Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Simon Dunstan, Managing Director of Newcastle-based Plus Three architecture, takes his young son for a spin in Porsche’s brand new offering – and winds up feeling like a child himself

Let me declare a bit of a conflict before I start. I’m a real Porsche fan and up until a few years ago was the proud owner of a beautiful, space grey 911 Carrera 2. My 10-year-old son still hasn’t forgiven me for getting rid of it but as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, I did so because he has a sister, mother and now a dog and as every 911 owner will tell you, five doesn’t go into four no matter how much you want it to. So you can imagine my joy when BQ Magazine asked if I would like to test drive the brand new Porsche Cayman S – the hard-topped, mid-engined, 2-seater that is reputedly a better drivers’ car than the 911.

As an architect, I have learned to design buildings that meet the three virtues of good design: firmness, commodity and delight – which in car parlance roughly translates as how it is engineered, how it meets the needs of the driver and finally, how it makes you feel. Not surprisingly, this new model doesn’t disappoint on any front. Whilst red would never be my first colour choice, there is no doubt that it is stunning when combined with carbon grey alloy wheels and black vent reveals. There’s no doubt either that the recent revisions to the Cayman body have been a success, giving it broader shoulders, tighter lines and a more dynamic stance. It’s now much more of a younger sibling to the 911 than the slightly ‘pull-me, push-me’ look of the previous model which was modelled on the original Boxster.

Sitting behind the wheel is a reminder that Porsche have been making beautifully engineered cars for over 50 years. The ergonomics feel almost perfect and whoever designed this clearly understands the human form. The cossetting leather seat is set low and the alcantara steering wheel feels soft to touch. The central, 3-dial binnacle is clearly visible through the wheel with the analogue rev counter taking central stage – a reminder that this is first and foremost a sports car. Fit and finish is flawless as you would expect, with swathes of leather and aluminium detailing contributing to a cool and calming ambience. There are even two modest boots – one at the front and one at the back – albeit neither could accommodate a set of golf clubs.

Porsche Montage

A swift turn of the delightful car-shaped key (seriously!) raises the 3.4 litre engine from its rest. A menacing growl emanates from just behind your head before settling down to a gentle purr. Engage drive (this car is equipped with the double-clutch PDK semi-automatic gearbox) and the car pulls away gently and quietly. The ride is firm without being hard and the car is entirely at ease in city centre traffic – belying its 315bhp and highlighting just how versatile the modern sports car has become. Out on the open road the car comes alive.

Engage sports mode and the car hunkers down ready to go. Acceleration across the rev range is unremitting, and beyond 4000rpm the experience is nothing short of visceral with a soundtrack that is like a cross between a chainsaw and a jet engine. The car does not even need to get out of second gear to reach the motorway speed limit but acceleration is delivered in a controlled way and with the benefit of a host of safety options for those of a nervous disposition.

So this car delivers on the firmness and commodity criteria but what about delight – how did it make me feel? Yes, I got lots of looks (some good, some not so good – Porsche is still a ‘marmite’ brand) but this is a sports car not a status symbol. ‘Alive’, ‘excited’, ‘thrilled’ and ‘like a child’ – is how I felt and that’s no bad thing as I approach my mid-40s. And as for Angus, my son, how did he feel about the car? ‘It’s perfect for us’ he said. ‘I can sit in the front with you, Mum can go in the rear boot and Olivia (his sister) can go in the front boot.’ Maybe this is a family car after all!

The car Simon drove was Porsche Cayman S, on the road price £60,767.98 and was supplied by Porsche Centre Newcastle, Silverlink Park, Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE28 9ND. Tel 0191 295 1234