Review: Porsche Cayman R

In this unprecedented age of obscene horsepower and affordable performance, the Porsche Cayman R is the Jenyne Butterfly of the sports car world.

Who is Jenyne Butterfly? Look her up, preferably not at work.

Ms. Butterfly’s sinewy muscles are cut on gracile bone, and articulate her long limbs with purposeful flexibility. She’s graced with the sort of physique you’d associate with an Olympic swimmer or an extreme yogi. She also possesses a preternatural ability to fling herself across a pole with fluid undulations that appear to disobey the laws of physics.

Extracting 330 horses from a mid-mounted 3.4-liter flat-six, Porsche’s compact two-seater is outpowered by $24,000 Hyundais. It’s also in no danger of winning any luxury accolades, and its superstar big brother, the 911, is undeniably more glamorous. And yet, this low-slung pipsqueak is also a punchy performer, an aggro animal that’s been pruned like a bonsai, resembling a sort of scaled-down supercar.

At 2,855 pounds (or 2,910 pounds with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission), the Cayman R is the lightest road car built by Porsche. Luxuries like door grabs and sound insulation are swapped for nylon straps and road noise, and aluminum door panels save 33 pounds of mass. Stiffer bucket seats lighten the load by 26 pounds, while 19-inch wheels do their part by ditching 11 pounds of unsprung mass.

So serious is this car’s commitment to the art of asphalt acrobatics that air conditioning is a no-cost option, even though A/C comes standard on lesser Caymans. The same mass-o-phobes who probably don’t mind their musky stench polluting the non-air-conditioned cabin are likely to order the optional lightweight lithium battery for a $1,700 premium — it sheds 22 pounds, and, with its shorter profile, ever-so-slightly lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity.

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