I Finally Drove A Porsche

Have you ever seen a movie that your friends had over-hyped to such degree that there was no way it could possibly match your expectations? Well, that’s a bit how I feel. At 54 years old, I finally got to drive a Porsche for the first time* last night. The car in question was a 2007 Cayman S with the 5-speed auto transaxle. My impression? I hate to say this, but mostly, Meh. Don’t get me wrong, 295 horsepower in a sub-3,000 lb. car is plenty fast enough to entertain me, and the brakes and handling are super sharp without being harsh or uncontrollable. Those traits I liked. But frankly, I think much of what makes “the Porsche experience” unique is lost on me.

  • Wow, this is snug. It’s more akin to putting on a wetsuit than getting into a car. I understand that a seat that grabs you and holds you in one spot is crucial during high-G cornering, but at 6 ft. and 160 lbs, I have rarely felt as closed-in and strapped-down as I did in this one. Add to that a low windshield and a door that’s right at your shoulder, and it feels downright coffin-like. To be fair, I was driving somebody else’s car for and didn’t adjust anything to fit me, but without having King of Mulholland aspirations, it seemed annoyingly needless.
  • I feel so low. Not only is the view around the many SUVs, bro-trucks, and tractor-trailers that clog Kansas City’s highways less than complete, but at our destination the owner instructed me to go around the back entrance because the chassis would drag if I took the the slightly crowned main driveway off the street. Really?
  • I sometimes speed, but I don’t SPEED. The owner told me repeatedly that the only way I would “get” the Cayman would be to push it well past the ton, deep into triple-digit speeds. On commuter highways threading through the center of an urban area? No thank you. He kept assuring me that his Escort radar detector would protect me, but when I think of weaving through traffic at a closing speed twice that of other cars, a traffic citation seemed the least undesirable possible consequence. Maybe if I’d been rowing a manual gearbox, I might have tasted a bit more red mist to goad me, but as it was I was content to not drive like an ass.

Overall, I enjoyed the ride, I really did. The Cayman S is a very interesting car, even with the automatic. But after hearing others wax lyrical about the transcendent nature of Porsches, finally getting behind the wheel didn’t leave me clamoring for a Cayman of my own, which was very much what I was expecting, and why it left me feeling a bit let down. Perhaps if I’d been on twisting, deserted backroads. Perhaps if I’d futzed with the seat and gotten the ergonomics to suit me better. Perhaps if I’d had more than 20 minutes to bond with the car. Perhaps if it hadn’t been equipped with a slushbox. Perhaps, perhaps — but as it was, I haven’t quite swallowed Porsche’s red pill.

*Okay, this is not technically correct. Around 25 years ago, I once used my bosses’ 1980 911 to go pick up lunch for my co-workers at White Castle. But the total round trip was probably less than a half mile, on a jam-packed urban arterial road during rush hour. I barely got into second gear, so that that doesn’t really count.

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18 responses to “I Finally Drove A Porsche”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    Well, you’re one up on me. Actually two, since I think your earlier drive should count.
    A month ago I drove Spank’s Mini (shown below, not me driving) from the awards ceremony back to the pits after it took Class C at Inde Motorsports Ranch, so now I can no longer boast of being a member of the Seattle Area Mini Owners Association without ever having been in one. Your points about snugness, height, and speed were also somewhat applicable here.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      I’ve driven a couple of Minis including a 1440cc one, but my memorable experiences were as a passenger. A mad mate at high school had one, a quote from another passenger after a lunchtime ride “we nearly slid into a house!”. Then going looking with another mate for a non-reshelled Cooper S.

  2. vega60 Avatar

    So you didn’t feel excited by the Porsche because the seat is too snug and you feel like you’re sitting too low.
    I’m really looking forward to your next review, in which you will tell us how a Ducati 996 left you underwhelmed because you got wet in the rain and it doesn’t even have cup holders.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      No, but I could very easily say that riding a Ducati 996 for 20 minutes in congested urban traffic wasn’t as rewarding as I expected, because it highlighted how uncomfortable and impractical it was without adequately demonstrating why people think it’s wonderful.
      Which is pretty much exactly what I said about this.

  3. njhoon Avatar

    I would suggest trying a 911, alone for an hour or an afternoon. While I am not a Porsche fanboy, after doing that myself I certainly get it. I drove an 84? 911 SC for an afternoon, it was loads of fun.
    At 6’1, 240 my take away from they cayman is that I wouldn’t fit…

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      I would suggest there is a world of difference between a 1980s 911 and the more recent models; as Pete noted at “normal” road speeds they are just not involved. To get the car really on its toes you need a racetrack as there aren’t many places where you can drive fast enough with enough vision to be safe, ie lack of blind corners, leaving alone speed limits.
      The Toyobaru 86 or MX5 are more realistic alternatives, but don’t have the power to thrill. One of the issues the local special vehicle arms (HSV, FPV) had to deal with was making their cars entertaining to drive within the speed limit.

    2. vega60 Avatar

      6’1 is not a problem. I’m 6’3 with a freakishly long torso and there are no headroom or legroom issues.

  4. rumblestrip Avatar

    autotragic = lack of emojins
    Brad Brownell

  5. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    I envy you, no shit.
    I do not fit even the pax seat area.
    this is one of life’s pleasures i am denied.
    salt my wound some more, you scoundrel.
    i am limited to rides such as bentley contintental turbo s and such ilk.
    it makes me sad that i shall never, ever enjoy the pure automotive pleasure represented by Porsche’s fine mechanical creations.
    i think i shall need another drink before retiring…..

  6. casho2015 Avatar

    Take it on a winding road and laugh at the suggested corner speeds and then you might get it

  7. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I’ve never driven a Cayman, but I suspect I’d want it to feel like a 914/6.
    And it won’t.

  8. nanoop Avatar

    I’ve driven my first real Porsches (Cheyenne and 997.2 S4) only a few months ago, and both were “disappointing” on a very, very high level:
    * The Big C was a hybrid with 400+ HP. A huge, heavy car, and I was surprised that the luxury of the inside didn’t feel appropriate: who glued all these brushed aluminum bits into this truck? Overview worse than a VW bus (and you’d be worried to scrape leather when actually loading stuff into it), and I personally felt put off by ~100 buttons throughout the car.
    400HP in a 2-ton car are certainly fun, and the suspension was much better than anything a bus might offer (I’ve driven it only on snow). The power made it easy to put adrift on a designated snow track, and the weight made it go that very first direction… but eventually, I managed to end up with a little bit of opposite steer every now and then – fun, but I won’t buy one since I don’t get the point of high performance SUVs aside from snow drifting exercises.
    * The 911 had about the same amount of power like the Big C, but a whole ton less baggage, so the sprints and turns felt much more like a sports car. You could compose songs with your right foot, I even forgot how many gears there were, but at ~40mph you could use four or five different gears just by lifting/droping your foot.
    Trailing behind a semi works perfectly fine, a comfy car indeed. Overtaking a semi works perfectly well, too: once at the head of the semi I was fast enough to “borrow my license to the man in blue”, Once I was back on my lane, I was fast enough that the man in blue would invite me to join him. Pro-tip: before breaking hard, warn the nanny-man in the rear when he’s leaning over to talk to the passenger….
    I’m a mediocre driver at best. I know where the limits of our DD are, I start touching the limits of the 944 on winter tires reluctantly – I don’t see myself taking a modern 911 to the limit on public roads any time soon: it surely is quicker around a corner than I can see/react, and on public but blind corners, being a coward is exactly what you need to be, says the family in the 60hp vanagon dawdling behind the corner.
    I was impressed by its perfection and ingenuity, but the car was able to do so much more than I can handle and want to handle in traffic.
    Now if there was a car that continued the philosophy of the 912 (997 or Cayman based?), with around 200-250hp in an NA engine, with less creature features (no powered windows, seats, mirrors, minimal stereo/no nav) I’d be intrigued.

    1. rumblestrip Avatar

      Cheyenne is a city in Wyoming and also a stripper at….oh wait, wrong story. They CAYENNE is the Porsche SUV.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        I apologize to the people which I repeatedly and falsely associated with peppers, I thought this was a joke rather on P company, not on them.

        1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

          I thought you were deliberately referring to the trim level used on ’71-’98 Chevy C/K pickups, as a way of alluding to the Cayenne’s girth and lack of grace.

          1. nanoop Avatar

            Isn’t it ironic that the car, assembled in East Germany, is called after a character in “Once Upon a Time in the West“?

  9. Zentropy Avatar

    I can’t imagine getting excited about any car with an automatic, even if it’s a Porsche. I haven’t driven a Cayman (though I look forward to the opportunity), but if I do it will be with three pedals and a stick, and I’ll hit the curves, not the highway.

  10. JBsC6 Avatar

    The turn in on the Boxster/ cayman s is what makes these cars special to drive. I recently went on a shopping spree for a sports car….test drove the jaguar f type supercharged coupe and the Boxster S with pdk and the 981 bodystyle.
    Besides the ridiculous pricing the Boxster s/ cayman s with pdk is a nice sports car…not fast by any stretch of the imagination but decently quick…all I can say is the cornering turn in was the outstanding feature of these Porsche branded vehicles…if you don’t delve into that aspect of a vehicle…you will never in my opinion appreciate the road manners of the brand…
    Later iterations to the example you drove offer exceptional build quality in the interior …depending on the options in the vehicle of course…
    Still missing the roar of a Chevy v8 and a mnaual transmission…I saw little attraction to the Boxster s/ cayman s myself. THe jaguar f type was a distant third …even with its sexy sheet metal…the dumbed down driving experience just didn’t grab me…
    Just my opinion but go test drive a corvette z51. Grand sport or z06…
    You ll understand why so many red blooded Americans love corvettes….
    Vroom vroom!