“P-Wagen” – another car with a name. I know, the specialists will argue that the pre-war P-Wagen was a Porsche-designed Audi, not a Porsche. But for whatever reason, our Porsche is “P-Wagen”.
It started with a well laid plan and almost ended in a disaster. After 6 years driving a RAV4, my wife had expressed the desire to get “a nice car” for her birthday. Based on her requirements, I had pre-selected a BMW Z4 and a Porsche Cayman for a test drive at one of the Carmax stores of the Atlanta area. She drove the Z4, did not like it (it was a car for retirees, not active women, she said). She drove the Cayman, and fell in love with it. It’s been 7 years now, and the love is still going strong.
The good thing with Carmax is that they know very little about Porsches. They had not checked the VIN against the Porsche database, and did not know it was still under CPO warranty for 2 years. And they did not know how to sell it – the car was sitting on the lot with no taker. So we got a very nice car, under Porsche warranty, for a pretty good price. The bad thing is that some of their associates are Male Chauvinist Pigs. I had explained the whole birthday thing to the sales person, but he still registered the car under my name and not hers, probably because I was “the Man” and she was just a woman. It made my wife furious, to the point she wanted to return the car and refused to drive it for a while.
“P-Wagen” is not the “holy grail” of the 1st generation Caymans (that would be the Cayman R of 2011 in my opinion) but it’s very close. It has the “good” six cylinder, the naturally aspirated 91A engine (the one without the intermediate shaft trouble or the bore scoring issues) and the absolutely great PDK gearbox (not the conventional Tiptronic). Being a 2.9 liter, it still uses a conventional indirect fuel injection, not the DFI that created some trouble for the owners of 2009-2010 Carreras and Cayman S. And so far, at 95,000 miles, it has been absolutely flawless.
There is plenty to love with this Cayman – it’s a car obviously built for people who love to drive, and want to be informed by the car of what’s going on. In town, it drives like a small car, but on your way to the countryside, you press the loud pedal a bit, and the six cylinder shrieks from the top of its lungs up to 7300 rpms. Drive it in the canyons (that would be the Tail of the Dragon for us) and it’s precise, efficient, and fast. And did I already say that the PDK gearbox is magic? A week-end at the beach with your significant other? There is plenty of room for both of you and your luggage – the car is a comfortable long distance cruiser.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the Porsche dealers and the Porsche Club – passionate about the product, and without an ounce of snobbery.
What’s not to like? The cost of the maintenance. Fortunately, the base Cayman being a “small” Porsche shares a lot of components with “small” Audi and Mercedes sedans, and it’s not as expensive to maintain as a 911 Turbo, but it still needs to be maintained by specialists if you want to avoid catastrophically expensive failures at some point in the future – a thorough preventative maintenance is key to long term happiness.
We have no plan to replace “P-Wagen”. We love it, it runs like a charm, and I don’t like the 4 cylinder turbo engines of the new 718 Caymans – they sound like flatulent Subarus. A 4.0 liter, six cylinder naturally aspirated engine is only available on the GTS and the GT4 models, at a price well into Carrera territory and beyond our reach, even on the used car market.