What is it?
It’s the Porsche 718 Cayman which, I assume, you take as read as being still the best sports car in the world. The best sub-supercar sports car, at least. And you’ll know the Porsche 718 Cayman is the best sports car in the world because you remember the 718 Boxster reviews from a few months ago.
To recap, then. Bad 718 Boxster points: the new engine has two cylinders fewer and one turbocharger more than it used to have, so it now sounds a bit like a Subaru. Good points: everything else.
The 718 Cayman, as you would expect, has now been through the same mill as its sister model, only this time it has emerged as the cheaper of the two. Which, actually, makes an awful lot of sense, given that it doesn’t have the cost and complexity of a folding roof to contend with.
Generally, though, changes to the Boxster have now been conducted on the Cayman. The monocoque’s construction is largely the same as it was before ‘718’ was added to the description, but every body panel bar some elements of the roof are changed. So is the suspension which, at the front, is derived from the 911 Turbo’s, including a steering rack that is 10% faster than it previously had. At the rear there are elements of Cayman GT4, particularly when it comes to lateral stiffness.
Spring and damper rates and tuning are all new, though, not least because the 718 Cayman has a lower centre of gravity – marginally – than the six-cylinder car, although the addition of the turbo has left it – similarly marginally, at 1430kg versus 1415kg – heavier.
That engine, that aural downgrade, if you like, is a 2.5-litre horizontally opposed four instead of a 3.4-litre six, in as-tested S trim. (The standard 718 Cayman has a 2.0-litre donkey instead of a 2.7.)
Because it’s boosted, and despite a 0.9-litre decrease in capacity, power is up by 25bhp to 345bhp, but it’s torque that gets the big boost, here lifted from 273lb ft at 4500rpm to a wholesome 310lb ft developed from just 1900rpm all the way to 4500rpm.
Read our review of the Porsche 718 Cayman here
What’s it like?
All of these alterations change the nature of the 718 Cayman as they did the 718 Boxster. That there’s less need to rev it and the steering is quicker to respond means that it always feels eager and keen (turbo lag below 2500rpm notwithstanding), and it’s easy to pin it down a road at a healthy rate of knots while it remains knitted to the asphalt over bumps and crests.
It feels more alert than a Jaguar F-Type, albeit without the noise, and feels like it has more integrity than a Lotus Evora 400, albeit without the delicacy. It’s also faster and more serious than a Toyota GT86 or Subaru BRZ, which are in some ways its nearest dynamic competitors.
Is it less delicate than it used to be? I think so. About half a decade ago this magazine ran a 2.7-litre manual Cayman on small wheels, and its steering and engine felt as delicate and interactive as removing metal from a block with a hand file.
Today’s 718 Cayman feels more like using a CNC grinder to do the same job. Today’s steering is lighte and, less analogue, the engine more effective but less engaging and interactive. Inevitable? I guess so. But that doesn’t stop it being a shame.
I’m splitting hairs, mind. Caymans had a lot of interaction to spare and, in sparing some it gains bruising ability and confidence. At its price point and even some way above – from an entirely reasonable £48,834 – it’s still the best there is, without question.
You’d spend more than that, though. Everybody does.
Should I buy one?
Yes, you should buy one. And having established that, let’s take a moment to consider what you should and shouldn’t leave unticked.
When it came to the 718 Boxster, some of my colleagues thought you should have the 2.0 rather than the 2.5 S. I haven’t tried a 2.0-litre but am content to think that a Cayman deserves more power, and therefore the bigger engine. I’d have a manual gearbox – a slick, easy six-speeder – but could understand if you lived somewhere sufficiently towny that you wanted a PDK dual-clutch automatic.
Do tick the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) adaptive damping, which is great in its standard mode and better still in stiff mode on smooth roads. I’m not sure what the 718 is like without PASM, but given I’ve never been able to find a modern Porsche that hasn’t had it, I’m prepared to take a punt that it’s worth having. There’s sufficient torque that you should have the mechanical limited-slip differential, which includes torque vectoring via braking, and there’s sufficient four-cylinderness that you should specify the sports exhaust, which makes the 2.5 sound more purposeful at low revs and is switchable.
By the time you’ve done this and, if you’re like most buyers, chucked in the Sport Chrono package (£1125), a fetching hue (£1595 in this case, which is a lot but does look magnificent), navigation, electric seats, DAB, phone preparation and a set of wheels (20s here, at £1566, but I’d go smaller, cheaper and less kerbable), you’re looking at a £60,000 car.
Which is now a lot of money, in theory, but only a few extra quid a month in practice. And better, at either price, than anything else from anyone else.
Porsche 718 Cayman S
Location Wales; On Sale Now; Price: £48,834 Engine 4 cyls, 2497cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 345bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 310lb ft at 1900-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1430kg; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 177mph; Economy 34.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 184g/km, 33%
What is it?