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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers car review: 2012 Porsche Cayman

The Cayman slots in the middle of Porsche's sports car lineup, coming between the newly redesigned Boxter convertible and the venerable 911. The Cayman may be Porsche's entry-level coupe, but we think it has an important advantage: a mid-engine chassis compared with the 911 family's rear-engine design.

Appearance: The curvy two-seat liftback carries the iconic Porsche silhouette familiar from generations of the 911, with bulging fenders front and rear, large elliptical headlights and a tapered roof line. Our tester had wheels that matched the white body color, one of the many options that quickly can run up the $51,900 starting price.

Performance: The base model's 2.9-liter, horizontally opposed 6-cylinder produces 265 horsepower. Don't let the numbers fool you. That's more than enough for this rear-wheel-drive featherweight that, with a manual transmission, tips the scale at less than 3,000 pounds. The 0-to-60 time is in the 5.5-second range. (The Cayman also comes in higher-performance S and R versions.) The 6-speed manual has short and precise throws, making for easy shifts even in city traffic. Both the clutch and accelerator has perfect sensitivity, responding quickly with the slightest input. Handling? Peter has long respected Porsches more than he has desired one, but getting to drive a Cayman for the first time changed his mind. In short, the mid-engine layout, which keeps the weight near the center of the car and makes for better balance, is one of the best pure driving experiences at any price. (Especially with the manual.) The steering is responsive and the Cayman gives a driver confidence that the rear end will almost never step out under hard driving. To quote Lyra: "You can trust it to go where you want it to go." That makes for a car that even the nonenthusiast can drive and enjoy. Oh, did we mention that the brakes are also confidence-boosting? To cap it all, there's a satisfying throaty rumble from the stainless steel center-mounted exhaust.

Interior: As expected for a small sports car, the interior is snug, but Peter didn't feel too constrained with the headroom. The seats are comfortable and supportive, even in hard cornering. The interior of the base Cayman is noticeably more economical than those of the 911 models we've driven, but it still is a quality cockpit. The buttons and controls on the center console, though, are on the small side, and interior storage is minimal. There's just a tray under the armrest for a phone or MP3 player. Because of the mid-engine layout, there is modest cargo space in the rear in addition to the usual front "trunk."

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Spoiler: There's a speed-activated rear wing that can be manually raised.

Handling: Well-balanced, engaging and fun.

Concept: In an era of horsepower wars and super cars, less can be more.

Lyra Solochek

Lively: This sports car gets top marks for its agility, handling and acceleration.

Price: $60K (as tested) is a steal for an exhilarating ride.

Storage: There's actually some luggage space.

The bottom line: We loved it, as if you couldn't tell. For a quality sports car, it's a performance bargain that can double as your daily driver if you don't need a rear seat.

2012 Porsche Cayman

Price: $51,900 start, $60,935 as tested

Powertrain: 2.9-liter horizontally opposed mid-engine 6-cylinder, 6-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive

Horsepower:

265 at 7,200 rpm

Torque: 221

pound-feet at

4,400-6,000 rpm

0-60: 5.5 seconds

Curb weight: 2,932 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 95.1

Length, 172.3

Width, 70.9

Height, 51.3

Seats: 2

Fuel economy:

19 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg

highway (20/29 automatic)

Safety features: Side-impact protection, six airbags, seat belt pretensioner and force limiters, stabilizer bars, stability management, ABS, engine drag torque control, automatic brake differential

Website: porsche.com/usa/models/cayman

The Daily Drivers car review: 2012 Porsche Cayman 07/13/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 13, 2012 4:30am]
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