2012 Porsche Cayman R
Base price: $66,300
As tested: $79,285
MPG: 19 city/27 highway
- Gorgeous, classic looks inside and out
- Incredible performance and handling
- Green color and retro body stripe
- Noisy cabin
- Extra cost for air conditioning and stereo
- Tight interior
By Jim Prueter
Stripped down to a minimum, the most recent addition to the Porsche Cayman lineup, the R model, is ready for the racetrack. If only all cars were this fun to drive.
For those unfamiliar with Cayman, it’s priced below the Porsche 911 and a mid-engine car, meaning the engine is mounted behind the seats. But with the diminutive 5.3-cubic-foot trunk up front and the 9.2 cubic feet in the rear hatch, this car actually has more room than the cargo space behi nd the third-row seats in a BMW X5 SUV.
Based on the Cayman S model, the R is powered by a 3.4-liter, 330-horsepower, horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine, and a six-speed manual transmission with a top track speed of 175 mph. Weighing just 2,855 pounds (121 pounds less than the S model), the R covers 0-60 in just 4.7 seconds. Though we prefer running through the gears, for an additional $3,660, the optional Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) seven-speed, double clutch automated manual transmission drops the 0-60 time to 4.4 seconds.
To achieve these top speeds and weight reduction, Porsche made extensive use of aluminum, eliminated luxuries such as air conditioning and an audio system, and replaced metal door handles with nylon straps and power leather reclining seats with racing bucket seats. Given the noisy cabin, it seems noise reduction materials were also eliminated to minimize additional weight.
Outside, the R differentiates itself from the S with black headlight surrounds, mirror caps, black side vents (to help cool the engine), a fixed black rear spoiler, and black stripes on the lower body reminiscent of 1960s Carreras. Our test Cayman also came with the $1,815 black painted wheels.
Because the R is designed primarily for the track, there aren’t most of the high-tech features found on other vehicles. Bluetooth capability and a USB port for an iPod is about all you can expect.
The overall interior is pure sports car, with gauges displaying basic functions in a readable fashion. As for aesthetics, the center console and dash trim match the exterior color nicely. And while the bucket seats are more comfortable than they look, room is at a premium — at least for those of us over 6-feet tall.
To enjoy our Cayman R to the fullest, I headed out the Apache Trail in the Arizona desert with its twisty canyon roads not far from Phoenix. As the car pushed through the turns, its persistent grip combined with its massive power created a carefree feeling like few cars we’ve driven.
With the R’s lowered ride height (almost an inch), a custom anti-roll bar, stiffer springs with a limited slip differential for improved traction, and incredibly wide 235/35ZR 19-inch tires, you might expect a pounding, uncomfortable ride. On the contrary, the tuned suspension is simply brilliant. It combines everything you enjoy about driving, perfects it, and leaves you searching for reasons to take the long way home.
Standard safety features include front, head, and side airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control, and automatic brake differential.
All this doesn’t come cheap with its base price of $66,300, not including the $950 destination charge. Other options on our test car included automatic dimming mirrors, Porsche’s connectivity and navigation system, bi-xenon adaptive headlamps, three audio packages, and automatic climate control, bringing the MSRP to $79,285 ($4,200 more than the base Cayman S).
But once you slip behind the wheel, click the red three-point seatbelt into place, fire up the engine, and press the accelerator, it somehow doesn’t seem expensive at all.