Through stroke of good fortune, proper alignment of the stars, and perhaps the occasional bribe, I get to spend time with a wide variety of enthusiast type cars. These are all fun cars that mere mortals can afford. I use the yardstick of what an equipped new Miata would cost. Using that as the price standard, what are the used options for something a bit higher up the food chain for the same money? How do they stack up?
If you are looking for 0-60 times, specs, etc. you will have to look on Google for one of the many road tests. I will just share what each car is like to live with, in daily use, for a month or so. The good stuff and the annoyances. I will stick with later model cars that should have the expectation of reliable daily use.
I promise no boring cars and nothing that gets out of the $30s for fair market price. These are strictly my opinions, your mileage may vary. Here we go:
What resides in the garage this month is a Porsche Cayman. This particular car is a 2008 first generation car with just under 50K miles. Nice examples are commonly available in the mid to upper $20s. Firstly, I will admit a bias towards Porsches. Having owned several of them, I was looking forward to spending time with the Cayman.
The usual Porsche strengths are here: Perfectly poised chassis, snarling flat six, excellent driving position and major controls. Laser accurate steering and excellent brakes. Sight lines make traffic non-threatening. Styling is a matter of taste, but I like it. The engine is quite tractable and happily doddles around town at 2,000 rpm. All the fun really begins over 4,000 with that delicious Porsche wail.
Also typically Porsche some things are overly engineered. Simple things like cup holders are stupidly complicated. The center stack controls are far from intuitive. Texting while driving would probably be less distracting than messing with the audio or nav systems. Even the climate system is fussy. I would like to think it’s because Porsche focuses their attention on the performance aspects of the car. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
The hatchback makes the rear luggage area more usable than the double oven Boxster. Try putting a bag of frozen groceries in either the front or rear trunk of a Boxster. The rear defroster elements in the back window provide an interesting prism effect with car headlights at night and I’m not a fan of the oddly shaped rear view mirror (shared with the Boxster).
I found more interior rattles and buzzing trim than I have come to expect from Porsche and if you’re looking for all kinds of nooks and crannies to store things, forget it. There isn’t much cockpit storage. This car is a tight little package. Not quite Miata tight, but as far as luggage, use the rule: If it won’t fit in an airline overhead bin it probably won’t fit in the Cayman. Forget the Costco shopping runs. Yeah, I know that isn’t this car’s intended purpose but it is a part of life and other sports cars are better.
Mileage in mostly city driving returned 20.2 mpg which is OK, but less than my recent experience with a C6 Corvette. The ride is firm with a bit of short wheelbase pitching and solid thumps over freeway expansion strips. I don’t mind a firm ride but, again, compared to other car in the class, it is more harsh. The passenger side power window would randomly not seat itself correctly and there were a few stray error codes from the computer. That was a reminder that the service of these cars is both specialized and expensive. With no engine access, except from under the car, do it yourself is pretty limited. Not a car to spend your last dollar on.
All of that is boring right brain stuff. It’s the left brain where this car shines. Nobody really needs one of these. You won’t purchase it for it’s practicality. When the sun is out and the road is clear there aren’t many better seats. The car is eager and ready to play. All the tactile and sensory inputs are perfect. Handling, steering, and brakes are spot on. The mid range moan of the engine turns to a wail as the flat six climbs to redline. Suddenly you are Steve McQueen at LeMans, forget Walter Mitty. It just feels right. Detractors of Porsches simply haven’t spent enough time with them to understand.
So, do I like it? Would I buy one? Yes and probably no. I expected to like the Cayman more than the Boxster. I didn’t. I like the car. It’s a lot of fun and you never grow tired of the precise chassis and snarling flat six. Problem is, you can get that in a Boxster for less money, with the open top capability, and it’s a bit easier to forgive a few rattles and squeaks in a drop top. There are some very good buys out there right now. Make mine a Boxster.