The world is peppered with sporty cars that draw the eye, entice the ears and convince the heart it's just finished a marathon. Contrary to popular assumption, however, it isn't enough for a sports car to be appealing, powerful and expensive. In fact, there's far more to a successful sports car than how many times it shows up in garage-wall calendars or fantasy-fueled video games. Yes, it must be quick, but a truly great sports car must also must be tractable, an extension of the body; it must inspire confidence in the driver in order to maximize its potential. The 2014 Porsche Cayman is just such a car. In its third iteration, fully redesigned and even better than its stellar predecessor, the new Cayman does so much so well, it's hard to believe it could ever be improved upon again.
The Cayman has been mistakenly referred to as a hard top Boxster -- a car with which the Cayman does share engines, transmissions and architecture. But the Cayman is quicker, handles better and bests its topless sibling in driving dynamics. The Cayman also shouldn't be considered a lesser 911, despite sharing some of its architecture with the distinguished 991. In fact, the new Cayman is in an element all its own. The evidence is right in front of your nose: its beautiful, completely reworked body. The sheetmetal is an exercise in cohesive design (an aesthetic Porsche has truly mastered), coming together in a bearing that's full, muscular and elegant. A wider track, longer wheelbase and cabin, larger side ducts and exaggerated rear haunches create a more imposing presence than the two latest generations of Caymans. The car's taillights and integrated spoiler come together to render the rear positively breathtaking.
The Cayman's interior is a fine complement to this awing exterior. The standard seats are supportive enough but can be upgraded with bolstered sport seats. Regardless of your choice, seating position is stellar, with untrammeled views that pave the way to placing the car exactly where you want it. As always, triple Porsche gauges with a big center tach make all the data easy to read. The accompanying g-force meter is a tool that's as fun as it is distracting -- you'll spend all day trying to hit that magical 1.04 while loosening the fillings in your mouth.
But none of this alone would be enough to make the Porsche Cayman the outstanding sports car that it is. The new chassis is twice as stiff as its sister Boxster roadster and even more rigid than the 911. The sonorous flat-six engines found in both the base car (2.7-liter, 275 hp) and the riotous S (3.4-liter, 325 hp) power a lighter body that's 44 percent aluminum.
Turn the car-shaped key and the Cayman roars to life with the guttural growl of a not-so-tame tarmac beast. Though the 7-speed PDK dual clutch transmission is lightning fast and butter smooth, the 6-speed manual, with precise engagement and a properly heavy clutch that begs your foot to unleash the car's wonders as you downshift, is still our gear change method of choice. 0-60 for the S comes in 4.7 seconds -- 5.4 in the base Cayman. There are plenty of cars that do it faster, but hardly any of them are as rewarding to drive. The new electronic power steering system is a key part of the experience, communicating every bump and blip on the road with crystal clarity.
Sport mode, once optional on the Cayman, now comes standard, as it should. Pushing the button disengages the coasting function and auto stop/start, eases stability control and sharpens throttle tip-in. Spend a little more for the Sport Chrono package, replete with a fantastic lap-timer in the center console clock, and everything gets slightly madder. For a bit of icing on the cake, the Cayman now boasts torque vectoring, a magnificent option that brakes the inside wheel in a turn for improved handling. That's what we call proper intervention. The myriad list of options goes on, including Sport Exhaust, which makes the Cayman sound angrier than a panther screaming into a concert mic, and numerous upgrades to make your Porsche stand apart, even among its own brethren.
But none of these options are necessary, because the Cayman is utterly rewarding in stock garb. This car is so well balanced, so marvelously engineered and constructed, that to helm one is to experience driving nirvana. The only people who won't benefit from this latest iteration are Porsche employees: good luck making a better one, Freunde.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
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