It can be an experience in duality to take a car that knocked your socks off on a tortuous racetrack and bring it home as your daily drive .
But I wasn't even wearing socks as I rolled to town to pick up papers at 6 a.m., behind the wheel of a 2006
I've got duality down pat.
Those who saw the Cayman darting smoothly through corners, fenders bulging, exhaust pulsing, might have expected its driver to emerge wearing driving gloves, soft-soled shoes, and maybe a Porsche crew-neck shirt -- not the just-beyond-pajamas outfit I prefer for my morning jaunts (complete with slippers).
This is a car you can wear like sizzling armor on the racetrack, or like a comfortable cotton shirt for around town travel. I have never driven a sports car that so perfectly combines high performance ability with daily driving utility.
As a two-seat hardtop, it's not a family car. But as a car for a single person or a couple it's perfect.
On the Barber Motorsports Park track outside Birmingham, Ala., the Cayman with its 295-horsepower engine was completely intuitive in handling. Its balance perfect. Its carving of corners was blade-like, with sure stickiness even in rising and descending S-curves.
On the road to my local recycling center it looked curvaceous, wicked, and fast -- at just 40 miles per hour. And who would have known that lurking under the skin were three plastic bags of trash in the trunk, two more under the hood, a stack of papers and magazines on the seat beside me, and bags of bottles and cans on the passenger side floor.
I was not mistreating the car -- only going overboard with its utility. Yet the recycling center journey was indicative of a versatility that would easily allow two people to take a long trip and bring what they need with them in a fast, compact, world-class performance car.
There's the modest bin up front, a deep, wide bin aft, and, above the engine amidship, a rear deck -- accessed by lifting the broad glass hatch that includes a cargo net to hold down miscellaneous items.
It is powered by a 3.4-liter ``boxer" engine that grew from the Boxster series of Porsche entry-level cars. Yet it has automotive DNA from the larger 911s: cylinder head and VarioCam Plus, which alters valve openings depending on demand and is the mechanical equivalent of a mild shot of nitrous between each gear.
The six-speed manual transmission (as tested; a five-speed manual with Tiptronic is optional) comes from the Boxster, yet its two lower gears disappear rapidly -- there is potential to go from 0 to 60 in as few as 5.1 seconds.
Not something you'd do in everyday driving, but plenty promising for the moments you need quickness in the real world.
It comes with standard stability management, but for about $2,000, an upgrade to Porsche Active Suspension Management gives you switches on the lower center control panel to adjust its ride and handling from normal to sport. It's a nice feature when you don't want your daily-drive car to bounce with the stiffness of a track-ready racer.
Porsche likes to offer its new model lines from the top down, hence the Cayman S comes before less expensive models. It starts at around $60,000 and rapidly reaches $73,000. The 2007 Cayman, starting at just under $50,000, goes on sale this summer. It will feature a 245-horsepower flat-six and a standard five-speed manual transmission. The five-speed automatic will be an option, as will the six-speed manual, which will be lumped with the active suspension management system.
But in both versions you can dress for sport, or you can dress to go out for the morning papers.