I’m by no means complaining, it’s a lovely problem to have. The prospect of trawling the Internet for products and tweaks to hone the Cayman further has been the perfect way to get through winter evenings.
The fitment of super-capable Pirelli Trofeo R tyres had somewhat overwhelmed the stock PASM dampers. With 60,000 miles under their belt, I wasn’t surprised. To take the Cayman to the next level I had to consider my options carefully, keen not to turn it into an out and out track car the suspension had to also meet the requirements of a daily commute. For this reason I knew it had to be a PASM compatible system. After a little digging I uncovered that Bilstein provide the damper technology for all OEM Porsche PASM vehicles, so it seemed obvious that this is where my search would begin.
After few evenings of research, fuelled by numerous cups of tea, I was ready to make the call. Bilstein’s B16 DampTronic kit seemed to be getting most praise online and after paying Aaron Quilter at Bilstein UK a visit I was convinced. The Porsche PASM system features constantly variable damping, something that requires a very complex feedback loop to the control unit via wheel speed sensors, suspension force sensors and engine control sensors to name just a few. This makes it very difficult to make a positive improvement for more serious driving… that is unless you are Bilstein.
Bilstein’s involvement with the OE Porsche PASM development program means they are able to take the blueprint for the original equipment damper and fine-tune it to reward harder driving. Aaron explained “higher levels of grip are possible with tyre and geometry changes, so the original damper settings are no longer ideal. We manipulate the valving to get the best from track tyres and take more aggressive geometry into account too”. As an added bonus, Bilstein keep 1000’s of applications in stock right here in the UK so the kit was with me next day. I love new parts day and opening the box was quite a buzz, call me childish but the ‘developed at the Nürburgring’ sticker at the foot of the dampers is pretty cool too!
Naturally the Bilstein B16 DampTronic suspension kit is plug and play, Regal Autosport made light work of slotting the stainless steel units in at each corner and set the ride height as per Bilstein’s recommendations. It’s a small joy, but the cable routing and integration to the car is just like Porsche intended and is a great detail. Sometimes when modifying a Porsche it can feel a little sacrilegious, tearing apart ‘perfect Porsche Design’ to add aftermarket parts, but it is in this instance that the Bilstein choice makes sense. Porsche chose Bilstein to handle the production of dampers for their OE needs, of course I should choose Bilstein for my more sporting needs too.
Nothing quite beats trying out a new modification for the first time and driving home from Regal Autosport saw me taking back roads at every opportunity. 1000 miles and a road trip to South Wales later, I’m absolutely blown away by the improvement. Don’t get me wrong it was good before; this however is a whole different ball game. With exactly the same geometry settings, the same wheels and tyres and the same conditions on the same corner I can take bends 50% faster with no concerns. I’m not exaggerating; it’s very similar to the improvement from fitting the tyres and as a package they worth together beautifully. PASM mode off and it is noticeably more firm than stock, but with every modification for greater performance there is a trade off in another area, in this instance it’s comfort. That’s not to say it is harsh to drive around town, the Cayman is much more compliant than any sports car on track tyres and sports suspension has any right to be. If anything the increased feedback from the road surface serves to remind you you’re in a sports car. As a result even the morning commute feels like a special experience and you can just feel the car wants to break out to a country road for a blast.
With PASM engaged the car takes on an altogether more focused, poised character. Serious self-control is required to drive this car slowly with PASM engaged, like a pit bull straining on a leash it just wants to go! On your favorite bend with the sun shining and PASM engaged, there is just no better feeling. The fitment of the Bilstein B16 Damptronic suspension has brought the car to life and it’s edging ever closer to the mid engine GT3 I’m striving for.