06 September 2011 | Stuttgart, Germany
That picture is in the Porsche factory in Stuttgart, me with my new Cayman R. This next adventure is touring the twisty roads of Europe in one of the best handling production cars of the world.
The Cayman is Porsche’s mid engine hardtop model. Porsche has always positioned its rear-engined 911 models as the premium sports car of their lineup, so the Cayman has somewhat less power and cost than a similar 911. However, some are saying that the mid-engine layout makes the Cayman superior in handling to the 911, and actually faster on certain courses, those being very twisty and not very high speed. All of that sounds great to me. The “R” version is the highest performance version of the Cayman, though it is only marginally better than the “S” version, I chose it largely because of the package that was created for the “R”, including the color scheme inside and out, and an overall philosophy of “less is more.” You can read about specific differences on the Porsche web site of course, but to summarize the “less is more” program, this model was performance enhanced by lightening and removing unnecessary parts; lighter, faster, simpler. Compared to the 911 Turbo convertible I had for a few months, the Cayman R is is +/- 600 pounds lighter, 2/3’s the HP, and only 0.6 seconds slower 0-60 MPH.
We made our way from Belgium to Porsche by train and taxi, lugging 9 large and small bags. We are on the front end of a potentially 9-month trip, and traveling somewhat “heavy.” About half of our luggage is actually materials for the boat, things that we were not able to ship, mostly the entire offshore medical kit with prescription medicines, and 9 months worth of vitamins and supplements, and various other items not possible or too late to ship. These items are nearly impossible to get through Chilean customs if they arrive in a box, but are allowed if they are in a person’s luggage. So, now we have to cram all this into a two-seat sports car. Good luck, the Porsche guys snicker. With baggage tucked around our shoulders and behind our legs we make the first journey in the car 100 miles north to the Frankfurt airport, our “leaving Europe” airport, and put all the extra stuff in baggage storage their. Ahh, much better.
We turn back south to somewhere tbd in the Black Forest, there are some good roads there. I am a little intimidated on the autobahn, this car is one of the very best top dogs of the autobahn, and it earns respect when we are in the left lane. However the engine is still in its break-in period and I have not driven the bahn for some years, so I take it easy, seldom over 100 mph (and seldom below). I bought the car for the twisties, not the high speed, but I do look forward to returning to Germany in several days with an engine ready for flat out romping.
We found a nice hotel in a small village in the Black Forest. I am planning this trip with the large Michelin maps, you just cannot beat a huge piece of paper for big picture planning. Then I transfer it to a GPS, or tried and tried to. Here comes another rant on Garmin: why can’t I transfer routes I have created on the computer (fast and easy) to a Nuvi GPS, like I can to most other Garmin GPS? Are Garmin’s driving customers too simple minded to perform such a task? The Nuvi is a great machine to get you from where you are to a place; but if the journey is more important than the destination, the Nuvi is not your machine, and I am going to look for a different one. However, after a frustrating and painstaking manual programming on the unit directly, I do have the preferred route ready to go, and at that point navigation is child’s play. I don’t need a frenzied co-driver pulling her hair out flipping through paper maps and trying to keep breakfast down, Zia can watch the scenery as Gretchen calmly calls out “left turn in 300 meters.”
For route planning I look for the squiggly small lines on the map, preferably with the green stripe next to it indicating “scenic.” This works pretty good, except that driving during the day, when everybody else is out too, at least 75% of the time I am slowed by other cars on the road. The best was a 9-km section called “Rote Lache” south of Karlsruhe, which was unobstructed the whole length. It is an extremely challenging road, very tight, with variable pitch, off camber turns, uneven and patched pavement, and 1-1/2 lanes wide. The Cayman was absolutely superb! Firmly glued to the pavement at all times, solid and balanced in the turns, precise braking, and smooth ramp up and strong acceleration even at the break-in-required part throttle, I could not stop grinning. This is my car, I cannot think of anything I would change to make it a more perfect car for me, it’s already there. I’ll elaborate more in a later chapter.