surprised me for the Porsche badge—and even the price I mistook it for.

Maybe it's just tall gearing combined with low torque, but I found the Cayman hard to drive off in first gear. I stalled this car more than once. It steers and shifts fine, but power doesn't impress and neither do its amenities. It's not quiet, and the noises it makes aren't particularly inspiring. In short, this car was no fun.

If you're going to buy a Porsche, bring the fat checkbook and buy a 911. Don't waste your time with this half-measure; go big or go to another brand. At two-thirds this price, there's an argument—albeit a weak one—for this car. At sixty grand, it's laughable.

If I wanted to spend that much for a crappy interior, I could buy a Corvette Grand Sport and have plenty of money left over for better seats.

Steve Chryssos Steve Chryssos
Reader

While Porsche's engineers have done an exemplary job of building a tight, mid-engine sports car, their bean-counters should be made to sit in the corner while facing the wall. Entry level or not, the interior on Porsche's Cayman is inferior. The quality is below any Audi TT, Lotus, 370Z or similar but more affordable sports car. Dashboard and trim materials are rental-car cheap. With any car, it's easy to overlook some cost cutting measures, dashboards, however, are holy grail. Constant and direct driver engagement with the dashboard is inevitable. Better to sacrifice 30 horsepower than the dash.

Perhaps this is Porsche's attempt at minimalism? If that's the case, then what's up with the white wheels? Don Johnson called from the eighties. He wants his monochromatic paint scheme back. These style and tailoring blunders tarnish an otherwise excellent sport car. The Cayman is balanced, nimble, and truly livable. For many, the Cayman's mid-engine formula makes better sense than Porsche's traditional "hangin'-off-the-rear-bumper" layout. It's simple physics. A low, light, mid-engine chassis will help you play track day hero. As your skill level increases, the Cayman platform also holds plenty of potential for upgrades. The prospect of building up a Cayman to beat up on 997's and 991's is appealing.

This particular Cayman example is probably targeted towards the uninitiated. So many buyers are content to have a Porsche — any Porsche. The Grassroots Motorsports enthusiasts, on the other hand, are a smart bunch. We might seek out a slightly used, better optioned Cayman to get the cost/benefit ratio more in-line.

Tim Suddard Tim Suddard
Publisher

As amazed as I was by the all new Boxster (and even the last generation Boxster, which is essentially the same car as the current Cayman), I could‘t warm up to the Cayman. Sure it has more torsional rigidity than a Boxster, but this base model car was a bit rough and noisy for its $60,000 price tag.

Sure, it looks great and handles well, but as a daily driver (or even a weekend toy) I think there are better, more comfortable, and less cramped choices– both at Porsche and around the corner at your BMW dealership.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
ZOO
ZOO UltraDork
8/8/12 9:43 a.m.

A Lotus has a better interior? Yikes -- it must be truly awful. The interior on my Elise is pretty junky . . .

markstudy
markstudy None
9/25/12 10:28 a.m.

This is great! After reading 30 car mags that loved the Cayman... I finally found the corner of the internet that has a different view. I own a 2012 Cayman and love it, but no hard feelings, its kind of refreshing to find someone who doesn't like the car... so many gush about it, its nice to get a different point of view. I've owned a 1994 Mr2, Ferrari 308, NSX... and recently test drove- Vette, BMW Z4, 370Z and the Cayman. For me the Cayman was a jet ski where-as the Vette was a speed boat. I went for the nimble and agile car over the bigger feeling Vette, the cheaper feeling 370Z, or the luxury driving Z4. I spent my options money on Alcantara sports seats, and added a multifunction sports steering wheel). I've had the car for 1 year and would buy it again. I live for the tight corners in my local area, and its a absolute dream from 35-120mph in the twisties. Smiles per mile, best car I've owned. (Never been a fan of Porsche as a brand... but the Cayman caught my eye, the test drive sold me)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

Porsche's history is dotted with mid-engine models, from awesome Le Mans racers to the famed 914-6. A few years ago the mid-engine formula made a return visit with the Boxster, and the hard-topped Cayman eventually followed.

An all-new Cayman that mirrors the recently introduced 981-chassis Boxster is expected, and we recently spent some time with the outgoing model. A few interesting notes about our particular test car:

• Wow, it was white--like Miami Vice white: white paint, white wheels and even some white details inside.

• Notice that it was a Cayman and not a Cayman S. It's been a while since we have seen a non-S Porsche in the press fleet.

• No PDK, either, as this car had a regular three-pedal shifting mechanism, not the ever-so-popular PDK twin-clutch. (But hey, we're not complaining that we got to shift out own gears; call it a pleasant treat.)

• Our test car didn't wear $30,000 in options but wasn't totally stripped, either. There was no extra charge for the Carrera White paint. Something called a Convenience Package added $2230—that included bi-Xenon headlights, integrated rain sensor and a few other niceties. Other extras included heated seats ($525), Boxster S II wheels ($1235), Sound Package Plus ($700), spoiler lips painted to match the exterior ($485), wheels painted exterior color ($1490), Carrera white instrument dials ($690) and center console painted to match the exterior ($730). All told, options added about $10,000 to the tally.

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