Depending on the perspective, the introduction of the Porsche 718 Cayman is either tantalising or try-hard.
Tantalising, because a turbocharged four-cylinder engine brings more power, extra torque, greater performance and lower consumption into this fabulous mid-engined rear-wheel-drive generation of chassis introduced in 2012. The numbers claimed here also banish any residual negativity some associate with the ‘entry Porsche’ tag.
Try-hard, perhaps, because adding ‘718’ to a model long called Cayman attempts to rekindle distant memories of the 550 Spyder that took honours racing at Sebring, Targa Florio and Le Mans in the 1960s. It used four cylinders, y’know? And the message is we shouldn’t be afraid of them being reintroduced into Porsches.
Either way, the question ahead of this slinky, latest two-seater is clear: by replacing the long-used, long-loved, high-revving, naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine with a heavily-boosted four-cylinder, is the 718 now a better Porsche Cayman?
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $117,172 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 220kW/380Nm 2.0 turbo petrol four-cylinder | seven-speed dual-clutch
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.4 l/100km | Tested: 11.1 l/100km
With this mid-life update of Porsche’s entry Boxster and Cayman, the former roadster bodystyle for the first time becomes pricier than the latter coupe as tested here. The 718 Cayman costs $115,600 plus on-road costs – $2800 less than 718 Boxster.
Compared with the outgoing 2.7-litre boxer six-cylinder, the new 2.0-litre boxer turbo four-cylinder moves up 18kW to 220kW at 6500rpm, and up 90Nm to 380Nm from 1950rpm until 4500rpm. Weight remains about the same, at 1365kg, but the increases are enough to lower the 0-100km/h claim from 5.7 seconds to 5.1sec.
Pick the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic ($4990) and the claim lowers to 4.9sec. Add launch control and Sport Mode electronic stability control (ESC) as part of a Sport Chrono package (another $4990) and it lowers again to a bloody brisk 4.7sec.
Our test car included both items, plus 20-inch alloy wheels ($4840), Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with mechanical limited-slip differential ($3190), and Porsche Active Suspension Management two-mode adaptive damping ($2710), all of which – regardless of engine – experience tells us are must-haves in a Cayman.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, part-leather trim with electrically adjustable and heated seats and cruise control.
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology and satellite navigation.
- Options Fitted: Adaptive cruise control ($2990), Bose audio system ($2650), front parking sensors with reversing camera ($1690), GT Sports steering wheel ($660), plus the mechanical items listed in the Overview section.
- Cargo Volume: 150 litres front/275L rear.
The entry price of the 718 Cayman may read $117K but even after adding $10K or so of must-have mechanical options – because who doesn’t want the best Porsche chassis set-up? – the interior is not very well-equipped for the price.
Changes are few compared with the Cayman that came out in 2012, limited to oval centre air-vents and a high-resolution touchscreen with the latest infotainment system including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto now as standard.
Although the design has aged somewhat, the quality is absolutely to usual Porsche standards. Fit-and-finish is flawless, the driving position is perfect with a low-slung and leg’s-forward design sinking those front seats deep inside the chassis. Everything is ergonomically sound and little touches such as the circular-shaped colour screen to the right of the dominant tachometer are neat rather than showy.
Porsche interior options are extensive, however – and tempting. A smaller GT Sports steering wheel ($690) was fitted to our test car, and it is a delight to hold.
While the Bose audio system ($2650) sounds good, we would prefer the more premium Burmester ($8790) unit. Likewise, heated and electrically adjustable sports seats are standard, but ventilated seats ($2190) are extra. And if the soft-touch plastics of the cabin are nice but hardly indulgent, then a full leather dashboard ($4990) will have it feeling like a six-figure cabin should.
We would pick the above trio of options totalling $15,970 rather than the auto gearbox, adaptive cruise control and Bose system fitted to our test car, which add $10,630 – but the point is, there are at least many mix-and-match alternatives.
Another point is that with mechanical and cabin options combined, a $140K-plus entry 718 Cayman is easy to achieve but equally easy to feel premium/indulgent.
At least for that price this Porsche is surprisingly practical. It may not have a back seat like a 911, but with the engine perched behind the driver’s ears, the mid-engined two-door has both a rear boot totalling 275 litres and a front boot making up 150L.
At 425L, the boots are more voluminous than a Volkswagen Golf hatchback (380L).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 220kW/380Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, RWD
- Suspension: independent front and rear
- Brake: ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Memories of the creamy, delectable old 2.7-litre six-cylinder are banished from the moment the new 2.0-litre turbo fires to life. The sound it makes is gravelly, even a bit bratty, like it has swapped its former tuxedo for a Mambo tee.
On the move the new four-cylinder hardly improves, sounding a bit weedy through the low reaches of the tachometer, more than a bit like a Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 through the middle, and only holding its own with a crisp, strident howl past 7000rpm.
Where the smooth-as-silk six worked hand-in-hand with the pops and crackles of the sports exhaust, the grainy engine note and exhaust too often prove too much. At low speeds the turbo can also come on boost too quickly, with lost throttle response and terse rear-end movement replacing the linearity – albeit slowness – of the old engine.
If this sounds all a bit negative, then it is. But the 718 Cayman needs to go beyond city confines to shine. And shine it does, in a completely different way to its charming-but-restrained predecessor.
Frankly, the adaptive suspension is flawless even on low-profile 20-inch rims. Ride quality is cossetting yet controlled in either normal or Sport, leaving the driver to enjoy the sheer tyre grip without compromise.
Other than just a fraction of lost-motion on-centre, the steering is likewise lovely, pointing with sharpness yet progression and spot-on mid-weighting.
And it all works with a chassis that is utterly sublime through corners.
Here is where the new turbo thrusts itself into the spotlight, quite literally. The hard-driven response and sheer turn of speed provided by the new 2.0-litre harnesses the chassis in a better way than the old engine. Quite simply, this ‘entry Porsche’ now delivers handling in the realms of supercars for at least half the price.
With hard-driven throttle response at least the match of old, the four-cylinder digs deep into, and then finds, the best of what Porsche engineers can offer. Whether the cornering style is neat, fast and fluid, or a bit lairy and adjustable, or anywhere in between, the 718 Cayman doesn’t just comply – it revels in what the driver wants.
Again, larger tyres, adaptive suspension, perfect Sport ESC, rear mechanical differential – these ar
The only area in which the 718 Cayman fails to a degree, then, is fuel efficiency.
Although the reason Porsche turned to the downsizing-plus-turbocharging trend, the new four potter’s consumption claim of 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres blew out by more than 50 per cent to 11.1L/100km in mixed conditions.
The Porsche 718 Cayman has not been tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS and three-stage ESC, rear parking sensors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Porsche does not include a capped-price servicing program.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The TT S is cheaper, but a much less impressive sports car, the F-Type just as expensive and also less impressive. The M2 seems like a bargain by comparison, but it delivers ragged thrills in the face of the Porsche’s sublime cohesion. Which leaves the forthcoming TT RS as the next to challenge the 718 Cayman.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Compared with its predecessor the Porsche 718 Cayman takes a step back for lower-rev aural appeal and throttle response. But it takes a big leap forward if hard driving is the priority, and in a sports car it probably should be.
It is just so much faster than before, while remaining innately communicative and connected, and resolutely resolved in its steering, ride and handling.
It is disappointing Porsche continues to keep the luxury equipment and active safety technology cupboard fairly bare at base level. Equally, however, the ‘entry Porsche’ is beyond playing a tick-a-box equipment game, with the inherent engineering standards eclipsing any competitor within earshot of this price.
And whether $110K or $150K, the 718 is now a more tantalising Cayman than ever.
Photography by Simon Ralph.
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