(An Experience Report from 2009, my age 32)
The 986 Boxster had a sibling – the Boxster “S”. I drove one and thought it was a ‘bit’ faster than my Boxster 2.7. But it wasn’t that noticeable, just more of a free feel to the acceleration. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, if I’m honest. But whilst my Gen1 2.7 Cayman was in the body shop to have its bumper resprayed, I was given a Gen2 Cayman 3.4 “S” PDK. Here is my view on what I thought would be simply a ‘bit faster’ version of my car, with comparisons between the two.
I got the call on a Saturday morning from Newcastle OPC who were just checking that everything was in order and that I’d be arriving as scheduled that day. “We’ve got a nice Cayman ‘S’ for you to drive” said Mark, the sales manager. Excellent, I was quite pleased. I gave my Mrs the news, “I hope it’s a white one, I like white ones” came the reply. “Or yellow”.
My Gen 1 Cayman 2.7 is bright red. Red is probably about as sporty and noticeable as you can get, right?
We arrived at the Porsche centre and there it was, gleaming in the summer sunshine and looking about as obvious and conspicuous as you can get. Nothing quite says “Look what I’ve bought, everybody!” than a bright white car with a red model logo down the side. If God were to spec a Cayman, I reckon he’d have a white one. And if the devil then stole it, it’d look something like this.
In the metal it looked magic, right on the money and, for 2009 when white was really coming back into fashion, it was bang up to date. The visual impact of the specification made a statement that this is something fast. The daytime running LEDs looked very sharp and changed position from the fog lights to a separate LED strip, depending on whether the main headlights were on or not.
Starting up the car gave a lovely rumble, more so than the 2.7 and being a PDK model it also gave that auto-transmission throttle blip. This car was spec’d with red seat-belts and red dials, presumably to match the red callipers and side logos. The package worked well and I liked it a lot. I also noticed that the speedo went up to 190mph. One-hundred-and-ninety miles per hour. Up until this point, I’d never had a car which needed a dial that went around that much. Happy days.
We called in at the local retail outlet on the way home (girls:clothes, you know how it works), and I remember being aware that this car got noticed a lot. Not one for the shy, this. Such an unusual specification was bound to be seen though.
Soon enough we arrive at the start of the motorway. It was a flat road, no slip road on a hill, rather the motorway started straight off the roundabout. Time for a pedal-push, expecting something ‘a bit faster’ than my 2.7. What happened next was nothing short of astonishing. s
t a brick, this thing shifts. I mean, not just a little; it absolutely flies. It was savage in its delivery of immediate, relentless power. The car dropped no less than five gears in an instant and projected forward with such speed, the horizon high on smacked us in the face. Such was the ferocity, my lady grabbed her seat and shrieked at me “I don’t like this!” Naturally, I stopped and normal cruising became its limits for the entire journey home but I have to admit, it even took me by surprise. I smiled a nervous smile as I stopped pressing the loud pedal. 70mph was reached from about 40mph in just over the blink of an eye. The engine howl when under load was intoxicating – stunning – a real drama of thunder. With a considered right-foot, the innocent white Cayman changed. You can imagine those day-time running lights glowing red, horns coming out of the side vents and the front grill snarling at every motorist in front. It’s a properly quick car. The stats say 0-60 in 5 seconds dead, and to 100 in 11s, and I’ve no reason to doubt that.
I took a few people out in the car, and its delighted and scared them all in equal measure. Being the driver, you know what to expect but as a passenger in this low-down small two-seater as it forces you back in seat, seeing a car that’s half a mile in front come into full view within seconds, it must feel a tad uncontrolled.
Handling is pretty much the same as you’d expect. I don’t take cars to the limits as I’m not a racing driver so can’t really comment on this, but you know what to expect with a Porsche.
Driving home on the collection day, Andy Durant was kicking out his bangin’ choons on Galaxy – imagine my surprise we got a shout out on the radio “driving back from Newcastle in our new Porsche”!! My lady had texted the show whilst we were driving, I hadn’t noticed, I’d been too much into my driving pleasure. Cool!!
The sat nav was really good and much improved from older models, as it had a touch-screen and Bluetooth for the telephone. The stereo was Sound Package Plus which didn’t sound as clear as the Bose in my red Cayman but still more than acceptable. Sat Nav downside was that you still couldn’t enter a full postcode.
Baring minor details, everything else inside is pretty much the same as the Gen 1, with the exception that the centre console is black which I thought looked a bit nasty and ‘normal car-ish’. I much prefer the silvery-grey colour of the Gen 1.
Most of the time I had the car in full-auto mode but I did use the manual option a few times, via the steering control. All the car reviewers of the time hated the way the steering gear buttons worked and, although I couldn’t get to grips with it on a Porsche Experience Day that I’d been to previously I’m happy to report that after a few days I did ‘get it’ and with a practice it became second nature. That said, there wasn’t much point in using them, the cars brain does all the gear changing perfectly for you.
A negative point on the gearbox was that from stationary it didn’t like to be surprised. If you suddenly put your foot down it felt like it was about to stall, then jerked to life. It also can’t hold itself on a hill like normal autos, and there is the well documented split-second delay between putting your foot down, and the gearbox deciding how fast you really want to go. Perhaps that’s where the manual controls are actually better?
This car turned a lot of heads. People literally stopped in the street and watched it drive by. Kids waved and give you the thumbs-up. Driving through traffic, it was bizarre to glance over and see everyone in the queue on the opposite side looking at you. And I do mean everyone. Amazing what a white car with black wheels and red bits can do! It had a massive road presence thirteen years ago. This colour combo is a classic reference to days of old, and does for Porsche what red does for Ferrari. It just ‘is’.
After a few days of driving, I was used to power delivery. Initially, I thought it was too quick. My 2.7 felt like a sports car but the 3.4 PDK felt like a supercar. You can choose to avoid the blistering acceleration by not firmly planting the pedal (there is that extra inch of forced-push which means “go as fast as you can”) but to never use that would be missing the point entirely of the ‘S’. A manual might be more sedate to drive, as it’ll only be as quick as the gear you select and passengers also get a warning when you change down with a manual clutch. The PDK just does it, and does it perfectly.
I did seriously consider buying this car and I talked numbers with the dealership, but in the end I still really wanted my bright red 2.7 back. It was a great happy medium and it was still new to me at this point, and red was the colour that I really wanted (hence buying it in the first place). Going for a drive in the 2.7, I could drop it into second or third and go round a bend at a speed which feels fast, and then accelerate out feeling like a driving god (even though in reality I’m doubtless hardly testing the cars real limits). A 2.7 gave me a lovely sense of sportiness in the twisties, whilst always remaining safe. With the 3.4 PDK, it changes gear so promptly and moves so rapid there probably isn’t a public road where you can use its full potential. With this kind of power, every gap in the traffic becomes an overtaking opportunity. In a manual, I can choose the gear, and use the clutch to control how quickly the gear change comes into play. The PDK gives you a perfect gear change to the perfect gear every time. That 0-60 time will always be what it says on the tin – and boy do you know about it. Driving onto the motorway on one occasion, I gave the white Cayman some beans on the (upward) slip ramp. A second later I looked down at the speedo and had already hit the legal limit and in the time it took to glance at my mirror and take my foot off the pedal it had added another 12mph. You need some severe discipline to keep your speed under control with this baby.
This Gen 2 PDK ‘S’ is what I believe anyone who thinks “Porsche” would expect in terms of performance. It is that instant, rapid, uncatchable speed that will totally thrill anyone who gets behind the wheel, or even in the passenger seat. The in-gear speed is where it gives the best impression, flooring it at 40mph delivers power in spades. This is a real Porsche in every sense of the word and in these colours, it defined the Marque perfectly.
A great car, with some lasting memories in the short time I had it, which is why it has a spot on my poster collage.