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Best Chassis of 2016: Porsche Cayman S

By Dylan Campbell, 21 Dec 2016 Features

Best Chassis of 2016: Porsche Cayman S

Putting the engine in the middle makes for the most sublime handling performance car of 2016

IT CAN be a tad intimidating the first time you punt a Porsche Cayman hard.

The weight's all in the middle which, unless you've done a track day or two in a Toyota MR2, could be something quite foreign. Cold-sweat visions of the car swapping ends within its wheelbase or spitting you into a ditch at a moment's notice are true of many mid-engine machines. Not the Porsche Cayman.

There are few cars quite as satisfying or as easy to punt hard up a bendy road quite like Porsche's new mid-engine sweetie. And it's funny, there's nothing overtly revolutionary about its suspension set-up. There's no active trickery, no all-wheel steering – just MacPherson struts front and rear, conventional anti-roll bars and some adaptive dampers, proving there's still plenty of merit in getting the basics right. Which Porsche has very much done with its 1355kg (manual) 718 Cayman S.

Porsche Cayman S rearIt's surprisingly tricky to explain why this car gets this gong short of installing you in the driver's seat of one on an empty racetrack and letting you have your own 'aha' moment.

Chassis and tyres live in perfect matrimony and the 718 Cayman gives plenty of notice about what it's going to do next. In turn, you feel confident. And in turn again, you have fun. This is the 718 Cayman's simple formula.

It points well, too, thanks to a sublime new steering system pinched from the 911 Turbo. Bolted in for the 718 update, the new electromechanical fixed-rate rack is 10 per cent quicker than the previous 781's making apexes even easier to lock on to.

The 718 Cayman can be driven fast and clean or dance its gorgeous rump around on the brakes – or throttle, particularly since the fitment of the torquey new turbocharged flat-fours.

Porsche Cayman S sideYou don't know the ESP is on until you've made a mistake. It's friendly enough for new performance drivers to enjoy yet at a track day has plenty of time hidden in its many layers such that more experienced hands will never get bored.

Mostly, though, it'll have you surfing Google Maps for new roads in far-flung places. It's that good. Honourable mention: Ford Focus RS. Think of this car's handling as being 'multi-dimensional'. Just want to explore the grip of those tenacious Michelin Pilot Super Sports?

Sure. What about dancing the rear around like a loon? Can do. But you ain't seen nothin' until you pick up the throttle early and aggressively out of a tight second-gear corner. Yep, it'll wag its tail. Few new performance cars offer as many different ways to be driven hard as the Focus RS – and it's possibly the only car under $100K that gets better the harder you drive it. What a thing.