2016 Porsche 718 Cayman review
What is it?
Porsche’s new entry-level sports car. With the 718 Cayman now priced and positioned beneath its Boxster sister, the standard Cayman is the cheapest way into a new Porsche. Indeed, it’s currently the only Porsche with an un-optioned price of less than £40,000, although you'll tip over that by ticking a single option box. This pricing makes the 718 Cayman dangerously attractive when you consider the performance on offer.
As in the 718 Boxster, power comes from the smaller 2.0-litre version of Porsche’s new turbocharged flat-four engine. This 718 Cayman doesn’t have the Cayman S’s variable geometry turbocharger, yet it actually runs bigger boost pressures – a peak of 19psi compared with 16psi in the Cayman S.
The 718 Cayman gets 296bhp, which is 20bhp more than the old 2.7-litre engined Cayman. The biggest difference is torque, though: the 718 Cayman's turbocharged engine delivers a peak 280lb ft all the way from 1950rpm to 4500rpm.
The basic Cayman is far quicker than the car it replaces. Porsche claims a 0-62mph time of 5.1sec for the manual Cayman and a 4.7sec time for the twin-clutch PDK version, which has launch control as part of the optional Sport Chrono pack.
What's it like?
In short, a very good reason to consider whether you really need to splash the extra cash on a Cayman S. While the old 2.7-litre Cayman always felt like a significant downgrade compared with the brawnier 3.4-litre Cayman S, this new entry-level car is impressively close to its more expensive sister in terms of real world pace.
Sure, the lesser Cayman doesn’t pull quite as hard when you’re really trying, and back-to-back comparison of the two models showed that the smaller engine suffers from slightly more turbo lag if asked to deal with a large throttle opening below 2500rpm. Yet, like the 2.5-litre, this is a motor that can be driven on its bristling mid-range, and while it can’t match its predecessor’s enthusiasm for being revved hard, it pulls hard at engine speeds where the old Cayman would still be rolling out of bed.
Sadly, the turbo motor can’t deliver anything like the spine-tingling soundtrack that the old flat-six managed as it closed in on its red line. Our test car was fitted with the optional sports exhaust, which adds volume with revs but doesn’t change its gruff pitch. The Cayman’s fixed roof means it’s not possible to escape from the noise, and at cruising speeds it becomes droney, even with the exhaust switched to its quieter mode. While Porsche’s engineers have succeeded in making sure the Cayman never sounds like a Subaru - the only other modern car with a flat-four - at idle the 718 Cayman's new engine does make the tick-tick noise that anyone of a certain age will immediately associate with an air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle.
Chassis settings are slightly softer than in the Cayman S, and the standard Cayman can’t be specified with the upgraded and 20mm lower sports suspension. Despite this, it feels almost equally grippy and responsive when being driven at real world pace. The entry-level 718 Cayman has 18in wheels as standard, but can be upgraded to have the Cayman S's 19in or 20in wheels. Grip levels have been increased noticeably over the outgoing Cayman, as is necessary to prevent the increased torque output from too heavily changing the car's driving experience.
The Cayman still feels like the best balanced junior sports car on the market, but there’s no doubt that there are now bigger forces sitting on both sides of the scales. Some of the subtlety of the old car has gone; there’s less nuance to the steering feel for example, but the new Cayman is much quicker on cross-country pace and can carry huge speed into and through corners.
For most potential buyers, the more significant choice than that between Cayman and Cayman S will be whether to stick with the six-speed manual gearbox or choose the seven-speed PDK automatic. On previous evidence, the majority will opt for the latter, but it’s possible to make an excellent case for sticking with a gearchange, not least because PDK seems rather too keen to kick down when left in Drive mode. The manual gearbox is a peach to use and the engine has more than enough mid-range to pull its long gearing.
Should I buy one?
This standard 718 Cayman feels like a more significant upgrade over its predecessor than the new 718 Cayman S does, especially considering it’s only £200 more expensive than before. We should definitely mourn the passing of the six-cylinder engine, but the new turbo engine beats it on every metric apart from the subjective quality of 'soul'.
Still, many buyers will be unable to resist the appeal of the 718 Cayman S’s bigger and brawnier engine. Choosing that more powerful car also gets you fractionally bigger brakes, leather dash and seat trim, larger standard wheels and a bigger fuel tank.
Forego those and opt for this entry-level Cayman and you’ll save a useful £9000 – enough for a moderate options spree – while still enjoying a car that’s very nearly as fast on the road, and one that certainly doesn’t feel like a poor relation.