Sime Darby Auto Performance, local guardian of the Porsche brand, launched the new Cayman R yesterday at the Sepang International Circuit. The hottest Cayman was first revealed to the world at the LA show in November last year. More hardcore and uncompromising than the Cayman S, the Cayman R loses weight, adds power, and takes on a different character from the S.

The 3.4-litre flat six engine from the Cayman S gains 10 horses to make 330 hp in the R, while torque remains at 370 Nm. The redline for this water-cooled, direct injection naturally aspirated powerplant is 7,500 rpm, which one will reach easily while rowing through the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox. SDAP (a yummy acronym!) says that they will forward customer orders for the six-speed manual to Germany, if they insist on self swapping.

We don’t think many would want to do so, as the PDK version is faster to 100 km/h and more fuel efficient than the manual. The century sprint is dispatched in 4.9 seconds on to a 280 km/h top speed. Combined fuel consumption is 9.3 litres per 100 km, or 10.75 km/l. Compare this to the manual’s 5.0 sec and 9.7 litres per 100 km.

The other main point is weight reduction. The Cayman R uses aluminium doors (15 kg saved) and special seats (shells made of glass and CFRP, 12 kg saved), and Porsche goes to the extent of replacing the inside door handles with fabric straps. The 19in wheels are the lightest Porsche has, and a complete set of four weighs only 40 kg.

In Europe, one can have the R without air con and radio for max weight savings, but these are essentials here, even on a car like this, so SDAP ordered them. Unladen weight is 1,295 kg. If money isn’t an issue, the RM32k optional Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) can add stopping power and shave a further 15 kg off the weight. One can also order a lithium ion battery in place of the normal lead acid battery – this saves 14 kg.

From the outside, the Cayman R can be spotted via its signature “Peridot” colour. But if it’s not in that shade of green, one can look out for the fixed rear spoiler, “PORSCHE” lettering along the doors, black framed headlights and a body that’s lower by 20 mm over the S. The latter is part of the sports chassis which also includes more rigid springs, bespoke anti roll bars, stiffer dampers, wider tracks (+4 mm front, +2 mm rear) and a standard rear differential lock.

A larger negative camber has also been set for both axles to increase directional stability. Also, as Stuttgart set out to build a “purer” sports car, the R cannot be specified with PASM electronically controlled dampers.

At the launch, Porsche allowed journos a chance to sample their new baby on Sepang tarmac. There was a long queue with only one running unit, but yours truly managed to squeeze in one lap before they closed shop. Read our brief impressions of the Cayman R and view the gallery after the jump.

Brief impressions of the Cayman R on track

Sime Darby Auto Performance chose Sepang as the launch venue for the Cayman R, which is very appropriate, as full attack in the safe confines of a circuit gave us a chance to explore the limits of the sports car, without the risks of public roads. However, this also means that we have no idea how the R will fare on our less than smooth roads.

The launch coincided with Porsche Driving Experience, a driver training programme for customers and the media. This means that besides the Cayman R, other Porsches such as the Cayenne, Panamera, 911 GTS and Cayman/Cayman S were available for sampling.

As mentioned, there was a long line to try the Cayman R, so I took the chance to lap Sepang in the standard 2.9-litre Cayman. With “only” 265 hp and 300 Nm, some might think that the base Cayman doesn’t have enough firepower to excite, but I beg to differ. It certainly feels fast enough, and the loud flat-six soundtrack from behind the seats provide the necessary drama. And if I remember correctly, the engine sound is much more audible here than in the 911.

Smiles didn’t fade after the initial blast out of the pit lane. Snaking through turns 1 and 2, the Cayman’s nose was extremely easy to point around, feeling almost weightless. No engine up front, and the wheels don’t need to channel power to the road, hence the purity. This lithe, agile feel was a constant companion in my two laps, and the cabin feels like the pivot point of the car – you can easily feel it adjust based on throttle inputs.

The Cayman is fun, but I found it to be quite forgiving as well, great for non pros like yours truly. In the fast sweeping bends of 5 and 6, leaning on the final ounces of grip, I backed off the throttle too abruptly and immediately realised my mistake, but instead of snapping us into the gravel, the Cayman wobbled a bit before carrying on. By the way, PSM isn’t the most strict nanny around and some innocent fun is allowed.

The PDK with paddle shifts worked perfectly. For those thinking Golf GTI, the overlapping here is not as seamless, but for the better, as the kickback and “mini bomb sound” during full bore shifts complemented the howling flat six well. The gravelly crescendo at the top 2,000 rpm is quite addictive, and you’ll want to go there in every gear. Special mention to the brakes as well; their stopping power gave us confidence to spend as much time on the throttle as possible. They also withstand heavy duty use very well.

The Cayman R’s more focused brief is apparent the minute one steps in. I’m now surrounded by dark alcantara instead of tan leather, and I reached for the seat height and rake adjuster, only to find none – the seats are fixed backed items. They hold very tightly, and the seating position is perfect for serious driving.

The previously mentioned engine sound is significantly louder here, and the tone is harder edged, too. It also feels a lot faster than the base Cayman, although the difference would have been smaller if I had previously tried a Cayman S instead. The steering remains natural and feelsome, but the R corners much flatter. There’s more grip, translating to higher cornering speeds, and one can power out of corners earlier as well.

It would have been better if we got to try the Cayman S beforehand, but I suspect that while the noticeable gap would have been smaller, it would still be substantial enough to put the Cayman R a notch above. The R is a serious machine that feels right at home on the track, and we hope that the 20 to 25 buyers SDAP wants to find this year will give it the occasional circuit exercise it deserves.