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The first Porsche model that instinctually comes to mind is the 911 and that’s because it’s long been associated with racing and is one of the most fulfilling performance cars to drive. Purists often regard other vehicles in the Porsche line-up as pariahs because they’re not as track-honed and don’t offer the same sense of telepathy you get from piloting a 911 model. This, however, doesn’t mean the other derivatives aren’t any fun to drive – take the Cayman for example. It’s essentially a coupé version of the second-generation Boxster and, although it’s often criticised for its lack of oomph, the refined handling makes it one of the best driver’s cars on the market. Producing 195kW from a 2.9-litre flat-six engine, the Cayman never really caught the attention of enthusiasts so to spice things up the Cayman S was launched. This elevated driver involvement to another level with a functional, driver-focused package and uprated 3.4-litre engine. However, it’s the Cayman R that’s garnered most interest from Porsche disciples – perhaps it’s that R badge. You see, the R moniker is reserved for models that not only encompass the brand ethos, but also deliver a race-peppered driving experience. The main aim of the Cayman R developers was to improve the overall performance by reducing weight. So out went  all superfluous items and in came  lighter parts such as 19-inch Boxster Spyder wheels, carbon-fibre racing seats, aluminium doors from the 911 Turbo, door straps and a lighter fuel tank. Together these slimline parts shave 55kg off its kerb weight. Not much, I know, but every kilogram counts.

Porsche has also fiddled with the suspension geometry, lowering it by 20mm, with shorter and stiffer springs culminating in a lower centre of gravity. There’s no body roll, either, especially when shimmying from side to side – instead, the car listens to your every input and behaves impeccably when changing direction. The handling does come at a compromise though: the lowered suspension lends itself to a hard ride quality but it’s tolerable and sucks up most imperfections the road throws at it. It’s only when you hit undulating surfaces that your internal organs start to take abuse. That said, the steering is sharp and responsive. In fact, the feedback from the steering wheel is so accurate that it feels as if you’re gliding your finger tips over the surface of the road. The cabin offers a sporty yet ergonomic interior that’s garnished with body-hugging bucket seats and a clearly positioned instrumentation cluster. In standard trim, the car comes without amenities such as a sound system and an air-conditioner but can be ordered as optional extras. Porsche has created a minimalist interior that takes driving back to its purist form – even the door handles have been replaced by door straps. Apart from the vintage Porsche vinyl lettering running along the bottom of each door, the Cayman R comes standard with an Aerokit package consisting of a black rear spoiler, smoked headlights and taillights and matching side mirrors. Porsche’s engineers have managed to squeeze 8kW from the flat-six mid-mounted 3.4-litre engine by installing the ECU with revised software and fitting a custom-made, less restrictive exhaust system. Power is rated at 243kW and 370Nm, which sounds fairly impressive on paper but out on the road it could do with a little more torque. There’s also a mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD). Forming part of the rear axle arrangement the LSD keeps grip levels in check and delivers maximum spread of power to the road.

Acceleration is from nought to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds but you’re going to have to order it with a seven-speed double-clutch PDK transmission and Sports Chrono Plus Pack to achieve this. This allows the driver to tailor how the car’s drivetrain behaves by selecting either  Sport or Sport Plus. Both settings change the throttle sensitivity/shift times and are more intuitive than the regular mode delivering super-fast spine-jolting shifts. While its nought-to-100km/h time may not be as quick as its stablemates, the throaty tone from the sports exhaust makes up for it. If you’re after a spicier soundtrack you can always push the exhaust button. Once activated, bypass valves in the exhaust open to transform the hard-edged exhaust note into a rich baritone – a sound that never gets old. The off-beat boxer crescendo encourages you to drive it at the limit and as the revs climb into the upper echelons of the power band the seamless gear swopping of the PDK transmission sees to it that you don’t lose any momentum going forward. The top speed is impressive, too. If you manage to find a deserted road you can reach 282km/h, which is on par with the 911 Carrera and Targa 4.The brake set-up is also very effective. Comprising four-pot calipers all round with discs measuring 318mm at the front and 299mm at the rear the Cayman R can scrub off speed without any fuss. According to Porsche, the Cayman R will return pretty reasonable fuel-sipping figures of 9.4l/100km. I managed to return a dismal 300km per tank, granted I did drive it hard – I’m sure with a disciplined right foot a figure like 10l/100km is more realistic. What about the competition? Strangely, many consider the BMW 1M Coupé and the Audi RS3 as worthy adversaries. Both cost around R300 000 less than the Cayman and deliver similar performance figures but aren’t anywhere near as engaging to drive – well, the 1M Coupé does come close. The Cayman R is all about the relationship between car and driver and the unrelenting performance and driving experience that comes standard – no fancy gadgets here. Unlike the RS3 and 1M Coupé, the Cayman R doesn’t need a turbocharger or two to compensate for a dearth of cubic centimetres. Instead, everything about it feels natural and instinctual, and that’s the feeling you get when you drive it. A feeling its rivals can’t emulate.

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 3.4-litre six-cylinder boxer

Power: 243kW and 370Nm

0-100km/h: 4.7 seconds (PDK)

Top speed: 283km/h

Price: R839 000

Porsche Cayman R road-test video:

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Silver Surfer: The Panamera Turbo provides mind-blowing acceleration and leech-like handling

I’ll admit upfront I didn’t like the car when pictures first surfaced in 2009,
but it slowly drew me in and urged me towards its demeanour. At first glance the Panamera appears rather peculiar. Not in the derogative sense of the word: peculiar in that it appears like nothing we’ve come to expect from Porsche.

The Porsches of old offered an ethos of fast, hard driving; comfort was never part of the package. Our perception of Porsche is that of a flashy sports car fitted with a boxer mill that can travel at the speed of light. Well, nothing has changed, really. It’s just much more comfortable to go fast in. You don’t feel as if your spine is going to snap at every change of gear or that your coccyx will be pummelled because of the stiffened suspension. It’s actually a really enjoyable drive.The new Panamera has been given a distinctly different treatment by the men from Stuttgart in the form of a restrained, mature semblance.

Its bulbous-like rear end - although not to the liking of most - categorises the Porsche's dynamic shape

What we get is a coupé-like saloon that for the first time can stand on its own as a truly different model. It combines a prominent, contoured design with avant-garde styling cues that retain Porsche’s typical shoulder line. It exudes small whispers of the 911 and Cayman within its DNA, but nothing too apparent. Last month I waxed lyrical about how fantastic the Audi R8 V10 was, and that it was the best and fastest car I’d ever driven. I was almost certain that it would be a long time before I’d experience a car of the R8’s calibre, but the Panamera totally took me by suprise. I wasn’t expecting such a refined, well-rounded car. It’s a very difficult car to fault. My only reservation was the lack of engine noise in the cabin space. Some might say that’s a good thing, but I prefer being able to hear that I’m doing 250km/h.

Winged Avenger: The Transformer-like wing comes forth when the car is travelling at speeds over 90km/h

I tested all three of the Panamera models on offer: the S, the 4S and
the Turbo, with the latter being my personal favourite. All three are fitted with front-engined 4.8-litre V8s except for the flagship that comes equipped with two turbo chargers. The naturally aspirated S and 4S are by no means slouches. Both engines produce 294kW and 500Nm of torque. They accelerate to 100km/h in 5.6 and 5.0 seconds respectively and keep up surprisingly well with the turbo version. It’s only once they reach speeds of 160km/h and beyond that they start running out of puff and the Panamera Turbo opens up lengths on it.
All Panamera models use the Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe or PDK gearbox. The seven-speed double-clutch gearbox provides smooth, effortless changes that instantly provide maximum power transfer through every cog.
The highlight of the range is without doubt the Panamera Turbo. It is a frighteningly quick car that should be respected and treated with the utmost caution. It produces a staggering 368kW and 700Nm (770Nm in overboost), which puts it in the same company as the Audi R8 V10 and Nissan GT-R.

Smooth Operator: The longer wheel base, lowered centre of gravity and length supply near perfect handling

The acceleration is impossible to describe and the handling is unprecedented. Entering corners at speeds in excess of 180km/h is no challenge for its adaptive air suspension. Flicking the sport-plus button (lowering the ride height by 25mm) did provide some added stability but once or twice I got the tyres to chirp in the corners which I’m sure was just the Panamera letting me know that she was in control. After a bit of capricious driving through the meandering bends of Helshoogte Pass, the welcome straights of the N2 provided me with the much-needed space to test its acceleration. Whether accelerating from standstill or from rolling, the car unrelentingly surges forward in an all-out assault on the speed limit. The claimed 0-100/h figure of the turbo version is set at under four seconds and the top speed at 303km/h. I managed to get the car pretty close to the magical 300 and was duly surprised at the manner in which the car composed itself at top end. The longer wheel base, lowered centre of gravity and sheer length of the Panamera is obviously to thank for this.
The interior is in a class of its own.
It’s like nothing we have ever seen from Porsche before. The seats are a little
hard but are comfortable enough not to break any bones – they embrace the body and hold it firmly in place. The large, cavernous cabin space is cloaked in
the finest leather and alcantara combinations, reflecting opulence that will rightfully challenge the Maserati Quattroporte and Aston Martin Rapide.
Overall, Porsche has done a sterling job in providing its followers with a car that not only breaks the boundaries of contemporary car design but challenges your understanding of it, too. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the Panamera
is a sports car, but it does give you that feeling: it provides super-car performance and limousine lavishness all packed neatly into a finely crafted package.
The Panamera is the quintessential four-door grand tourer developed to offer an extremely relaxed driving experience that you can either enjoy leisurely or
with your face wrapped around the back of your neck. It’s your choice.

PRICE – R1 665 000
ENGINE – 4.8-litre V8 twin turbo
POWER – 368kW/700Nm
0-100km/h – 3.9 seconds
TOP SPEED – 303km/h

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