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Porsche’s ultra-sporty hardtop is new and much improved.

In the good, old days, Porsche was easy to describe—a rear air-cooled engine sports car with a sloping front and rear body, stick shift and a tachometer in the center of the dash pod. spin forward to the present, and porsche provides almost every mode of vehicle type, from front-engine SUVs (cayenne and the brand new Macan), a four-door “sedan” (panamera) and, of course, the high-end 911 series sports car (but now with a rear water-cooled engine). if these choices were not enough, there are two less costly sports cars offered in two contrasting formats. the open-topped version, the boxster, and its cousin, our test car hardtop, the cayman. both provide plenty of handling and speed at a more moderate price than the 911. and to further upset the traditionalist, the 6-cylinder, high-tech dual-overhead cam, water-cooled powerplant is essentially in the middle of the car, right behind the driver and passenger. But thank goodness, the tachometer is still in the center of the dash pod.

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Four models of the Cayman are offered. The standard unit starts with a 2.7-liter, 275 horsepower motor with either a 6-speed stick or a 7-speed, double-clutch automatic. Next up is the S version offering a 3.4-liter engine producing 325 horsepower. The GTS adds features plus 15 more horsepower. Last, but not least, is the 3.8-liter, 6-cylinder model with a total of 385 ponies.

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Our test GTS has all the traits of a driver’s sports car. On the velocity front, the zero-to-60 time is in the 4.5-second range, and the top-end track speed of 175 mph. And even with all this performance, fuel mileage is in the 23-miles-per-gallon range. Steering is direct as they come with great feedback. The 6-speed stick seems to sense what gear the driver is seeking and heads into the correct narrow slot. Clutch take up is light and direct. With 20-inch, stunning alloy wheels and tires, a very refined suspension and light weight, cornering is first rate. The ride is firm, but not distracting.

The beautifully integrated sloping front and rear exterior received quite a few unsolicited favorable compliments from Honolulu residents. An interesting performance and styling feature is the rear spoiler that either automatically pops up when reaching a certain speed or with a push of a button.

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No meaningful interior sacrifices can be found. Leather is everywhere, with splashes of chrome scattered here and there. As expected, the leather-lined seats have very high bolstering to hold the driver and passenger in place. A 7-inch color, touch screen in the center of dash provides all of the stereo, Bluetooth and other information functions. The screen also provides a rear view when backing up, and warns about being too close in parking stalls and other locations. Safety is not forgotten, with eight airbags covering all angles from the knees to the head.

Interestingly, with its mid-engine placement, there are two trunks. In the front is a somewhat small one, but the rear version is surprisingly deep.

The Cayman, like its 911 brethren, not only looks like a Porsche sports car but acts like one—even though some old Porsche characteristics have been abandoned. Clearly change is not all bad.

PORSCHE CAYMAN

PERFORMANCE: GTS, 0-60: 4.5 SECONDS; TRACK TOP SPEED: 175 MPH

POWERTRAIN: GTS 3.4-LITER, 6-CYLINDER WITH 340 HORSEPOWER, 6-SPEED STICK OR 7-SPEED DUAL CLUTCH AUTOMATIC

SOUND SYSTEM: BOSE 445 WATTS, 10 SPEAKERS, INCLUDING AN ACTIVE SUBWOOFER (OPTIONAL)

PRICE: $52,600; GTS, $75,200; WELL EQUIPPED AT $87,350.

© 2016 PORSCHE CARS NORTH AMERICA, INC.