While motoring magazines have the luxury of testing cars at locations such as “The ‘Ring” and “The Triangle”, the rest of us practise our craft on relatively undiscovered stretches of public highway, close to our doorstep, that provide the perfect blacktop backdrop for delving into vehicular dynamics. My personal playgrounds go by the names of The Loop and The Road.
My ‘Loop’ is a 40-mile circuit starting and finishing at my house. It offers as comprehensive a test of ride and handling as I could wish for, repeatedly rewarding precision, patience and commitment from the driver. With uphill sections, downhill sections, corners that open, corners that tighten, fast flowing swatches and tight twisty stretches, there is no hiding place for any weak link in a car’s dynamic armoury.
After a three mile warm-up through town, for the next 35 miles it’s a heavenly blend of sinuous A and B roads, with the occasional T-junction or small village providing a welcome opportunity to regain one’s composure before the next visceral fix. Finally, The Loop ends with two miles of chilled-out comedown as car and driver return to earth. And breathe.
Out here, the Cayman is magnificent. Poise, agility, noise and civility meld together and intoxicate the driver. Defining moments are to be found through a fast tightening uphill corner (inspiring a lot more driver confidence than my old M3 and VXT), a steep winding descent through woodland (very little understeer, rock-solid brakes and not much sense of weight transfer) and a series of flowing bends where you’re adjusting the car’s attitude with part-throttle (very stable and feelsome, no sense of remoteness and impending front-end washout as in the M3 or momentum-induced tail-happiness from the VXT). The car really does lap it up, and it’s impossible not to be seduced by its talents here on a quiet day. A bit more power would make it even more seductive!
My ‘Road’ begins about five miles from my house, and then unfurls itself across country for about ten miles before finishing in a market town. It doesn’t offer up the gradients of The Loop, but instead provides a couple of leg-stretching opportunities followed by a succession of long fast corners. It’s a great test of braking capability, cornering confidence and outright grunt. Encounter it at a quiet time and it’s a sensationally involving experience.
The first time I reached the end of The Road in the Cayman, I found myself chuckling away like a madman, coursing with adrenalin, thinking that I wouldn’t have been able to devour that same stretch of tarmac any quicker – or have any more fun behind the wheel, wet or dry – in any road car. Not true, of course, but that’s how it felt at the time! I’d love to hit The Road in a 997 GT3, for example…
I’ve been off-roading in the Cayman a couple of times since the last report (parking in fields prior to taking part in 10km road races, see the pictorial evidence) and can report that in this environment its behaviour is exactly what you’d expect from a low-slung sports car. A Cayenne it is not. It does have better ground clearance than a VXT though! Average fuel consumption after 3,000 miles hasn’t climbed much above 21 mpg – but then again, most of my driving is either stop-start in town or ‘seriously enthusiastic’ away from it. I get about 27 mpg on the motorway.
Next time, I will report on my likes and dislikes after living with the car for a few months, but let me finish for now with another anecdote about The Loop. Some new people have started renting one of the houses in the road where I live, and I was delighted to discover that they are all petrolheads with a love of fast cars and bikes. Naturally, the Cayman became a topic of conversation, and so I recently took one of the guys out for a passenger ride round The Loop.
Now, although he wouldn’t be so impolite as to say so, he was probably thinking that I was one of those blokes who talked a good game but couldn’t actually drive for toffee and had just bought himself a Porsche for the perceived pose value.
As the Cayman worked its magic over the course of The Loop, let’s just say that any such preconceptions were firmly dispelled. Trundling back into our road, my newly-impressed neighbour said “Quick, park up here, I need to get out and wet myself”…