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...

911 Porsche World - - Practical Porsche -

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

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