9ff Cayman

Cayman tuning endows small Porsche with 911 performance, encouraging heavy right-footed behaviour

Evo rating
Price
from £79,000
  • Cayman goes hardcore
  • Too hardcore for some

Once viewed as Philistines for crimes against perfectly good sports cars, these days tuning companies (or at least the best ones) represent a credible alternative to the mainstream. Some of them have even been embraced by the establishment - AMG is now an official affiliate of Mercedes-Benz, Brabus has official connections too, and Alpina enjoys a close relationship with BMW.

Still unconvinced? Well, consider that in an independent test by a German magazine, a 4.1-litre 414bhp version of the 9ff-converted Porsche Cayman that you see pictured here was a second quicker around VW's test track than the recently launched 997 GT3.

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Unfortunately that same magazine, according to the diagnostics system, spent a good part of the day over-revving the engine. Unsurprisingly, it went bang. So rather than the 4.1-litre (modified from a 3.8-litre 997 unit), today we're driving 9ff's 'maximum performance' conversion on the 3.4-litre Cayman S lump, hastily dropped into the CR-42 demo car while a new 4.1 is being built.

Even this 'lesser' engine develops 345bhp - up from 291bhp, with torque rising from 251 to 262lb ft - thanks to a raft of modifications that include bigger valves, ported heads, lightweight pistons, new camshafts and replacement inlet and exhaust manifolds. The result is an engine that encourages a near-permanent right foot/carpet connection. Soar past the 4500-5500rpm sector of the rev counter (where there's a skull-cracking boom that you really wouldn't want to subject your eardrums to for too long) and the engine note is crisp, precise, mechanical, insistent.

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There's savage acceleration to accompany the music, delivered with the sort of zealous throttle response that you only get from a hyperactive normally aspirated engine. Subjectively it feels on the pace with, or even slightly in front of, a 911 Carrera S, but we'd need a stopwatch to be sure.

The 9ff Cayman is predictably lower and stiffer than standard, yet it still rides reasonably well. However, because the chassis has been set-up with a heavy track-use bias, bumpy roads have it weaving hither and thither when you accelerate hard. There's a limited-slip differential, too, just to keep you on your toes.

The brakes - GT3 discs grabbed by 996 Turbo callipers - would benefit from more initial bite as a confidence-booster at moderate speeds, but when you're gunning the 9ff they're powerful and fade-free. And it's when you're using the car like this, to extremes, that the benefits of the Cayman's mid-engined layout take on a fresh clarity. Compared with a 911, the smaller Porsche's back end is less of a rogue element, the chassis having a more natural balance when you're into a corner.

The 9ff conversion on the Cayman is blemished in a number of ways, and that mid-range cacophony could easily dissuade you from using it every day. On the other hand, the engine's manic top-end energy invigorates the chassis in a way that Porsche's standard powerplants can't quite manage, and the race rawness of the entire package seems to suit the car extremely well.

Yes, it's a Cayman for 911 money, but then there is some virtue in the fact that it's different to a 911, smaller than a 911 and more focused than a 911. Can't wait for 9ff to fix the 4.1.

Specifications

EngineFlat-six, 3386cc, 24v
Max power345bhp @ 7400rpm
Max torque262lb ft @ 6670rpm
0-604.7sec (claimed)
Top speed177mph (claimed)
On saleNow (www.9ff.de)
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