In search of the perfect road in Mallorca
One Balearic island, one new and lightweight Porsche Cayman R, one very short night. Ask yourself: what would you do? (James Lipman)
Mallorca has blown a very big fuse. This is my first thought upon spearing out of yet another pretty-but-identikit rural village, because as soon as we leave the immediate environs, the night sky wraps around the Cayman like a black velvet shroud, turning the ice-white Porsche into a faintly glowing, unquiet ghost. Being let loose in the new Cayman R, the lightened and tightened version of one of the most useful sports cars in existence, up a Mallorcan mountain road at night sounds quite cool, but believe me, at this point there’s a horrible, gut-boiling sense of frustration running through me like a dirty infection. And it has nothing to do with dodgy tapas.
The fact is that there are precisely no streetlights to give even the vaguest hint as to which way the road goes. Not one. Any ambient starlight or moonglow is diffused by heavy cloud, and the road is simply too twisty to get any solid idea of direction. The wraithlike little Porsche is fitted with the excellent optional xenons, but it’s still impossible to drive even vaguely quickly without risking inconvenient death. Worse, the roads are actually pretty good. But you can sense the doomy drops off the inky edges, and the corners have a nasty habit of tightening at the last moment. Like trying to run across a large room in pitch darkness, you can sense the space even if you can’t see it, and you belt along cringing, awaiting the moment when you meet the scenery with your face. It’s all about confidence, and I appear to have left mine at the hotel.
I can’t believe this. Gifted a hardcore Porsche and a mountain range, and I can’t even find a decent bloody road to drive it on.
Grinding the point home is the overwhelming sense of potential in this newest Cayman. Ghosting through these orange-lit Mallorcan villages, the R potters with sublime ease, riding better than a standard Cayman S, despite being lowered a not-insignificant 20mm, failing to graunch over speed bumps, sucking lumps into the dampers like a tiny, perfect magic trick. On light throttle openings, the 330bhp 3.4 sounds, frankly, like it has a blowing exhaust, the familiar flat-six hoarseness akin to a dog coughing up an angora sweater, but on brief revels to three-quarters of the rev-range, the wail starts to build. Just as I have to slow for the next village. Frustration becomes a familiar – and infinitely bitter – taste in the back of my throat.
Eventually we stop to take pictures in a sleepy village and immediately cause a bit of a stir. It could be the sight of two men assembling a photographic rig that looks like some sort of siege engine in the middle of the street at 1am, or it could be the Cayman. A mallowy wobble of craggy old lady shuffles over to poke us with her walking stick, so I smile and point at the Porsche, miming picture-taking in some sort of bizarre late-night version of Give us a Clue, becoming increasingly camp during the whole wordless exchange. Apparently satisfied, the leathery old matriarch taps the side of her head, points at my face and undulates away. She likes the Cayman. She likes the fixed rear spoiler. She likes the massaged bodywork, the mascara’d black of the headlight-surrounds. She likes the Seventies graphics down the side, and she loves the lightweight black wheels. She even likes the interior, trimmed as it is in blood-leather and white plastic like some sort of futuristic abattoir. Probably.
What she doesn’t know is that if it were down to pure rationale, there would appear to be very little point in the R. Compared to a standard Cayman S, it’s a bit lower, a tiny bit faster, a smidge more powerful by 10bhp – though torque remains the same – has more downforce (15 per cent at the front, and 40 per cent at the rear) and a tad less weight. I’ll admit that 55kg of weight reduction is significant in a car of this size, bringing down the total to 1,295kg, but probably not a deal-breaker.