I've owned both a 987 Base Cayman and Cayman S, here are my thoughts. - Rennlist - Porsche Discussion Forums

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I've owned both a 987 Base Cayman and Cayman S, here are my thoughts.


I've owned both a 987 Base Cayman and Cayman S, here are my thoughts.

Old 02-11-2019, 03:02 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 16
Default I've owned both a 987 Base Cayman and Cayman S, here are my thoughts.

I have now been the proud owner of both a 2008 Base Cayman and now a 2006 Cayman S and thought I'd give my take on whether the upgrade to the S is “necessary” or not.

2008 Base Cayman - 83k Miles
  • 5 speed manual
  • Standard seats
  • Sound Package Plus Speakers
  • Automatic Climate Control
  • Stock other than that. (No PASM, No Sport Chrono, etc.)
2006 Cayman S – 62k Miles
  • 6 Speed Manual
  • Sport Seats
  • Bi-Xenon Headlights
  • Bose Sound System
  • Stock other than that. (No PASM, No Sport Chrono, etc.)
First, off why I have owned both these cars? I bought the base Cayman only a couple months ago and had it cruelly ripped away when another driver caused an accident I was involved in. I hit them with my front end, airbags went off, and the front hood of the car crumpled up. Thankfully nobody was injured, but my beloved car was totaled. The insurance worked out in my favor, so I quickly started shopping and decided to get S this time.

Engine Comparison

How does the power compare when doing everyday normal street driving? I think the best way to sum it up is that the S allows you to be a bit lazier when it comes to gear changes. This is because the most noticeable difference is that the S feels like it has more torque available at lower revs. I can come around a corner, stay in 3rd and feel like I have plenty of power to accelerate coming out the other side. In comparison, the base feels quite sluggish in 3rd if you sink to around 1500 RPM. Also, if I am on the highway in 6th, I feel like there is always enough power on tap to make a lane change and pass on the right. You can still do this in top gear in a base, but it just feels better in the S.

However, if you are willing (or want to) work a bit the Base Cayman can absolutely match the performance of the S for everyday driving. Downshifting and taking a corner hard is part of the fun of these cars, so that’s not really a knock on the Base. When driving the S, I feel like I can’t safely approach the limits quite like you can on a Base while on public roads.

So if you are not a track racer, and just want a fun car the base certainly will not leave you wanting.

Exhaust Note

The S definitely takes the cake for me here. It has a deeper and louder exhaust note, but it is still not obnoxious in my opinion. You won’t wake up the neighbors, but it is very satisfying. Sometimes the 2.7L engine can sound a bit lawnmower-y. However, if you prefer a quite cabin this would be an advantage to the base.

5-Speed vs. 6-Speed

Again, this is sort of toss up and the differences are not as big as I expected. The biggest difference I feel is in 1st gear. On the 5-speed the first gear ratio is 3.50, while on the 6-speed it is 3.31. The higher ratio in the 5-speed actually gives it a slightly more aggressive feel when launching the car. I think Porsche did this to make up for the lack of low-end torque on the base. I would guess that two cars would be fairly close if you measured 0-20 times. However, it also makes it less comfortable for slow cruising like in a tight parking lot. I found myself doing a lot of easing onto the clutch then coasting in neutral around my parking deck because the 1st gear was too jittery on my 5-speed car. However, on the 6-speed the lower ratio makes it a little more comfortable to leave in gear in these scenarios.

You would think there would be quite a big difference on the highway between the top gears, but 5th in the 5 speed has a 0.84 ratio and 6th has a 0.82. So, when you have the cruise control set to say 80mph, you will be riding at 3100 rpm in the 5 speed and a hair over 3000rpm in the 6. It’s not a big difference.

In between, I never had a problem finding a gear I felt comfortable in in either car. So, if you are shopping for a Base do not think the 6 speed is a mandatory upgrade, it may not even be an upgrade at all.

Differences in selected options

The following comparisons have less to do with the car being base or an S, but just what the original owner spec-ed their car to.

Sound Systems

To my knowledge there are essentially 3 levels of sound systems in 987 Caymans.
  • Base: 50 watt 4 speaker
  • Sound Package Plus: 180 watt 9 speaker
  • Bose (not sure exact specs but this is the only option with a sub-woofer)
If you like to listen to music while driving I would not consider the basic sound system. I have only done test drives with this option, but there is absolutely no bass, and the overall quality was terrible. I would consider using a Bluetooth speaker stowed in the mesh behind my head over those speakers.

Sound Package Plus is good. There is bass, but the very low end is still a little lacking. If you are a bass head you probably wouldn’t be happy, but for 95% of people this is probably perfect. I had this option on my Base Cayman and was able to swap the default head unit for a Sony XAV-AX5000 without too much difficultly. I was very happy with the infotainment experience after that.

You see a lot of hate on forums surrounding the Bose sound systems in these cars, but I personally find the sound experience the most enjoyable. Maybe it’s because I am a millennial and like bass, but this is the only sound system that is truly satisfying in that department. Some might find it a little boomy, but you can always turn down the bass a couple notches in the equalizer if you feel that way. I have however read that they are more difficult to work on and upgrade head units. I can report back after I try the swap in the next few weeks. (Side not, the CDR24 is awful and I am not even going to review it because I think a head unit swap is essential on these cars)


The Bi-Xenons are just awesome. In my Base the halogens were ok, but a lot of the time I would supplement them with the fog lights to have better visibility of what was on the road just a couple feet in front of my car. I would say the Bi-Xenons are twice as bright with low beams and 3x as bright with the high beams on. It almost feels like you are wielding mini white suns. I would recommend finding these if possible. But I think the halogens are fairly easy to upgrade if you go that route.


If you weigh more than 200lbs don’t get the sport seats. I am 6ft and under 180lbs and the sport seats are pretty snug on me. The bolstering is more supportive in corners, but I didn’t really find this a problem in the base seats. Also, the leather feels more premium on the sport seats, but the basic seats are also nice. This isn’t something you would notice unless you sat in both back to back. Overall not really a big upgrade for me, and could actually make the experience much worse if you are larger.

Climate Controls

WHY WAS AUTO CLIMATE CONTROL NOT STANDARD ON THESE CARS??? I had the automatic climate control on my first Cayman and I think I set the temp to 70 and never touched the thing again. It worked perfectly and I was always comfortable. However, on my new S model I am constantly messing about and never feel quite right. Are you too cold? Well should you turn the temp higher or the blower higher or a mixture of both? I can’t tell you, neither seem that satisfying. If I am cold I end up just turning on the seat warmers because the climate controls are that frustrating to me. (Yes, I know I am being dramatic, but you get my point) I am considering buying the auto control unit of ebay and just hoping for the best although 75% of the info I see online says the swap doesn’t work.

Other Cosmetics

Both of my cars were black on black and look nearly identical from the outside. The biggest difference is the red brake calipers on the S, which I absolutely love. Also, there is some silver trim at the very bottom of the front bumper. The Bi-Xenon headlights have chrome washers in front of them that I like. I am not sure if the headlight housings are different, but they look clearer on my S. That could just be due to better storage conditions or something, rather than an upgrade. Other than that, the only way to tell is by the S badge on the back.

The interiors are also very similar, with the biggest difference being the background color on the dials. On my later base version the background was black with white characters. This looks a lot nicer because it hides all the indicator lights when they are turned off. On my S the background is white with black characters. You can always see where the unlit lights are. And frustratingly when it is a little dark outside and you have the headlights on, the characters light up white and do not contrast well off the white background. It’s not much of an issue when it is absolutely dark or bright outside, but I prefer the look of the dark background.

Thoughts on PASM and Sport Chrono

I can’t fully comment on these options because I only experienced them on test drives, but here are my initial impressions.

Sport Chrono

What do you get other than a sort of ugly dial on the center of your dash and a button that says sport? I am sure that you would get comments on that thing every time someone steps into the car and you are going to sound pretentious when you tell them it is for measuring lap times. It would be sort of cool/classy if it doubled as a regular clock during normal driving, but I guarantee it just going to sit there still 99.99%-100% of the time. Also, does the sport button really do much in the 987.1 manual transmission cars? I get that it changes things with auto transmissions, especially on 987.2 PDK cars where it adds launch control, but in my car I’m doing all the shifting. In my opinion the car should always be in sport mode. It’s a Porsche. But let me know if I am missing something.


I think this is a very misunderstood feature. Many people assume it just makes the ride harsher for racing. However, the biggest difference is that in comfort mode the ride is a lot softer than the regular suspension. I spent most of the test drive in comfort mode and did not really like the feel of the car. There was way more roll in the corners which made me less confident. However, this might just have been because I had gotten so accustomed to the standard suspension from driving my Base around. I might think differently if I was coming straight from a regular car. I didn’t spend enough time in sport mode to truly feel a difference compared to the regular suspension, but my initial impression of it did not leave me thinking it was a must have feature. But this is one where I don’t see a downside to having it because you can drive around in sport mode most of the time and then turn on comfort on particularly bad roads or if you have grandma with a bad back in the car.

Bottom Line

Just get the nicest example that you can find within your price range. The S upgrade is not essential. I would absolutely prefer a base with lower miles, great maintenance history, and that is in overall better condition to a 100k+ mile beat up S. I think some of the other options such as sound system, seats, color you like, and headlights all can add up to being more important factors than what engine is in the car. They are both a blast to drive, and the Base looks just as sexy as the S. If you are considering a Porsche the brand and prestige are probably a factor and to 99% of people you encounter they won’t know any difference between a Base and an S.

For a much more detailed comparison of all years and models of Caymans see this site: https://caymanregister.org/faq.php?faq=models

Last edited by councillleak; 02-11-2019 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 02-11-2019, 05:03 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 53

Nice post.

I thought almost exactely the same thought when looking.

While I drove both before and my impressions were the almost the same, especially about the 6MT gearbox, I ended up with a S for mainly two reasons.

I found one in Blue and the big S on the back.
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Old 02-11-2019, 05:10 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 16

Yeah, I picked the S the second time around because it was a one owner, low miles car with excellent service history. The price was also within $500 of my insurance settlement so it really wasn't much out of pocket for the upgrade.
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Old 02-12-2019, 02:18 AM
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Location: Eastern Washington- The Inland Empire
Posts: 1,291

Very good analysis. I think you covered the differences pretty thoroughly.

Everyone has different preferences especially regarding options, and I for one would like to have PASM on my ‘06 CS.
Another large factor in the feeling of the car is wheel size. IMO, 17” wheels are good but 18” wheels are the sweet spot between responsive handling and reasonable ride quality. The 19” wheels on my CS are quite harsh on most of the streets around my home, but PASM would help make the ride more tolerable in daily driving.
Also, one little factoid about the silver colored lip spoilers on your S is that it’s a standard feature of the 2006 model year (S) only. It could be added to ‘07 and ‘08 models as an option. I’m not sure why they discontinued it, but I think it looks good.
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:23 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 23

I totally agree with the OP on all S observations, except the driver size comment in the sports seats....I'm 6'3 210lbs and have no issues whatsoever, in fact I could even add a few pounds! lol!

I have tried to find a difference with the sport setting on as well, (6 spd), however can find no discernible difference between on or off, aside from the sport notification in the gauges....
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