911 Porsche World - - Contents -

Buy­ing Porsche’s mid-engine coupe

When Porsche in­tro­duced the Boxs­ter­derived, 987-model Cay­man range in 2005, Zuf­fen­hausen nailed it right first time, the en­gi­neer­ing, styling and build qual­ity all be­yond re­proach. Even more of a driver’s car than the hardly-lack­ing Boxster, the mid-en­gined coupe suc­cess­fully posed the ques­tion to buy­ers: why buy a 911? It was the de­fin­i­tive sub-ex­otic sports car.

Scor­ing a bulls-eye seemed to have left lit­tle scope for im­prove­ment, so when the time came to re­place it, Porsche did what it has done in re­vamps for years now: care­fully but thor­oughly evolved it, the 981model new­comer look­ing very sim­i­lar (though with an en­tirely new bodyshell) but with a raft of up­dates, mi­nor and ma­jor.

You chose be­tween two flat-six en­gines, a 2.7-litre for the Cay­man and a 3.4-litre (shared with the 911) for the Cay­man S. And when this gen­er­a­tion came to an end in De­cem­ber 2015, re­placed by the 982coded 718 Cay­man/s with four-cylin­der tur­bocharged en­gines, a wave of af­fec­tion was whipped up for the out­go­ing car. They were now seen as “the last of the six­cylin­der Cay­mans”, a more hearty car than the ef­fi­cient but some­what bland by com­par­i­son 718s, with val­ues strong by out­go­ing model stan­dards.

So here we fo­cus on that four-year model se­ries whose clas­sic po­ten­tial is al­ready be­ing spo­ken about. So far they’re af­ford­able, start­ing at £25,000 to £30,000, so what do you need to check for when buy­ing? Is it a car with typ­i­cal mod­ern re­li­a­bil­ity, or does its com­plex pow­er­train call for a wary ap­proach?


It was the 2012 LA Auto Show’s good for­tune to land the pub­lic launch of the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Cay­man (al­though Porsche called it the third, de­scrib­ing the orig­i­nal’s facelift as the sec­ond). The 981 mea­sured in with a 60mm ex­tended wheel­base and over­all length, and was 10mm lower than its pre­de­ces­sor; weight was up to 30kg lighter depend­ing on the model, and the shell was said to be 40 per cent stiffer.

While the orig­i­nal Cay­man was launched in two stages, the plain Cay­man six months af­ter the Cay­man S, this time both ar­rived to­gether. The Cay­man came with a new, smaller ca­pac­ity flat-six, the 2.7 quad cam none­the­less slightly more pow­er­ful with 271bhp pro­duced at 7400rpm, a frac­tion­ally higher peak than pre­vi­ously. Torque, though, was down by 7lb ft to 214lb ft, oc­cur­ring at be­tween 4500 and 6500rpm.

The Cay­man S car­ried over the 987’s 3.4-litre unit, with out­put un­changed at 321bhp, also at 7400rpm, and 273lb ft torque, al­though with a flat­ter curve. Clever fea­tures in­cluded an elec­tri­cal re­cu­per­a­tion sys­tem to charge the bat­tery more in­ten­sively un­der brak­ing, and a com­put­erised sys­tem to man­age engine cool­ing; fuel econ­omy and CO2 out­put was im­proved on both mod­els.

The stan­dard trans­mis­sion on both was a six-speed man­ual gear­box, but of course the op­tional seven-speed, dou­ble-clutch PDK au­to­matic gear­box was com­monly spec­i­fied. Cars equipped with Sport Chrono also had dy­namic trans­mis­sion mounts to con­trol driv­e­line move­ments un­der in­er­tia, while a new gen­er­a­tion of the PASM ac­tive damp­ing sys­tem was em­ployed.

The 981 Cay­man is a clas­sic in the mak­ing. Why are we so sure? Be­cause it’s the last of the flat-six Cay­mans, which will guar­an­tee its fu­ture sta­tus. Not only that, but it’s also one of the finest han­dling Porsches ever made. Sup­plies are plen­ti­ful and most cars have yet to fall off the radar in terms of con­di­tion. It’s the right time to buy

The pre­vi­ous hy­draulic power-steer­ing was re­placed by an elec­tri­cal sys­tem. Brak­ing was up­rated, with stiffer calipers, a larger brake con­tact patch and an op­ti­mised pad de­sign, and as ever, cars with PCCB ce­ramic brakes wore yel­low calipers. The Cay­man’s stan­dard wheels were 18-inch and those for the S 19-inch, with var­i­ous styles of 20-inch rims avail­able.

At this point the Cay­man ceased to feel like a tra­di­tional Porsche in­side. It adopted the high, switch-smoth­ered cen­tre con­sole (in­clud­ing an elec­tronic hand­brake) which had been trans­posed from the Cayenne into the 991 a year ear­lier, and giv­ing the cabin more of a GT car feel.

There were no tech­ni­cal or styling changes made dur­ing pro­duc­tion, only ad­di­tional mod­els, the first be­ing the Cay­man GTS which ar­rived in May 2014. Porsche claimed that it ‘re-sets the sports coupe bench­mark’, al­though apart from its 335bhp/280lb ft engine (the first Porsche engine to be cer­ti­fied to the then new Euro 6 emis­sions reg­u­la­tions), it was ef­fec­tively a high spec Cay­man S. As stan­dard it car­ried the nor­mally op­tional PASM, Sport Chrono, 20-inch wheels (with 235/35 front and 265/35 rear tyres), and could be or­dered with 20mm low­ered sports sus­pen­sion. It sported a spe­cial front spoiler and lower rear apron, and came in man­ual and PDK form, priced from £55,397.

The next ad­di­tion to the range was a lot more than just an equip­ment up­grade: the GT4, ar­riv­ing in Fe­bru­ary 2015, was the Cay­man equiv­a­lent of the 911 GT3, a to­tally track-fo­cused model built only in six-speed man­ual form. Its 3.8-litre Car­rera S engine pumped out 380bhp at 7400 and 309lb ft at be­tween 4750 and 6000rpm, while the sus­pen­sion – low­ered by 30mm over nor­mal Cay­mans – used many 911 GT3 com­po­nents. With its ex­tended snout, big rear wing and Gt3-like 20-inch wheels the GT4 (avail­able in Club­sport trim) was hard to miss, al­though with limited num­bers bound for the UK, see­ing one in the first place would be a rare event.

The sole limited edi­tion Cay­man of­fered was the Black Edi­tion, based on the 2.7 car and re­leased in the fi­nal year of pro­duc­tion, in Oc­to­ber 2015. Its spec in­cluded 20-inch wheels, black paint and part black leather, Porsche Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Man­age­ment (PCN) and Sound Pack­age Plus. In late April 2016 Cay­man flat-six pro­duc­tion ended to make way for the 718 four­cylin­der cars.


While the 911 over­comes its in-built chas­sis dis­ad­van­tage – the rear-mounted engine – with decades of en­gi­neer­ing im­prove­ments, the Cay­man’s mid-en­gined lay­out puts it in the ideal place to be­gin with, and the coupe’s han­dling can be described only as ex­quis­ite, even with the slightly less tac­tile, elec­tric power steer­ing of the 981. It is per­fectly bal­anced, and to­tally pre­dictable.

The same ap­plies to the en­gines, peachy, revvy units de­liv­er­ing joy­ous per­for­mance even in 2.7-litre guise. Most Cay­mans are PDK, but if you want the pu­rity of a man­ual car the six-speed gear­box has a beau­ti­ful shift. The GT4 – even though it uses a Car­rera engine rather than a GT3 de­rived unit – is the dream sports car: su­per quick and great on track, but nearly as prac­ti­cal as any other Cay­man.


While the GT4 has, un­sur­pris­ingly, turned out to be more of an in­vest­ment pur­chase than a track ori­ented ma­chine, Steve Mchale, di­rec­tor at Hert­ford­shire Porsche spe­cial­ist JZM, which has close con­nec­tions with Ger­man tuner Man­theyRac­ing, tells us he has tuned some for own­ers – at least in the chas­sis depart­ment. ‘The GT4 is a great car for the track en­thu­si­ast, we’ve mod­i­fied them for a straight track setup which in­volves chang­ing some sus­pen­sion parts in­clud­ing fit­ting KW three-way Club­sport sus­pen­sion, and our own Sur­face Transforms ce­ramic brake disc con­ver­sion.’

How­ever, ex­tract­ing engine power is more difficult. ‘The engine is not tun­able – af­ter ex­ten­sive test­ing by Man­they, the gains were 14–15bhp achieved by fit­ting tuned ex­haust head­ers, 100 cell cats and an Akrapovic ex­haust,’ Steve re­veals. ‘That works out at nearly £1000 per bhp! There are also no worth­while gains in the man­age­ment sys­tem.’


Ap­prox­i­mately 4700 of the 981 Cay­man were de­liv­ered in the UK and so there are plenty for sale at Porsche Cen­tres and in­de­pen­dent deal­ers – af­ter all, cars of this age are the sweet spot for deal­ers, gen­er­ally trou­ble-free and fetch­ing prof­i­tyield­ing prices.

You’ll see the odd Cay­man 2.7 and per­haps even a 3.4 for un­der £30,000, but that’s likely to be at auc­tion or a pri­vate sale. The ef­fec­tive start­ing price is £30,000 on used car dealer fore­courts and usu­ally £5000 to £10,000 more at PCS, ac­cord­ing to price ex­pert Glass’s. That’s im­pres­sively low de­pre­ci­a­tion, given that when first in­tro­duced the Cay­man was priced at £39,694 and the Cay­man S at £48,783.

A PDK Cay­man, 2.7 or 3.4, is worth around £2000 more than a man­ual car, and the 3.4 fetches about £2500 to £5000 more than the 2.7, depend­ing on how new it is. The Black Edi­tion goes for £1000 more than the reg­u­lar 2.7. The top price for a (non-gt4) 981 would a 2015 Cay­man GTS,


‘A man­ual Porsche Cay­man S is a truly won­der­ful ob­ject that should sit at the top of a lot of peo­ple’s wish lists. And if you had been spec­u­lat­ing that the lithe, com­pact po­tent Cay­man S might just be the best driv­ing ma­chine that Porsche of­fers to­day, then spec­u­late no longer. Be­cause it is’

911 & Porscheworld, April 2013 ‘The smaller flat-six is no pale shadow, it’s a stir­ring boxer engine in Porsche’s grand tra­di­tion, and what it lacks in tractabil­ity it makes up for in high-rev sparkle. Re­quest­ing proper speed is not solely a job for your right foot; it’s an im­me­di­ate stab through the clutch’s fleshy travel with the left and a wrist­flick of a down­shift away. This might be wear­ing if the gears didn’t en­gage so beau­ti­fully.’

Au­to­car, Cay­man road test, April 24th, 2013 re­tail­ing for just over £60,000.

As with all mod­ern Porsches, you are ad­vised to choose the right equip­ment spec to max­imise re­sale value. ‘Cay­mans need to be fully loaded,’ ad­vises Steve Mchale. ‘Peo­ple want all the gad­gets – cars with a base spec­i­fi­ca­tion are hard to sell. Sport Chrono is a must-have item, and the sports ex­haust, sports seats, sports steer­ing wheel, tele­phone mod­ule, nav­i­ga­tion mod­ule and DAB ra­dio are all highly de­sir­able.’

The GT4 is in a price cat­e­gory all of its own. They are still be­ing of­fered (though not nec­es­sar­ily sell­ing!) at £85,000 to £95,000, at least £10k over list. At the time of writ­ing 21 were for sale at PCS alone.


Most cus­tomers buy­ing a car of size­able ex­pense use ‘personal con­tract pur­chase’ (PCP), which low­ers the monthly re­pay­ments and al­lows you to hand back the car at the end of the con­tract. Here’s a flavour of how the Porsche PCP scheme, named So­lu­tions, would work out on a three-year-old Cay­man S priced at £47,690. A quote from Porsche Cen­tre Leeds (0113 292 6479,, based on a three-year deal with a £10,000 de­posit or trade in, sets a £697.97 monthly pay­ment, based on 8.5 per cent APR in­ter­est. To buy the Cay­man S af­ter three years, you’d pay £20,425.


With even the ear­li­est 981 Cay­mans not yet five years old, and many still cov­ered by the three-year fac­tory war­ranty, this car is gen­er­ally a safe buy, hence this ‘What to look for’ sec­tion is ab­bre­vi­ated. ‘These are rel­a­tively new cars – ask me about them in in three or four years’ time and I’m sure the list of po­ten­tial prob­lems will be a bit longer,’ says Steve Mchale of Hert­ford­shire Porsche spe­cial­ist JZM.


The 2.7- and 3.4-litre en­gines are es­sen­tially the Di­rect Fuel In­jec­tion units in­tro­duced in 2008, and to date at least would ap­pear not to suf­fer the bore wear prob­lems that af­fected Porsche’s first gen­er­a­tion of wa­ter-cooled flat-sixes. How­ever, the check for this is easy enough and worth mak­ing: look at the tail pipes for signs of burnt engine oil. ‘There are no se­ri­ous is­sues, al­though we have seen a few cam lift so­le­noid faults and vac­uum switch valve failures,’ says Steve.


For some rea­son break­ing sus­pen­sion springs seems to be a wide­spread prob­lem on mod­ern cars, the 981 Cay­man in­cluded. It isn’t al­ways ob­vi­ous if this has hap­pened be­cause the ve­hi­cle tends not to col­lapse at one side be­cause of it. ‘If a spring breaks, it’s usu­ally just the tail or end part that comes off – MOT testers are wise to this and have started check­ing them dur­ing the test,’ Steve tells us. This was also some­thing to look out for on the orig­i­nal Cay­man, and there’s an­other prob­lem com­mon to the 981: ‘Steer­ing arm outer ball joints are wear­ing in the same way they did on the 987,’ Steve says.


So far there is a largely clean bill of health, al­though Steve does report hav­ing changed a few ig­ni­tion keys. ‘The horn push can stick in, but we have a mod­i­fi­ca­tion for this,’ he says. It’s im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate that this high tech car can­not be worked on by just any­one: ‘You can­not ac­cess these cars with­out a Porsche “PIWIS” tester.’


There is not go­ing to be any rust on the body­work of a 981 un­less ac­ci­dent dam­age has been badly re­paired, but cor­ro­sion can be a prob­lem in one par­tic­u­lar place: the two air-con­di­tion­ing con­densers, mounted in the Porsche’s nose, and which have proved vul­ner­a­ble in all pre­vi­ous Cay­mans and Boxsters.


The 981 Cay­man is a thor­ough and care­ful evo­lu­tion of its pre­de­ces­sor, im­proved in many ways over a car that it­self gave lit­tle cause for com­plaint. All mod­els are de­light­ful whether for track use or com­mut­ing, and at this stage you’d be un­lucky to have trou­ble with one un­less it was an early car with a big mileage. It won’t be cheap, with a min­i­mum of £30,000 for a worth­while choice, but with these six­cylin­der cars en­joy­ing a “last of the line” cult sta­tus, we’d ex­pect de­pre­ci­a­tion to be slow, so in this case Porsche pur­chase could be (al­most) as fi­nan­cially sound as it is en­ter­tain­ing. PW


Pri­vate seller 2013/13 Cay­man S PDK, black, black leather, 3 own­ers, trans­ferrable war­ranty, 29,500 miles, £29,900, Lon­don

Porsche Cen­tre 2013/13 Cay­man 2.7 man­ual, white, red leather, 20-inch wheels, PASM, Sport Chrono, 30,100 miles, £34,000 Porsche Cen­tre Soli­hull

In­de­pen­dent Porsche spe­cial­ist 2013/63 Cay­man 2.7 PDK, sil­ver, black leather, Sport Chrono Pack­age with Dy­namic Engine Mounts, 11,600 miles, £35,995

May 2014 Cay­man GTS added to the range Fe­bru­ary 2015 GT4 launched, a track-fo­cused model which is soon sell­ing for above list price Oc­to­ber 2015 Limited edi­tion Cay­man Black Edi­tion in­tro­duced, based on the 2.7 model April 2016 Pro­duc­tion ceases, to...

USE­FUL CON­TACTS Jzm­porsche A long es­tab­lished Hert­ford­shire-based spe­cial­ist with a deep en­gi­neer­ing knowl­edge of mod­ern Porsches and their per­for­mance tun­ing; our tech­ni­cal con­sul­tant for this Buy­ers’ Guide. jzm­

BUY­ERS’ CHECK­LIST Early Cay­man oil burn­ing is­sue un­likely to af­fect 981s – but check tail pipes for signs just in case Look out for bro­ken front or rear sus­pen­sion springs, some­thing not al­ways im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous Elec­tronic ig­ni­tion keys can fail...

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