Spotted in the Wild: Porsche Cayman R

Sometimes ideas for what to write about on this blog just hit me in the face.  Or, as in this instance, they haunt my rear-view mirror.

I have about six topics that are planned for future posts, and I was actually saving this one for a little later.  But after seeing a Cayman R two times in one week I took it as a sign that this post must be written now.

The first sighting of this mid-engined 911 killer occurred as I was attempting to smoothly start a manual equipped car on a hill.  It was my first attempt, and having a car that was featured in EVO Magazine’s Car of the Year 2011 drive past did nothing to improve my concentration.  Suffice to say that first attempt was bullocks.

The second encounter involved my GTI actually overtaking the green demon.  Yes, the Porsche was queuing in traffic while I was accelerating past, but nevertheless the GTI can now proudly wear a crossed out Porsche logo on its flank to denote it’s superior turbo-charged status.  Well, that might be a stretch.

As stated when the Ferrari F430 Spider was spotted, I’m currently living through a Canadian winter.  Now let’s put your preconceptions to the side and point out that it doesn’t snow here all year round as some of our cousins to the South believe.   Winter typically lasts from December to March, and on any given mid-January day you will see a few feet of snow on the ground and generally grubby driving conditions. 

This winter season will go down as one of the mildest on record, but it still isn’t exactly Southern California levels of warm and sunny, with our average temperature hovering around -10°C.  And yet, I have now spotted a Peridot Metallic (Kermit the Frog Green) Porsche Cayman R twice in the past week.  I would normally expect to find this car at a track on hot summer days, but apparently some Canadians are using their übercars as everyday drivers, and this is flipping awesome for car lovers such as myself.

As with most of the hardcore variants that Porsche offers, the Cayman R will likely be the last of its model’s generation.  The recent launch of the Mk3 Boxster points towards the styling refresh that the Cayman will receive for the 2013 model year.  So the R is really the best this Cayman is going to be, and the general consensus is that Porsche could’ve done a lot better.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an übercar and it would be an amazing experience to own one, but the Cayman package has the potential to truly beat its big brother, the 911, if Porsche wanted it to.  I’m getting a head of myself.  In truth, the Cayman R offers a lot for a somewhat small amount of money.  The base Cayman R starts at $75,600, which is cheap in Porsche land, and represents only $5K more than a Cayman S, making it pretty good value.  Just wait as that price can fluctuate a bit. 

Here’s what I think happened during the cars development: the Porsche engineers and marketing teams met to discuss how they would work together on the car; the engineers wanted to reduce the weight of the cars as much as possible to make the best handling machines; while the marketing folks knew that the majority of customers don’t buy stripped out race cars; so how did they come to a compromise?  By creating a behemoth of on options list. 

Would Sir like air-conditioning in his Cayman, well that will be $2,000.  How about a rear window wiper – $420, or front lights that turn when you dash around corners – $1,780.  Luckily, Porsche was in a generous mood and decided not to charge for cup holders or floor mats, but you still have to specify that you would like them.  For track enthusiasts there are even more options: light-weight lithium-ion battery – $2,000, fire extinguisher – $160, an electronic log book to record lap times – $750.  The best option are the “Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes” (PCCB) for a mind blowing $9,300, but they do come with some flash yellow brake calipers.

If every option was ticked on the “build your own Porsche” website the total price of the R can be increased to around $140,000, that’s almost $65K in options, or put another way, the price of a fully loaded BMW 1M.  That is absolutely ridiculous!

Thankfully, “my” local Cayman R seems to be as close to basic as you can get, which means the owner isn’t a complete frivolous nob.  That base package is already an improvement on a recognized driver’s toy and Porsche said its goal with the R was to make the Cayman an even more dynamic and agile car.  This was achieved using the theory that less is more.

The Slimline 19-inch wheels are borrowed from the beautiful Boxster Spyder, bucket seats are standard, the doors are made from aluminum and come from a 911 Turbo, and, as previously stated, air-condition, cup holders, and floor mats are now only options..  All told the R is 55kg lighter than its siblings while also being lower to the ground, coming with a fixed aero package, and bringing close to 10 extra ponies to the party thanks to a few tweaks to the ECU and exhaust.  Generally speaking, when a good car is made lighter and more powerful the results are good, and this is no exception.

Add in the horrid colour combination and the lettering on the side and this is one truly special Porsche.  But the engineers could have done much more.  Before the R was launched enthusiasts speculated that Porsche might plunk a 911 tuned flat-six into the Cayman’s body.  The packaging of the Cayman could allow for it, and its mid-engine layout would instantly make this “super-Cayman” a cult classic, and most likely challenge the 911 as the definitive Porsche driving tool.  And therein lies the reason why a car such as this hasn’t been, and most likely never will be, made. 

Porsche is the 911 and the 911 is Porsche.  As stated in a previous post, the 911 is an icon, and Porsche believes they would alienate a large amount of its supporters if they truly developed the Cayman into the 911 beater that it could be.  That’s a shame really, as if there’s enough room in the world for a $200K beluga whale to wear the Porsche badge (that’s your cue Panamera Turbo S), then there must be space for another equally iconic sports car to sit alongside the 911.  Putting the 911 and Cayman engineers against each other to create better and better products could only result in more amazing creations for petrolheads like us to covet and adore. 

The Cayman R is a great Porsche that will most likely be remembered as a truly special driving machine, but to many people it will just represent a lost opportunity; a lost opportunity that’s also painted the colour of puke.

For some sweet video action click the link www.youtube.com/UBERC4R to see the Cayman R on track and hear it’s throaty exhuast!

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~ by ubercar on January 18, 2012.

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