New Car Review: 2012 Porsche Cayman R

Front view of green 2012 Porsche Cayman R parked at night
The 2012 Porsche Cayman R.

Purity meets sheer, unbridled lust.

The purity in this case is purity of purpose, purity of design and purity of intent. What was once the beginning, middle and end of what it meant to build cars at Porsche. And while the brand now also includes such things as hybrid SUVs and four-door GTs, anyone who doubts that Porsche still can build a pure sports car need only spend some time behind the wheel of the 2012 Porsche Cayman R.

We were fortunate. We got six days.

It's been a while since we've driven a Cayman...before the launch of TireKicker, in fact, so some basic facts would probably be helpful. The Cayman is a light, mid-engined 2-seater that costs less than a 911,  and is very nearly as satisfying a car to drive....especially fast, especially on winding roads.

Rear view of green 2012 Porsche Cayman R parked at night
Rear view of the 2012 Porsche Cayman R.
The Cayman R? Well, it's a race car that's street legal. For $66,300 (as opposed to the $51,900 base price of a standard Cayman), it gives you an extra 55 horsepower (330, to be exact, from a 3.4 liter horizontally opposed six, which replaces a 2.9 inline six in the Cayman), an 8/10ths of a second quicker sprint to 60 miles per hour (4.7), and 10 more miles per hour on the speedometer when you hit top speed (175).

If that seems like a large payoff for only 55 horsepower, it is. Those numbers are possible because the Cayman R also takes away. Air conditioning? That adds weight. Toss it!  Audio systems? What's German for "ditto"? Besides, with the windows down (no air, remember?) you won't hear anything but the gorgeous roar of that awesome little engine, anyway.

The 2012 Porsche Cayman R interior with a big hole where the audio system isn't.
If you look at the photo above, you'll see the big hole where the audio system should go. But look a little bit above center along the very left edge of the picture. See that bit of red? That's a cloth strap. Same material seat belts are made of. Pull on it and it opens the door. Hey, handles aren't weightless, you know.

All this adds up to a weight savings of 110 pounds. And while you may not think that's much (obligatory, tasteless and obvious Wal-Mart shopper joke goes here), it's enough, when paired with the 55-horsepower bump to make the Cayman R one very fierce little machine.

Or I guess. Full disclosure: The Porsche PR folk know that autojournos tend to be lightweights (in terms of acceptable levels of discomfort) and that in Phoenix, the mercury can tickle 100 right up to Halloween. So the Cayman R they put in the press fleet had a few option boxes checked...including the ones that put the air conditioning, audio system and even navigation back in. While they were at it, automatically dimming mirrors, Bi-Xenon headlamps with cornering lights, the Sound Package Plus, the Sport Chrono Package Plus, a universal audio interface and an XM satellite reciever got into the car too. And the wheels were painted black...an $1,815 "exclusive option".

So the Cayman R I drove went from $66,300 to $79,285 and that 110 pounds probably went right back into the car...and maybe then some (A/C compressor, audio head unit, speakers...).


It's still the most fun you can have on four wheels. The sound, the feel, the motion, it's all just unbelievably right. And it's nowhere near as punishing in terms of ride as I'd expected from the Spartan purity involved. I could live with this car as a daily driver.

Here's how good it is: If I lived somewhere where air conditioning wasn't a requirement, I'd buy one absolutely box stock. I'd listen to the engine through the open window (and I love a good audio system). I can get my iTunes from the iPod when iGethome.

This is essence of Porsche..


2012 Porsche Cayman R

Base price: $66,300.

As tested: $79,285.

Likes: Power, handling, (relative) comfort, form and function in perfect harmony.

Dislikes: One of the cupholders (the one nearest the driver) was jammed. Probably by a previous journo. And even if it hadn't been, the cupholders in this car can barely handle a 12-ounce can of soda. And it's best if that can has never been opened. And then it hit me...what the hell do I need to put in there anyway? Just drive. If I get thirsty, I'll pull over somewhere, get a drink and make about 50 new friends in the parking lot.

EPA estimates: 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway.