Owning a Porsche is a car enthusiast’s dream. But these awesome automobiles have never been cheap. And that’s why Porsche introduced the more affordable Boxster roadster in 1997. But many would be Porschiphiles still want a hardtop over their heads. So Porsche is bridging the gap between the Boxster and the 911 with the all-new Cayman S coupe. While not a Porsche for everyman, every man that loves cars will probably want to own one.

To Porsche’s legion of fans, the 2006 Cayman S is heaven sent. A two-seat, mid-engine hardtop sports car that promises near-911 performance, yet carries a sticker that’s over 12-grand less.

True, the Cayman S coupe is based on the soft top Boxster, but with the addition of a solid top, the chassis is 100 percent more resistant to twist and bending. Yet, thanks to careful weight savings, the Cayman S is actually lighter than all Boxsters except the base manual model.

The suspension is also Boxster based. But the McPherson strut layout has been heavily retuned to exploit the stiffer Cayman’s enhanced capabilities. Out-of-the-box Cayman S wheels are 18-inch alloys wearing wide Z-rated tires. No less than four different lightweight 19-inch rims are optional.

The lighter Cayman is also much more powerful than Boxster, with a 3.4-liter twin-cam flat six that mixes and matches parts from both the Boxster and the 911. Its 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque come from a bored-out Boxster block, with cylinder heads and VarioCam system from the 911.

The Boxster also provides the 6-speed manual transmission, which was modified for quicker getaways with shorter first and second gear ratios. A 5-speed Tiptronic automatic is also available. Yet despite its healthy power, the Cayman S carries an almost family sedan level EPA fuel economy rating of 19 city/27 highway.

But stab the gas pedal and the Cayman’s response is pure sports car! The Cayman S delivers the kind of wide, flat power band that we expect in a Porsche, but with much more low end punch than we’re used to in a Boxster.  The gearbox is also tighter, with sharp, precise shifts, especially in the short low gears, allowing a Cayman S to dart from 0 to 60 in 4.8 seconds, or a few tenths faster than the Boxster S we tested last year.

Handling reminds us very much of the 911 Coupe, with the very stiff chassis exhibiting a distinct rear end weight bias. The front end displays little tendency to push unless driven very hard into tight corners. The rear end will drift out, but in a very smooth, predictable manner. The variable-ratio steering delivers prodigious feel.

The standard Porsche Stability Management system and optional Porsche Active Suspension Management deliver even greater control, taking any dangerous edges off erratic steering and throttle inputs, especially in the wet. The brakes are big discs, vented and cross-drilled with 4-piston monobloc calipers, and they give the Cayman true Porsche stopping power

In a nutshell, the Cayman S is indeed an absolute ball to drive, and performance does closely shadow the 911. Yet it maintains the stripped down sports car attitude of the Boxster. 

It’s not bad to look at either, though some of our staff disliked its tall, bubble profile. The front exhibits both Boxster and 911 elements, but with its own unique split lower grille and fog lamp treatment. The sills sweep up into shark-like side grills and the rear end features a movable split rear wing that deploys at 75 miles-an-hour, and long rear deck with a large hatch that opens to a compact cargo area, which when combined with the front cargo compartment yields a very useful total of 14.1 cubic feet. 

Inside the two place cockpit displays Porsche’s now excellent fit and finish. The look and feel is very much Boxster, yet Porsche did vary the trim, color, and details like the steering wheel shape. The fairly generous leather trimmed seats are either 6-way buckets or optional 12-way sport seats with added lateral support for hard cornering. Clear gauges are housed in three large pods and include a redundant digital speedo with trip computer. But while the center stack is well organized, the small switches for stereo and navigation give it an uncharacteristic busy look.

Safety features include six airbags, including the Boxster’s novel head airbags that deploy upward from the doors’ window sills. And all for a $59,695 price that’s only $4,200 more than a Boxster S, but as we mentioned earlier, a hefty $12,400 less than the base 911 Carrera.

The 2006 Cayman S is pure Porsche in every way. It is, in a word, wonderful, and provides sports car fanciers with yet another step on the ladder to the exclusive world of Porsche.



  • Engine: 3.4-Liter Twin-cam Flat Six
  • Horsepower: 295
  • Torque: 251 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 4.8 Seconds
  • EPA: 19 City/27 Highway MPG