First drive: Porsche Cayman R

For many buyers the Porsche Cayman has been the natural choice of anyone looking for a prestigious mid-engined coupe. since its launch six years ago more than 7,000 have been sold - and that's just in the UK.

So, why have Porsche decided to add another model to the Cayman range? Because they can and they know we'll lap it up gleefully.

And because the Cayman S is already a pretty handy piece of kit that performs on track and road, its successor is going to have to be just a bit more special to keep the brand's end up.

But just what is the Cayman R? Well, let's start with the name: this Cayman is based on the 1964 904 GTS and the first to bear the 'R' brand that Porsche reserved for its hottest cars in that decade. Yes, R is for racing.

On the surface though, the Cayman R doesn't appear massively different from the S. Power has been raised by 10hp to 330bhp in the 3.4-litre engine but the real differences lie elsewhere, specifically in the chassis and the weight loss of 55kg.

That weight loss comes with the removal of the air-conditioning system, the radio, the use of aluminium in the doors rather than steel and a smaller fuel tank (54 litres). Even the door handles have been half-inched and replaced with material pull grabs.

Now, that's all fine if you're looking for a sports car that weighs 1370kg but if you're wanting some home comforts, then the aircon and radio are going to be the first things you put back from the options list. Fortunately, both those options are free of charge, so your initial £51,728 is still safe. However, as you might expect, the options list is long, so you can quickly build up £10k or so in extras by including items such as the PDK gearbox with paddle shift (£2,141), sports exhaust (£1,465) and PCCB (£5,463).

A sports suspension system with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) has been incorporated into the R and a limited slip differential is included as standard. The car sits 22mm lower than the standard Cayman S making it more aerodynamic.

Have all these changes transformed the Cayman out on the road? Well, in reality the R is a tale of two cars. The first story is of a race car that will keep you pounding round the track long after everyone else has gone home, leaving you still marvelling at its handling and pulling power.

Given the freedom of the Stowe Circuit at Silverstone, Autoblog tried both the Cayman S and R. Unsurprisingly the R was the winner with the PDK paddle shifts well in tune with the demands of the track. Even in automatic mode, the car was precise with the gear changes right on the button but for sheer exhilaration, the paddle shifts and the manual version offered greater engagement, control and basically, just all round fun.

The car stuck to the road in the corners with the automatic box selecting the gears to perfection under braking while on the long straight, the R just kept pulling. As our confidence grew behind the wheel, the car's performance qualities came to the fore and the superior handling and balance of the R soon became clear.

But, out on the road - and we're talking 'austerity Britain' roads - the R strikes a different tone. The state of the country's B roads doesn't help but if you've not cranked up the R for some free-spirited thrill-seeking the ultra-firm ride can leave you feeling knocked about as you experience every bump and pothole that comes up through the suspension. Essentially, low speeds can be tolerated for shorter journeys.

Autoblog would like to think that's a small price to pay for something as stunning as the Cayman R but the race track or the open road is really what you need to make the most of this car. Then you might never give another coupe a second glance.

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