Porsche Cayman car
Now then, here's a tough one for the M135i. The Porsche Cayman really does seem to have it all like the sporty and intelligent kid at school with the gorgeous girlfriend. It's fast (enough), stylish,
wonderful to drive, efficient, practical (for a two-seat car) and even quite good value if you go easy on the options.
In a role reversal from the GT86 comparison, this time it's the Porsche's higher price tag that will have to be justified. Can the mid-engined dynamics, finely-honed powertrain and styling of the Cayman overcome the M135i's numerous talents?
At the wheel
The M135i feels like an X6 after the Porsche. You sit low and snug in the Cayman, cocooned in a real mini-supercar driving environment. The steering wheel is also a revelation; after the chubby thing that greets you in the BMW, to hold a plain and unadorned wheel of normal thickness is great.
The interior's design is a vast step-up from the first Cayman, the rising centre console emphasising the driver-centric layout. But be warned; go light on the options and a plethora of blank switches will greet you, a la Citroen Saxo.
The sensation of piloting a junior supercar is heightened when the Cayman is started; there's a flat-six gargle emanating from behind you and a Carrera GT-style gearstick just a few centimetres from the wheel.
But for a real feelgood factor, wait until a perfect heel'n'toe downshift is executed. The pedal weights are spot-on, the gearshift is quick, the noise is magnificent even with the standard exhaust and you'll be longing for more opportunities to slow down. The BMW is hardly disappointing as noise goes, but the Cayman has it licked here.
Aside from the prestige, the Cayman is similar to the GT86 in that it isn't defined by its numbers. For those after cheap muscle, the 370Z is over £10K less.The Cayman does boast some decent stats though, albeit fractionally behind the parsimonious BMW. We averaged 35mpg on a motorway drive, partly due to some lengthy gear ratios (the motorway speed limit is achievable in second!). Though this does dent acceleration, it does give you more time to enjoy the noise...
Finally, shallow observation though it is, a Porsche key is a more desirable one to hold than a BMW one, isn't it?
Meanwhile, in the real world...
Drive a gear lower than normally (or probably two compared with the BMW) and the Cayman is mesmerising.
Yes, the steering wants for some feedback, but the turn-in is stunning and the responses are a world away from the BMW. Both can do the everyday grind well, but it'll be the Porsche that has you out at 5am on a Bank Holiday (well, who wouldn't?) to just drive somewhere. It's an absorbing car that doesn't require any compromise.
Do they compare on price?
With some significant spec differences, yes. Or precisely, by choosing a dealer demonstrator-spec BMW and a pauper-spec Porsche. Then they start becoming equally priced. Sort of.
Do they REALLY compare on price?
With realistic specifications, no. Our test Cayman was without PDK, adaptive dampers or a sports exhaust yet still cost £45K, compared to the £37,000 of the M135i. It's a near-£40K car as standard, and is therefore always going to struggle for parity. We wouldn't want for many options on the Porsche (a manual on 18s with the standard exhaust is just fine, though Bluetooth would be handy) though whether we could leave an OPC with just that is another question... Still that's over £6,000 more than our ideally-specced BMW and we wouldn't fancy selling it again!
Purely from a driving perspective, the Porsche engages to a level the BMW can't with minimal real-world compromise. But then day-in, day-out is where the BMW excels; that torque advantage can't be ignored, stuff can be chucked on the back seat and it can be discreet when a Cayman never can.
But then you'll hop back into the Cayman and none of that will matter. It makes the driver work a bit harder but for greater rewards. The price difference shouldn't be ignored, but the Cayman is a car worth waiting (and saving) for. For those who can make do without the rear seats, the Cayman has to be the victor here