Porsche Cayman Buyer’s Guide

The Porsche Cayman made its debut in 2005 as a coupe version of the Boxster. Both the Cayman and Boxster are Porsche’s entry-level two door sports cars. Of course, an entry-level Porsche is still a very fun and capable sports car. Since the introduction of the Cayman it’s been a popular option for those looking to get into a Porsche.

Although Cayman models have only been around for 16 years there are tons of Caymans available. It’s currently on its 3rd generation and each gen offers many various engines, models, and features. As such, it’s important to understand the Cayman before making an informed decision. In this article, we discuss Porsche Cayman generations, engines, models, problems, reliability, and more.

Cayman Generations

The Porsche Cayman is currently in it’s 3rd generation. Years and chassis codes for the Cayman are as follows:

  • 2005-2012 (Porsche 987)
  • 2012-2016 (Porsche 981)
  • 2016-present (Porsche 718/982)

Cayman models do share the same base chassis and design as the Boxster. Porsche originally debuted the Boxster in 1996 on the 986 platform, but the Cayman didn’t come until the next generation in 2005. Although the Porsche 987 chassis came out in 2005 the Caymans first model year is 2006.

To lay the foundation of this Cayman buyer’s guide we will look at each of the three generations. Afterwards, this article examines Cayman reliability, problems, years to avoid, and other helpful info to pick the best Cayman for you.

1. Porsche Cayman 987 (2005-2012 Cayman)

Porsche Cayman Buyer's Guide - 987 Cayman Specs, Reliability, Problems

Up first is the Porsche 987 which was first available in 2005 as the Boxster. Due to the success of Boxster models Porsche added the Cayman as a coupe version. It shares much in common with the Boxster including the chassis, engine options, features, front fenders, headlights, and more.

The 987 Cayman was available for model years 2006-2012 and only came in two primary variants – the base Cayman and Cayman S. Engine options were a 2.7L flat-6 boxer engine and 3.4L flat-6 boxer engine for the Cayman and Cayman S, respectively. However, in February 2009 the Cayman received a face-lift which included a larger 2.9L engine on the base model. The Cayman S switched to direct-injection at this same time.

In 2012, Porsche came out with the Cayman R to help fill the gap between the Cayman and 911. The R uses the same 3.4L engine in the Cayman S but squeezes out an extra 10 horsepower. It also sheds some weight to get down to a mere 3,000 lbs. – making it among the lightest cars available in 2012.

987 Cayman Performance & Specs

Exact performance and specs for the Cayman depend on a number of factors. Notably, the later facelifted 987’s offer more power – especially the base Cayman with its larger 2.9L engine. Anyway, below let’s look at some of the specs for 987 Cayman models:

2006 Porsche Cayman S

  • 3.4L NA flat-6 boxer engine
  • 291 horsepower / 251 lb-ft
  • 3,100 lb curb weight
  • 4.9 sec 0-60mph

The Porsche Cayman S delivers 291 horsepower and 251 lb-ft from its 3.4L boxer engine. As a Porsche coupe, it comes it with a reasonably low curb weight of 3,100 pounds. Per Car & Driver testing, the 2006 Cayman S was able to sprint to 60mph in just 4.9 seconds and run the 1/4 mile in 13.4 seconds.

2009 Base Cayman

  • 2.9L NA flat-6 boxer engine
  • 265 horsepower / 221 lb-ft
  • 3,104 lb curb weight
  • 5.1 sec 0-60mph

Following the facelift in 2009 the base Cayman offers 265 horsepower and 221 lb-ft from the 2.9L flat-6 engine. It comes in right around the same 3,100 pound curb weight as the original Cayman S. All of that adds up to a 0-60mph time of 5.1 seconds and 13.7 seconds @ 102mph in the 1/4 mile.

2. 981 Cayman (2014-2016)

981 Cayman Specs, Models, Performance, Reliability

Porsche retired the 987 chassis and 2012 and moved onto the 981 models. The Porsche 981 pulls over some design cues from the new 911 of the era. Along with the 2nd generation Cayman came a host of new engines and sub-models. However, it actually wasn’t until MY 2014 that the 981 included the Cayman (there were no 2013 Cayman’s).

As such, 981 Cayman’s were only available for three brief years before the 718 Cayman came around. The 981 Cayman includes:

  • Base
  • Black Edition
  • S
  • GTS
  • GT4

Remember, the Cayman R in 2012 came very close to the 911 and was meant to close that gap. With the 981, Porsche actually began offering some models with more performance and handling than base 911 models. This was very clear with the release of the 2016 Cayman GT4. It uses a 3.8L engine pulled over from the 911.

The 981 Cayman GT4 weighs in around 3,000 pounds and delivers 385hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. It’s good for a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds and managed a Nürburgring lap in 7:40 (only 15 seconds slower than the 991 GT3).

Porsche 981 Specs and Performance

As with the section on the 1st gen Cayman we will list specs for a couple 981 Cayman models below.

2014 Porsche Cayman S

  • 3.4L flat-6 boxer engine
  • 325 horsepower / 272 lb-ft
  • ~3,100 lb curb weight
  • 4.2 sec 0-60mph

Porsche stuck with the same 3.4L flat-6 engine from the older generation Cayman S. It is the updated engine with direct injection from 2009 onward. Anyway, as shown from the specs and data, the 2014 Cayman S beats the original S by 0.7 seconds to 60mph. It’s also good for a 12.6 second 1/4 mile at 112mph or about 0.8 seconds quicker than than original Cayman S.

2015 Cayman GTS

  • 3.4L flat-6
  • 340 horsepower / 280 lb-ft
  • 3,095 lb curb weight
  • 4.1 seconds 0-60

The Cayman GTS features the same engine as the Cayman S. However, Porsche was able to make an extra 15 horsepower at 8 lb-ft. Cayman GTS models make the run to 60mph in just 4.1 seconds with a 12.5 sec @ 113mph 1/4 mile. This testing was from Car & Driver with a manual transmission. Numbers are even more impressive with the 7-spd PDK transmission.

3. Porsche 718 Cayman (2016+ Models)

Porsche Cayman 718 Buyer's Guide

Last but not least is the newest and current generation of the Porsche Boxster and Cayman – the 718. Internally, the chassis is known as the 982. However, it’s badged as the 718 Cayman so it isn’t often referred to as the 982. Anyway, Porsche has continued building on the Cayman model and it’s now available in almost too many trims to list. There include:

  • Base
  • T
  • S
  • GTS 4.0
  • GT4
  • GT4 RS

Base Cayman’s are still entry-level Porsche’s with an MSRP in 2022 starting at $63,400. That pales in comparison to the $106,100 MSRP of the base 911. However, the GT4 and RS come in at $106,500 and $149,100, respectively.

The GT4 is a tad slower to 60mph when compared with a base 911. However, it’s fair to argue the overall handling and performance are superior to that of the 911. Then, of course, there is the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS which delivers an incredible 3.2 second 0-60mph time. It does that with a 4.0L NA boxer engine that revs all the way to 9,000 RPM’s. Sign us up.

718 Cayman Performance and Specs

With the 718 Porsche totally changed the engine line-up for the Cayman. The base Cayman and Cayman T receive a 2.0L flat-4 turbo engine while the S and GTS models use a 2.5L flat-4 turbo engine. Then there’s the 4.0L NA engine for the GT4, GTS 4.0, and GT4 RS. Specs for a few of the 718 Cayman models are as follows:

2022 718 Cayman Base

  • 2.0L flat-4 turbo
  • 300 horsepower / 280 lb-ft
  • 3,040 lbs curb weight (manual)
  • 4.5 seconds 0-60mph (Sport Chrono Package w/ PDK)

Even the base Cayman of today offers more power and performance than the original Cayman S. This is thanks to the 2.0L turbo engine that delivers 300hp and 280 lb-ft. Of course, Porsche has done a great job of keeping the Cayman right in the 3,000 – 3,100 pound ballpark its whole life.

2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

  • 4.0L NA flat-6
  • 414 horsepower / 317 lb-ft
  • 3,208 lbs (manual), 3,276 lbs (PDK)
  • 4.2 seconds 0-60 (manual), 3.7 seconds (PDK)

Again, the GT4 isn’t even the highest-end 718 Cayman as the GT4 RS delivers even more performance and handling. Regardless, the GT4 is good for 414 horsepower through its 4.0L engine capable of revving to 8,000 rpm. Add the optional PDK transmission and you’ll find yourself launching to 60mph in a mere 3.7 seconds. The GT4 is more expensive than a base 911, but we do think the Cayman delivers great value at this price point.

Porsche Cayman Common Problems

Discussing Porsche Cayman engine problems isn’t the easiest topic to cover. Unfortunately, Porsche doesn’t have simple engine codes to distinguish between different engines and variants. As such, the Porsche community doesn’t really use engine codes either.

Anyway, in the next sections we’ll briefly discuss some of the most common Cayman problems and reliability. We will also specify which engines and models are most prone to each issue. That said, a few common Porsche Cayman issues include:

  • Rear Main Seal Oil Leaks
  • IMS Bearing Failures
  • Cylinder Scoring
  • PDK Transmission Problems
  • Turbocharger Issues

In the next sections, we will lay out each of the above Cayman failures and discuss the finer details. It’s important to add a few quick notes first, though. These are some of the most common faults with the Porsche Cayman. That doesn’t mean they’re common in the true sense of the definition. Instead, when Cayman problems pop up these are a few common areas.

1. Cayman Rear Main Seal Oil Leaks

Oil leaks aren’t just specific to the Cayman, of course. All engines use a number of gaskets, seals, O-rings, etc. that wear down with age and mileage. If you find a low mileage example it should be free of leaks, right? Not quite. Age can be just as tough as mileage on these rubber-like parts. They can easily dry over time, develop cracks, and begin leaking oil.

The rear main seal (RMS) is one of the most common oil leaks on the Porsche Cayman. A RMS leak will appear around the bell housing joint at the rear of the engine. It’s possible for a faulty air oil separator to cause the RMS oil leak.

No Cayman’s are totally exempt from the rear main seal oil leak problems. However, it’s more common on earlier 987 models simply due to the age of the cars. Also be on the look out for valve cover leaks as that’s another common area for leaks on the Cayman.

2. Porsche M97 IMS Bearing Failures

IMS bearing issues is a topic you can find and read about all over the place for the M96 and M97 engines. The 987 Cayman uses the M97 engine family. IMS bearing failures were common on the older M96 engine (it’s estimated that 5% or less of IMS bearings were faulty on the M96).

Anyway, the M97 was an updated engine and Porsche totally re-designed the IMS bearings. Failure rates are much lower on the M97 engine in the Cayman. It’s still a popular topic on the 987 Cayman due to the cost to replace the IMS bearings if they do have problems.

This isn’t an issue that should be a huge concern on the Cayman or M97 engine. We also wouldn’t classify it as a truly common problem as failure rates are low. It’s something to be aware of, though, since bearing failures are a very severe issue.

You can read more about Porsche 987 M97 engine problems here.

3. M97 Engine Cylinder Scoring

Cylinder scoring is another frequent topic related to the M97 engines in the 1st generation 987 Cayman. It’s also a topic we covered in greater depth in the article linked above. Cylinder scoring is a common cause of serious engine damage on the M97 Cayman engine.

Scoring is usually the result of a piston rubbing the cylinder walls causing grooves and scratching. Poor lubrication is the primary cause of cylinder scoring. Ensure you stay on top of oil changes, run proper oil weights, and use high-quality oils. Good maintenance can go a long way in preventing Porsche Cayman cylinder wall scoring.

Still, even with good maintenance these problems do occur sometimes. Cylinder scoring requires an engine disassembly and rebuild, so it can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Not the kind of failure you want to run into.

4. Porsche Cayman PDK Transmission Problems

Porsche PDK is a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with rev-matching, and launch control. Anyone familiar with the DCT design understands they’re incredibly fast and smooth transmissions. Ultimately, the Porsche Cayman PDK transmission is a great pick that offers a lot of benefits.

However, the PDK has seen a number of problems of the years. These problems can affect any Cayman with the PDK automatic transmission. They’re most common in earlier versions of the PDK so the newest 718 Cayman’s don’t run into it often.

Fluid leaks and insufficient fluid levels are two of the main things that cause PDK issues. Other problems do happen but fluid is really the biggest one. Ensure you stay on top of transmission fluid changes and the PDK is generally a pretty reliable option.

5. Cayman Turbo Issues

Turbo issues are specific to the Porsche 718 Cayman. The 987 and 981 Cayman only featured naturally aspirated flat-6 engines. However, the 718 Cayman offers both the 2.0L and 2.5L flat-4 turbo engines. Turbos are great for many reasons – notably squeezing more power out of smaller engines.

Unfortunately, turbo engines also add a lot of extra components which means more room for failure. 718 Cayman owners have seen a number of turbo failures or other turbo related issues. Modern turbo engines are much more reliable than turbo engines of the past. So, the turbo nature of the 718 Cayman isn’t a big concern upfront.

It’s something to keep in mind, especially if you are newer to turbo engines. Turbo engines can be more demanding on maintenance and also add extra parts prone to potential flaws.

987, 981, & 718 Cayman Reliability

Is the Porsche Cayman reliable? Yes, in general the Cayman offers good reliability. Porsche actually has a pretty good reliability reputation- unlike other German manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a Porsche is still a high-end performance car.

While the Cayman is reliable it can be a more expensive car to own and maintain compared to your standard A to B car. That’s simply part of the nature of owning a true drivers car like the Porsche Cayman.

As with any car, maintenance is one of the keys to a long, reliable life for the Cayman. Change fluids on time, use quality oils, keep up on other standard maintenance, and fix problems in a timely manner if they occur. Do all this and the Cayman can deliver good overall reliability.

Porsche Cayman Years to Avoid

Are there any Porsche Cayman years to avoid? No, we don’t believe there are any Cayman years to completely avoid. The 987, 981, and 718 Cayman are all subject to their own unique problems. None of them are necessarily major problems that are also truly common.

Some may be scared away from the 987 Cayman due to cylinder scoring and IMS issues on the M97 engine. Again, those problems are truly common and only affect a very small percent of Cayman’s. Otherwise, the 987 and 981 Cayman with the early PDK transmission may run into some issues.

Newer PDK’s are an improvement but aren’t totally exempt from problems. However, the newer 718 Cayman does have some reliability concerns of its own due to the turbocharged nature.

Point is – each year and generation of the Cayman has its own set of issues you may run into. In general, older Cayman’s will need a bit more TLC due to age and mileage. Otherwise, there isn’t really a specific year that is always worse than other years. Look for a clean example with a good maintenance history and the Cayman is an excellent car.

Is the Porsche Cayman Worth It?

Whether or not the Porsche Cayman is worth it depends on many individual factors. If you’re looking for more options, features, and luxury then the Porsche 911 may be the better buy (or another model whether it be Porsche or not). However, if you’re looking for a Porsche that delivers great value then look no further than the Cayman.

Let’s assume performance, handling, and overall driving experience are the end goal. In this case, we believe the Cayman can offer a much better value than the Porsche 911. Remember, the Cayman GT4’s MSRP isn’t much more than a base 911. Between the two it’s safe to say the GT4 is the sportier, more exciting car.

Also, when looking at used Cayman’s they’re generally much more affordable than similar year 911’s. Point is – from a value perspective the Cayman certainly offers a lot. It might be an entry-level Porsche but there’s a reason Porsche has a great reputation for building awesome drivers cars. Even their lower-end models like the Cayman live up to the Porsche name, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value.

Porsche Cayman Buyer’s Guide Summary

The Porsche Cayman began in model year 2006 as a coupe version of the Boxster. It’s an entry-level, mid-engine sports car from Porsche that delivers in many ways. If you’re looking to get into a Porsche then the Cayman may be a great buy.

Cayman’s are currently on their third and current generation – the 718 Cayman. Prior to that there was the 987 Cayman from 2006 to 2012 and the 981 from 2014 to 2016. With each new generation, Porsche continued adding more and more variants of the Cayman. As of now, there are even some models that best the 911 in many ways.

Not only is the Cayman an excellent drivers car, but it also delivers good overall reliability. No car or engine is perfect, though. Each model and year of the Porsche Cayman is subject to its share of issues. None are necessarily better or worse, so there aren’t any specific years of the Cayman to avoid.

Ultimately, we believe the Porsche Cayman is a compelling option that’s a great value. Looking at newer models, a 718 Cayman GT4 shares a similar MSRP to a base 911 Carrera. Dollar for dollar we believe the Cayman is the better buy. That’s just one example but it applies across much of the lineup.

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