Driving pleasure in its purest form – or Touring – is what the T moniker is supposed to be all about when attached to a Porsche. So it makes sense that the Cayman (and Boxster), the annoyingly competent younger sibling to the all-conquering 911, gains a pared back, yet more focused variant in the form of the 2019 Porsche Cayman T.
Although, it seems more a marketing ploy than anything when emblazoned on the rump of an iconic 911 – you might as well just spec a Carrera how you want it. So PR jargon aside, is the Cayman better with a T?
For a start you get the ‘lesser’ 2.0-litre flat four turbo, and not the bigger 2.5-litre. Still, although it sits on the bottom rung of the image ladder, the water-cooled 1988cc flat four is actually a decent unit. It’s happier to rev and with 220kW and 380Nm pushing around 1350kg, the boosted four is not slow.
A 0-100km/h time of 5.1sec (with the preferred six-speed manual) and a 275km/h top speed is the proof in the pudding. Select the rapid-fire seven-speed PDK and the 0-100km/h claim drops to 4.7sec with Sport Plus. Thanks to the impressive real-life performance of the downsized engine, the 718 Cayman T doesn’t, unlike the 911 T, feel like an otherwise complete athlete with a weak heart.
The T pack combines Sport Chrono and PSM with an in-between semi-hooligan-like Sport Plus mode, boasting PTV torque vectoring and a mechanical diff lock. The steering rack, borrowed from the 911 Turbo, is 10 per cent faster and the sports exhaust is bimodal. Launch control and the Sport Response turbo boost button is fitted with the PDK ’box. Handfuls of extra money buy carbon-ceramic brakes, which this Cayman requires about as urgently as Clive Palmer needs another ‘Make Australia Great’ billboard.
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Visually the sexy stance is emphasised by dark 20-inch alloys that almost require flared wheel arches and by the adjustable PASM sports suspension, which lowers the ride height by 20mm. With the exception of the tacky full-length stickers that run along the bottom of the doors, the blacked-out body detailing and the available smoked tail-light lenses, the 718 Cayman T looks every bit as desirable as a GTS.
Inside there’s sport seats (anything from the standard pews to the expensive 918-style lightweight carbon-fibre buckets), Sport-Tex upholstery and fabric loops for door handles. PCM is a no-cost option.However, you pay extra for air-conditioning, sat-nav, Power Steering Plus, dynamic LED headlights, an Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel and a shortened shifter.
There’s something about Porsche sports cars that no other manufacturer can match. It doesn’t really matter whether you are driving a 718 Cayman T, a 911 GT3 RS, a Cayman GT4 or a 911 Turbo S – they all handle, respond and communicate in a totally involving fashion. Yes, the steering might be a little quicker in the GT cars, the suspension softer in others and the handling more neutral in the mid-engined models.
However, there isn’t much variation in your inputs; the ratio between cornering grip and entry speed, or the lift-off attitude, remain largely the same. Irrespective of engine size and position, power and torque, weight and performance, all two-door Porsches are spun from the same dynamic ilk.
When warm, the bigger tyres (235/35 ZR20 front and 265/35 ZR20 rear) instil more lateral grip as well as fierce traction, but the price you pay is a well-below par ride on country roads. In crosswind conditions and when following ruts, the directional stability can be unsettling at times, and those carbon-ceramic brakes don’t like rain or sub-zero temperatures. Active transmission mounts cushion abrupt tip-in and tip-out manoeuvres.
The four-cylinder engine’s soundtrack isn’t quite as throaty and strong-voiced as the old six, but the reality is that the acoustics aren’t really an issue, nor is the somewhat underwhelming on-paper performance.
Ultimately the Cayman T sounds meaner and answers more promptly to throttle inputs, but it is also harder sprung and more firmly damped – even before you dial in Sport. Still, the T feels like a somewhat brawnier and, subjectively, faster car. The do-it-yourself manual ties in with the back-to-basics nature over the ruthlessly efficient PDK, because at the end of the day, the Cayman T is all about a pure, raw and involving experience.
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2019 PORSCHE 718 CAYMAN T SPECS
Engine: 1988cc flat-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 220kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 2150rpm
0-100km/h: 5.1sec (claimed)
Price: $120,000 (est)
Like: Flawless dynamic ability; punchy 2.0-litre flat four; involving driving experience
Dislike: Might not make it Down Under; down on power compared to 2.5; engine sound
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars