Blame the demands of corporate average fuel economy and carbon-dioxide emissions for Porsche’s decision to downsize and turbocharge its mid-engined Cayman sports car. But there’s an upside to all this – the now four-cylinder Porsche 718 Cayman (along with its 718 Porsche Boxster sibling) has stepped out of the 911’s shadow to become an entity all to itself, with a personality all its own.
Boasting not only increased engine outputs, reduced fuel economy and cleaner tailpipe emissions, the 718 Cayman is also more appealing to look at, nicer to sit in, and sweeter to drive. But it’s that rambunctious new turbocharged flat-four that dominates the show.
- Ride and handling. The mid-engined Porsche Cayman has always been stupendously good at stringing corners together with feel and precision, yet the new four-pot 718 is even better again. With faster steering response, a smoother and more sweetly balanced feel, and improved lateral grip, there’s both a delicacy and a solidity to the way the 718 Cayman handles. If you option Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), the Cayman rides amazingly well too, even when fitted with 20-inch wheels.
- Performance. There might be a little bit of lag at the bottom end of the engine’s operating range but once it picks up, boy does it go! Unlike the old flat-six Cayman, which demanded a committed right foot and plenty of revs to really deliver, the turbo four is blessed with bundles of boosted shove in any gear, at just about any speed. And it sounds great too when switched to sport mode with an optional sports exhaust system attached. Kind of like Porsche’s original 356 Carrera. Or a heavily worked, air-cooled Volkswagen!
- Customisation. Not only is the 718 available with two engines (220kW 2.0-litre Cayman and 257kW 2.5-litre Cayman S) and two transmissions (six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic), there’s also a vast array of interesting new trim and equipment options, as well as vibrant paint colours like Lava Orange and Miami Blue.
- The flat-six’s soundtrack is gone. That textbook exponential rise in power and thrust, backed by a hard-edged, almost aggressive wail as the previous six soared towards 7500rpm isn’t really replicated in the new turbo flat-four. But to its credit, the new four still revs to 7500rpm, it still keeps piling on the kilowatts the harder you push it, and it still makes a great noise. It’s just that it’s no longer textbook Porsche. Instead, there’s a hint of both Subaru WRX STi and Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ flat-four in the four-pot Cayman, though the Porsche creams both for quality and volume of noise.
- Minimal driver-safety aids. There’s Electronic Stability Control, of course, which is brilliantly tuned, as well as Multi Collision Brake borrowed from VW/Audi, which can reduce the severity of a secondary collision by automatically braking the vehicle if an initial collision has triggered the airbags. You can also option lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control but that’s pretty much it. No autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is becoming a rarity at this price.
- Expense. The base 718 Cayman (from $110K) and more powerful 718 Cayman S (from $140K) are hardly cheap, and that’s without dabbling in Porsche’s famously extensive options catalogue. To the standard price, you really need to add Sports Chrono (which introduces multiple drive modes, among other sporting extras), a sports exhaust, and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which is code for adaptive dampers – taking the extras total to well over $10K, and that’s without any multimedia or styling upgrades.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
At the upper end, the BMW M4 Competition and Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe seem natural two-door rivals to the Cayman S, though they both seat four and pack more cylinders. But if you don’t mind four pots, the Audi TTS quattro is an obvious alternative to a base 718 Cayman. That said, none of those cars can match the Porsche’s ultimate dynamic ability.