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Motor Trend’s 2009 Best Driver’s Car is the Porsche Cayman S

August 22, 2009 Cars, Driving, Sport, Style No Comments

Check out that “Fun to Drive” score. I totally agree.

Here are excerpts from the article (Go to the link at the bottom of this post to read the entire article.)

1ST PLACE: 2009 PORSCHE CAYMAN S PDK

In technical editor Kim Reynolds’ first-drive story of the Porsche Cayman S PDK (March 2009), which marked Motor Trend’s initial experience with Stuttgart’s mid-engine seven-speed-dual-clutch sports car, he made a very bold declaration. “It’s now, in my humble opinion, very simply the best sports car in the world.” Since most of you don’t know Kim, allow us to inform you that he is quite possibly the most humble man on the planet. So when the humblest editor states a humble, albeit audacious opinion, his fellow MT staffers perk up and heed the call. Still, the best sports car in the world? Rightfully so, Reynolds had his skeptics.

Well, after flogging the Cayman S around track and twisties, we have only one thing to say to Sir Kim:You were absolutely right.

“No other car here — not one — delivers the Porsche’s Braillelike road-reading,” says St. Antoine. “You can feel every tire doing its work.” Markus wholeheartedly agrees: “Probably more than any other car here, including the R8, this one feels like an extension of your neural synapses.” And Pobst? Why, the first three words to come from his mouth were, “Racecar. Racecar. Wow.” Translation? “The thing about the Cayman is-gosh, I hope they don’t hate me for saying this — I think it’s just about better than any 911. The Cayman is one of the best-handling cars I’ve ever driven.”

As with any great driver’s car, the Cayman’s supremacy comes in myriad forms, not just a single attribute. First and foremost, the Porsche possesses uncanny poise, thanks in large part to the amidships placement of its symphonic 3.4-liter 320-horse flat-six. “The balance is exceptional,” notes St. Antoine. “Turn-in is sharp, yet the rear end stays planted unless you really kick it in a quick turn. It’s difficult to drive the Cayman S badly.” Much of what makes the Porsche so easy to push is its surgical steering. “Most natural and organic steering here,” claims Markus. “The slower ratio ensures that none of the subtle messages coming through the wheel are lost in the rush to steer from here to there.”

2009 Porsche Cayman S Rear Three Quarters View  

Of course, what helps establish this Cayman as the ultimate Cayman are the three letters representing Porsche Doppelkupplung. Says Pobst: “I left the PDK in plain-old Drive and let the computer do the work on the shifting, and it always had the right gear for me. It’s a fantastic transmission-incredibly smooth, quick shifts.” So fantastic was the PDK that it managed to turn naysayers into proponents. “I found the new PDK transmission off-putting at first, almost entirely because the pushbutton wheel shifters are just plain dumb,” states St. Antoine. “But after I put it into ‘Sport +’ and hit Laguna for a few laps, I’m not so sure the PDK needs paddles or pushbuttons at all. The transmission is simply brilliant on its own.”

To finish in front of such stalwarts as the R8 and Miata, the Cayman used a little emotion and a lot of speed. “An emotional favorite that backs up the warm fuzzy feelings (which Miata also creates) with serious cred, like 1.0g grip,” says Markus. “Not as light as the MX-5, but more focused on speed and cornering,” notes Loh. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of my quickest lap times, because of the confidence I had with corner entry,” says Pobst. “It is a car that can be driven very hard, very near the limit, off stability control, and still stay completely under control.” In other words, the Best Driver’s Car. (And, yes, Kim, the best sports car in the world.)

RANDY SAYS: “Man, hard to pick. The Audi felt more valuable, it felt more expensive. The sounds coming out of it were finer, more refined. The Cayman was a little bit more of a race car, in comparison. It made great noises and a lot of noise, but good noise, like a screaming-six-cylinder-exhaust noise.”

Our pick for Best Driver’s Car doesn’t jump out at you from the Vehicle Dynamics Scorecard, though hints of its specialness can be found in its best Laguna lap. A car with the sixth-best top speed, yet third-quickest lap time has more than simply good grip going for it. Confidence counts too (check out our subjective ratings graphic). And closely inspect the Laguna lap trace: The Cayman has an extraordinary ability to stretch its lateral g well around many of the corners. One notable idiosyncrasy, though, is its unusually heavy steering effort.

FINAL ANALYSIS
In the end, you’ve got to get a feel for it

What’s most striking about the Porsche Cayman S Vehicle Dynamics Score is that it doesn’t appear to be remarkable at all. It took turning off our elaborate test equipment and simply wrapping our hands on its steering wheel to finally get the picture. After driving all 10 of our contenders on an impromptu road course, we scored them in six, driver’s-car-illuminating categories. And when the results were compiled, our affection for the Cayman S became starkly apparent.

While the Audi R8 and MX-5 Miata — cars at virtually either end of the group’s performance spectrum — impressed us too, subjectively, the Porsche scored even better. It’s as though the Cayman S simultaneously distills most of the R8’s intense performance and mid-engine balance, with the Mazda’s sprightly, and endlessly likable personality. And that’s a potent recipe for our Best Driver’s Car.

 

PORSCHE CAYMAN S
DRIVELINE: Mid engine/3.4L flat-6/320 hp/273 lb-ft/7-sp twin-cl auto/RWD
SUSPENSION, F;R: Struts, coils, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coils, adj shocks, anti-roll bar
BRAKE DISCS/CALIPERS, F;R: 12.5-in vented, drilled/4-piston; 11.8-in vented, drilled/4-piston, ABS
CURB WEIGHT (DIST F/R): 3176 lb (45/55%)
TIRES, F;R: 235/35R19 87Y; 265/35R19 94Y Michelin Pilot Sport

Link: 2009 Motor Trend Best Driver’s Car (18 pages).

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