Is The Cayman Now Better Than the 911?

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Look, we all remember when this happened before. It was the 80′s, cocaine was king, and Porsche came out with a full lineup of sports cars meant to displace the 911. The 924, the 944, and the 928 were all hand-crafted to move Porsche away from their ancient VW Beetle derived platform. Refinement was up, the engines were moved to the front, and the 911 was expected to die. It didn’t, of course, and the 911 is more popular than ever. And all those pretenders to the crown? Currently populating AutoTrader and eBay for less than the price of a Grande Soy Mocha.

The non-911 Porsches of the past are now the laughing stock of the line-up. They are seen as “Poseur Porsches.” Something less than real or 100% sports car (this is all nonsense of course, the 70′s and 80′s front-engined cars drive brilliantly and had serious punch for their day) and this explains the problems the current Boxster and Cayman face. The 911 has always been the true connoisseur’s choice, with the consensus being that you only bought a Boxster because you couldn’t afford a 911.

Because of my fear that the Cayman would end up to be our generation’s 944 I’ve ignored the vocal minority as they proclaimed it almost as good as the 911. I’d tell myself, “Sure the stats and lap times are achingly close, but it’s not a 911, it’s always going to be seen as a lesser Porsche. ” This head in the ground approach has worked with me for years. Now, though, I’ve seen the new Cayman – and it is good.

I felt enveloped and cosseted in a way that only the 911 has been able to achieve before.

Porsche recently unveiled the new 2013 Cayman at the LA Auto Show and I was there to see it firsthand. Now that the new Boxster no longer has to share its doors with the 911, the little roadster is looking properly good. Hearing and seeing the new Cayman growl up onto the stage I can only say that the Cayman looks even better. The rear arches and roof are now less unique and more Carrera-like, and I say that as a compliment. Honestly, to me, it looks like what a future 911 might look like. There are two headlight pods at the corners of the fenders, an elegantly sloping roof, a short trunk in front, and even a little proto-ducktail spoiler showing up where the roof meets the rear lights. Gorgeous.

2013-White-Porsche-Cayman

If the exterior received a decent re-working from the last generation, then the interior got a full revolution. The cabin had such a feeling of quality and design. I felt enveloped and cosseted in a way that only the 911 has been able to achieve before. If the numbers and stats equalize this new Cayman with the current 911 (which they do), the interior doesn’t make me feel like I’ve downgraded (which it doesn’t), and the exterior looks like a re-imagined  911 (which is personal taste), is it finally time to crown the Cayman/Boxster twins as king of the Porsche lineup?

You know that the mid-engined layout is best for vehicle dynamics. You’ve certainly all heard that the Cayman chassis is capable of so much more but has been dialed back to keep the Carrera safe. You know these talking points well. It only makes sense that the Boxster/Cayman has been deliberately reigned in to keep the standard bearing and price commanding 911 on top. But now I fear that Weissach has made a misstep with this latest generation of cars by not improving the 911 enough and improving the Cayman far too much. This is not a conspiracy or plot, but merely a case of naturally diminishing returns.

The 911 has been tweaked and pulled and improved so much during the past 50 years that room for drasticimprovement just doesn’t exist anymore. The fan-boys (myself included) would never accept a mid-engined V8 911. It would be heresy. So the engineers are stuck trying to squeeze blood out of the stone that is the rear mounted boxer 6 engine. Improvements to the  Carrera are now measured in millimeters, milligrams, and tenths of a second. Unless radical new technologies are developed the 911 is so near its apex as to make no difference. This is as good as a 911 can be. To keep it in the same price-bracket and retain all the heritage that we fans love we have reached the end, the apogee of the 911 line.

This is as good as a 911 can be.

Our friend the Cayman, however, can still be improved by leaps and bounds. This is how Porsche has shot themselves in the foot – they have leaped with this new generation when they should have merely hopped. They have improved the Boxster breed so much now that even a die-hard 911 fan like myself is wavering, questioning my faith.

Has the Cayman really dethroned the 911? That is the great question of our age and time will still tell, but that is a statement I could not have imagined writing six months ago. It is now a crapshoot as to which will emerge the victor. They both deserve it, of course, and the true victors here are we the fans. The only losers here are the inflexible. The more daring among us will place their bet on the winner by buying the Cayman and yelling “the king is dead, long live the king!” through the canyons and streets – and God bless them for that.

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