BUYERS’ GUIDE: CAYMAN 987
BUYERS’ GUIDE: CAYMAN 981
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.
DRIVING THE CAYMAN
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.
TUNING THE GT4
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.’
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
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,
WHAT THE PRESS SAID
‘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.
HOW TO PAY FOR IT
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, porscheleeds.co.uk), 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.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
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
SPOTTED FOR SALE
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 911virgin.com
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. jzmporsche.com
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...