CAYMANSTANDS TEST OF TIME
Four years and 32,000-miles in and Kieron Fennelly’s Cayman has been a sound proposition. Maybe other 911&PW running reporters should take a leaf out of Kieron’s book and stop fiddling and modifying and just drive...
Mine is the black 987 croc (the red one which features rather more often in these pages is Jeremy Laird’s) that has now been with me for four years and 32,000 miles. Readers with good memories might recall that I swapped it with the 993 which had transported me round for the previous decade. A poor move from an investment point of view – look at where 993s are now, but still not one I regret. To my mind if you can afford only one Porsche there’s little point in keeping it in the garage and not using it. That was increasingly happening to my ageing 993, which I no longer wanted to subject to our dirty, crumbling winter roads. At Northway for the 993’s annual service, I spotted a 40,000 mile 2.9 Cayman gen 2 which Ray had been servicing for a couple of years before taking in part exchange against a 997. A small cash adjustment and the deal was done: quite unplanned, I had moved from rear to mid engine propulsion.
Although lacking the character of the 993, the far more modern Cayman has proved extremely practical and week in week out is my main car. With the 993, particularly as it aged, I was always wondering what to replace next, whereas in four years and 34,000 miles the croc has cost me only routine servicing plus a couple of intermediate oil changes because I simply don’t believe even the latest oils are still as effective into their second year.
This year’s first major outing was in February to Wolfsburg, home of VW. Those big rectangular brick buildings of the original factory are worth seeing, VW Group’s ‘Autostadt’ a little less so: a fine if rather self-aggrandising showcase with a separate pavilion for each of the Group’s marques, it is a bit too ‘totally immersive automobile experience’ for my taste, more a stop on the tourist itinerary than a mecca for aficionados. But because 20 years ago a VW bursting with the confidence of a decade of acquisition decided to sink a considerable sum into this lavish shop window, the original VW museum, situated in an obscure former office building much as the Porsche museum used to be, has in corporate terms been completely forgotten. For the enthusiast, this is wonderful because unself-consciously lined up but with space to walk round them properly, are examples of production models, prototypes and experimental builds representing probably nearly all of VW output fom 1946 to the mid 1990s. This classic warts-and-all display is completely out of fashion today and surely cannot last for ever. In the wake of Dieselgate, there are likely to be major changes at Wolfsburg (where 2500 people work in catering alone) so my advice is to visit sooner rather than later.
One advantage of Germany off-season is that the Autobahnen are far quieter and we got to within 6mph of Porsche’s claimed top speed for the smaller engined Cayman before the Wolfsburg dual carriageway turned into single carriageway. Just one more mile might have sufficed. It was all very undramatic, in contrast to the 993 which used to get frighteningly light at the front at these speeds.
On the way through snowy Netherlands we stopped at the magnificent Porsche Gelderland where Mark Wegh’s guys were kind enough to clean our by now filthy Cayman. Alas, within a couple of days it was as dirty as ever, but responded to the jetwash back once in Blighty though after eight winters the body now sports sufficient stone marks and nicks to keep a detailler happy for a few hours.
I knew the rear tyres would not survive another MOT, so the Guild of Motoring Writers’ annual track day at Castle Combe in April offered a chance to finish them off, as it were. Alas, the day dawned wet and my slot was the first session. PSM on of course, I set off with some trepidation, but in relatively thin traffic, it was fascinating to see how far the Cayman would go before electronics showed their hand. The main problem initially was that the track was not uniformly wet and the PSM’S interventions were rather ‘jolty’ until a ‘racing line’ was established by mid morning. Recently I heard ARDS instruction Gary Marsh encourage an audience of GT3 owners to take advantage of a wet track rather than shun it as many do: “on a wet surface things
happen at slower speeds – it’s a good way to learn car control.” He also warned about the danger of aquaplaning on standing water. It struck me as very good advice, but as a track neophyte, I would need a lot more practice. Once again though this wet outing confirmed how surefooted the Cayman is, flattering my driving skills once more. Years ago with the 993 I invested in a complete KW suspension kit; I’m not inclined to go that route again: if the croc sometimes feels softish, there is always the PASM button, which is fine for the track, but is otherwise designed for German blacktop and just too firm on the surfaces Highways England inflicts on us.
In fact the tyres turned into a bit of a saga as it took Continental eight weeks to import a pair of 235x50x17s. The problem is that this size in is now largely fitted to medium size SUVS and as such only occasionally manufactured with a speed rating appropriate for Porsche. Road wheels continue to get bigger so tyre makers increasingly produce their high speed tyres in 18-inches and up. For my money the trend for bigger rims is a triumph of styling over what really matters, that is ride quality, noise and handling, and even economy.
Talking of handling, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Cayman 718 2.0 for a few days. The bigger chassis and wider front track mean it is a very different car from the 987 and it feels light years ahead: this is the entry level Porsche yet the cabin is beautifully finished and the 718’s steering, ride and body control are all in a completely different league. And, provided you are over 2000rpm it just goes in a rush.
I can add no comment on the poverty of the soundtrack – it has all been said. I enjoyed the 718, but after a while, I missed things to do, like changing gear. It’s almost superfluous with all that torque: you might as well have a PDK. The 718 is so well glued to the road, too, with handling resources I simply couldn’t begin to exploit down here in the busy Home Counties. But that’s progress. We could argue for ever about the false god of CO2 which has cost us natural aspiration and here, two cylinders as well, but otherwise the latest junior Porsche is as brilliant as ever. It’s just not my kind of brilliance anymore. I still aspire to a 981, but so do many other people and prices are very firm.
So life, still quite wonderful with the 2.9, goes on. Year four, driving my usual 8000 miles has hardly been expensive or onerous, £400 covering tyres and intermediate oil change. We shall see whether anything falls off in our fifth year together. PW