What is the Porsche Cayman Mk 1?
Unlike a 911, the Cayman is strictly a two-seat coupe, and its engine is mid-mounted, which not only gives the car superb handling, but has the added benefit of allowing for two boots — one in the nose and the other at the back.
It was sold from 2005 to 2013, and there were several improvements along the way, detailed below. We favour the 3.4-litre S version. It’s quicker than the standard 2.9-litre model, but not as expensive or as spine-crushingly stiff as the flagship R variant. Buyers might also want to consider a used Porsche 911, the BMW M3 or an Audi TT.
Keep it pure with this car and you will enjoy one of the most rewarding driving experiences money can buy. The manual six-speed transmission is a joy to use, the gear ratios are well judged and the sound of blipping the throttle on every downshift is something you’ll never tire of — and we haven’t even touched on the engine, steering and handling…
The flat-six-cylinder motor has a unique sound. It changes as it works its way up through the rev range, and really howls beyond 5,000rpm, all the way past the peak power at 7200rpm. And it really loves to rev — it needs to be pushed hard as the torque is high up in the rev range — but given a full steam of head this is a 170mph-plus sports car. Super unleaded fuel is a necessity rather than an expensive treat, but when you cherish something this much why would you run it on anything else, even if it was an option?
As for the handling, this is unquestionably the most agile and responsive model Porsche makes. The mid-engined configuration plays an important part here, placing the mass in the centre and allowing the rear-wheel drive Cayman to pivot around it. The driver senses what’s going on beneath the tyres through the seat of their pants, the steering is lightning-quick and full of feedback, and in all areas the Cayman S inspires confidence, encouraging you to exploit its potential to the full.
Judged against the new Cayman or 911 models, the interior of the first generation Cayman looks a little dated, yet still feels of good quality and gives the impression it is built to last.
There is a generous helping of legroom and the driving position feels fantastic — you sit low and the wheel is well centred in relation to the seat and pedals. The cabin is surprisingly practical, as you can sling luggage behind the front seats in a pair of handy lockers, while the combination of the two boots means luggage for a long weekend away is easily catered for.
Buying a used Porsche Cayman
Prices range greatly between the earliest Caymans and the last models sold, spanning £13,000 to £40,000. The entry-level Cayman, of 2006, developed a healthy 245bhp from its 2.7-litre flat six, and the Cayman S (from 2005) 295bhp from the 911-derived 3.4 (303bhp in limited-edition S Sport models). Six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic auto gearboxes were offered, along with options including active suspension management — allowing you to play with the ride height and shock absorbers — ceramic composite brakes and a limited-slip differential, all sought-after options.
Midlife revisions in 2009 brought engine changes — a 265bhp 2.9 in the basic Cayman, and a power bump to 320bhp for the Cayman S’s 3.4, which gained direct injection — and the option of Porsche’s double-clutch (PDK) gearbox, complete with Launch Control mode if the additional Sport Chrono Plus package was ordered. In the run-up to the all-new model (due this year), a luxury-spec 330bhp Cayman S Black Edition and a stripped-down 325bhp Cayman R have kept enthusiasts sweet. Steep second-hand prices should start to ease once second-generation cars become available.
What to look out for
Owners have criticised a few cheap-feeling interior details, the odd water leak through the windows, paint that’s easily stone-chipped, high oil consumption in some cars and the occasional squeak, rattle or suspension clunk (all dealt with in the facelift) but otherwise the Cayman is screwed together as well as the most expensive Porsches (and rather better than early Boxsters).
Caymans sold before the end of 2005 were recalled over the risk of parking brake failure. Further little faults reported include glitches in the keyless entry and remote locking, slow clutch pedal return and a noisy oil pump when the car is started at very cold temperatures, and one owner has reported in an online forum that a camshaft failed in his 3.4-litre Cayman S, but that’s about all that’s been totted up since 2005 — an excellent record for a hard-driven, high-performance piece of machinery. The Cayman should not give you any trouble, then, if you follow the service schedule and take care at track days. Not everyone does, though, so when you’re buying second-hand take extra care to find a car that has not been crash-damaged.
The one to buy
Porsche Cayman S
- 3436cc, flat-six-cylinder petrol
- 316bhp @7200rpm
- 273 lb ft@4750rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 5.2sec
- Top speed:
- 29.7mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 4347mm, W 1801mm, H 1306mm