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Porsche Cayman 2.9 PDK review



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Is Porsche's pretty little Cayman the best pound-for-pound sports car you can buy? Many have argued just that. It's certainly an absolute riot to drive. The chassis in particular is a masterpiece; light and lithe, precise and poised, fluid and feelsome. Then there's the classic flat-six engine note, deep-down engineering integrity and the minor matter of one of the most desirable badges in the world. It's a killer package, no doubt.

But Porsches have never just been about driving dynamics or street cred. Day-to-day usability is also a crucial part of the experience. Buyers expect Ferrari-flattening moves combined with the sort of in-car features and functionality you might find in a Mercedes or BMW. It's what makes a Porsche such a great all round ownership proposition while other sports cars are merely toys for the weekend thrash. In other words, in-car technology and practicality probably matters more in a Porsche than any other high-end road rocket.

With that in mind, Porsche kindly loaned us an example of the new facelifted Cayman in 2.9-litre 265hp trim. Our car is kitted out with most of the key in-car options including the latest version of Porsche's infotainment platform, known as Porsche Communication Management or PCM 3.0. Adding to the mix, it also packs the new double-clutch PDK 7-speed gearbox and PASM active suspension package, not to mention the full leather interior, Sport Chrono lap-timing tech and upgraded audio kit. Oh, and Porsche has bolted on 19-inch Carrera Classic wheels, slotted a limited-slip differential into the rear and dropped in bi-xenon headlamps, among other items from the immense options list.

What we have, therefore, is a maxxed out car with a price to match. Nearly £50,000 is obviously a monstrous amount of money to pay for the basic 2.9l Cayman. Best therefore to think of this particular car as an options list showcase rather than a serious purchase proposition. Thus, with launch mode engaged on the PDK box, let's roll...

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June 5, 2009, 5:46 am

I'm curious what kind of money/percentage trusted reviewed get if some one buys a £40,000 car via an ad on the site? :P


June 5, 2009, 6:37 am

If only ad sales worked so directly...

No, it's a completely independent system. If someone were to click on a car advert all we get is a record that someone has clicked that advert - that run of adverts will have already been paid for. Further advertising is then sold off the back of that proof that people see and click on our adverts.


June 5, 2009, 12:57 pm

The main problem with the car is the PDK gearbox. Instead of intuitive paddles (up a gear on the right, down a gear on the left), it has little switches, either of which can go up or down. Unfortunately they work the opposite way round to the way intuition, and sequential racing cars, expect: Jump into a BMW or a BTCC car and you will find you push forward to go down a gear. If you already are used to this system, it is almost impossible to reprogram yourself to do the reverse. Porsche know this but wanted to make the car appeal to previous tiptronic drivers who already had a rubbish system.

Whatever, it is a supremely balanced driver's machine and I would only consider an S model with a 6 speed manual! I go on the track and so would find the Sport Chrono feature well worth the cash - cannot be caught using it though as timing is a big "no no" at most UK track days!


June 5, 2009, 3:02 pm

@Retset - you’re right, the way PDK works is completely counterintuitive, but as you say, Porsche wanted it to appeal to the current Tiptronic users. Personally I wouldn’t want PDK even if it was implemented properly, I don’t want to feel disconnected from the car - when I manage a perfect downshift, I want to know that it was my doing, not some trick sequential box.

You’re right, the Cayman S is the one to have - I recently spent some time in one at the Porsche facility at Silverstone and was very impressed. That said, I’m holding out for the Cayman ClubSport, which is rumoured to be appearing at the end of the year :)


June 5, 2009, 3:47 pm

@Riyad: Is it? That would be nice :D Definitely manual every time on a sports car. Like you say, at least you know who it was that did that lovely heel'n'toe downchange.

Or who made a balls of it, lol.


June 5, 2009, 4:32 pm

This may be a little off topic on a tech site, but 50 grand? There's a lot of very strong opposition for that rather large chunk of cash.

BMW M3, Nissan GT-R, SLK 55 to name a few...


June 5, 2009, 4:59 pm

@Chris - you’re right, but that’s why Jeremy made a point of saying that this was an option list showcase, rather than an indication of a spec you should buy. Realistically, if you were going to buy the base Cayman, you should leave the option list empty and just have it as a basic, but very usable sports car.

As for what else you can get for £50k - the E92 BMW M3 is a very disappointing car. I was seriously thinking about buying one before it launched, then I test drove it and changed my mind. The GT-R is ludicrously fast for the money, but it only comes with a sequential box and I’m just not sure I could spend close to £60k on a Nissan. I’d also end up losing my licence in a matter of days. That said, I’ll be taking one for a test drive shortly :) As for the SLK - even at half the price I wouldn’t want one!


June 5, 2009, 6:13 pm

@Riyad -

Yep, all good points.

> 'The GT-R ... I’ll be taking one for a test drive shortly :)'

You just became my idol :) If I had nearly £60k to spend on a car, I wouldn't need to think twice about buying the Nissan. But then, I'm quite fond of fast Japmobiles...

Ed Churchward

June 5, 2009, 6:52 pm

With the bluetooth I wondered if you activated SAP (Sim Access Profile) on the phones? Nokia have it activated as standard, but my HTC Touch Pro needs it activating before it will work with my Porsche. The iphone does not support it (AFAIK). Had the same problem with a Merc as well.


June 5, 2009, 7:44 pm

@Ed Churchward - that's a very good point. I only tested it with my iPhone (which I knew wouldn't work) and the Nokia. Perhaps Jeremy didn't activate SAP - I'll ask him to comment back. Either way though, a simple Bluetooth Handsfree profile would have worked with everything.

J 2

June 5, 2009, 9:05 pm


Thanks for the heads up re SAP and Bluetooth. No, I did not enable SAP. An oversight on my behalf, though as Riyad said, the Hands Free Profile would be clearly preferable by default. I will bear SAP in mind in future.

Regards the PDK box, it's somewhat tangential to our remit here, so I chose not to get bogged down on that topic, disappointing though it is that Porsche has stubbornly stuck with what is ultimately the wrong setup on the paddles and selector. I will say this, however. Even after four days with the car, I still occasionally made the wrong input due to the counter intuitiveness of the pull-for-up, push-for-down arrangement of PDK. Anyway, it's rather academic as PDK doesn't suit the Cayman. I wasn't really expecting to like PDK, but even then I was surprised at just how "removed" it makes you feel from the drivetrain. The 2.9 engine is a peach, so it's a shame not to have full control.

And yes, £50k is silly money for a base Cayman, but this is a press car. Like I said in the review, it's a showcase rather than a sensible configuration for purchase.

Ed Churchward

June 5, 2009, 9:24 pm

@Riyad - I would like to think you are right but my fathers Merc E class will ONLY work with SAP and not with a standard Bluetooth profile. He had to change to a Nokia 3 years ago because they were the only people offering SAP at the time.


June 5, 2009, 11:14 pm

""Smashing little motor John""

Shame many call it the poor man's 911.

- I think its superb and a style of its own. I hate you guys for having the chance to drive it! Silly money yes - but what's wrong with silly ;) I could do silly if that was parked outside! Think John Cleese in Faulty Towers with the Morris 1100, but in a loving way....


November 7, 2013, 10:34 am


I was wondering if the PCM 3.1 system has had an upgrade to support Windows Phone 8 better, and if it's possible to play music through Spotify.

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