The Porsche Cayman, overhyped or deserving of praise? That is the question. We decided to skip the previous three generations and are behind the wheel of the fourth generation Porsche Cayman 718. Or should that be 718 Cayman or merely Cayman? Anyway, the 718 denotes an era during Porsche’s 4-cylinder racing heritage from 1959. That’s the long story, the short story is that the 4th generation Cayman loses the naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine (flat-six) and downsizes to a flat-four, 4-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo.
The engine is still mid-mounted, power is still directed to the rear wheels, but a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine sounds like a neo-liberal performance sedan. Truth be told I hadn’t read the reviews, indeed I wasn’t expecting much. You know what I was expecting? carpet slippers and Werther’s Originals. In other words… I wasn’t expecting much.
On the outside it looks great, better than the photos can convey. The 4th generation is better proportioned and the evolutionary changes are subtle, yes, but the Cayman looks a lot sharper. It’s got a sports car stance for sure and it looks fantastic in yellow.
So I sat in the driver’s seat. Looked around the interior. Very nice, solidly made. This is the entry-level Cayman, starting price £42,897 and it’s got everything you could ever want in terms of infotainment and connectivity. This test 718 Cayman came loaded £9k of optional extras. The heated steering wheel was one such optional extra. Those 20-inch Carrera spec alloy wheels, £2k. A sports exhaust, £1,500. Active suspension and torque vectoring with a mechanical locking rear diff, a combined cost of nearly £2k.
But the most important aspect comes as standard. The driving position, its spot on, lots of adjustability, the pedals perfectly aligned.
The interior is a mix of Alcantara and leatherette with soft-touch surfaces, overall a quality finish. The sports seats are comfortable although the side-bolsters are a little on the tight side. The infotainment deck a little clustered with buttons. But you soon acclimatize to the functionality and operability. The infotainment system is fairly easy to use, the SatNav can be a little slow to boot up but it’s more than useable once loaded.
The instrument cluster is classic Porsche, rev dial in the centre, but this is the digital era and the right-hand circular display is a 4.6-inch high-res IPS display with a number of menus that allows you to review driving data or display the Sat Nav.
OK, it seems fine. Still not expecting much. Then I switch on the ignition and my senses are heightened. I wasn’t expecting the engine/exhaust to growl back at me. Yes! It’s a proper sports car on the startup sound alone.
But the sound comes at a cost, the optional sports exhaust costs £1,592. Totally worth it. I never tested the flat-six era Cayman, apparently, it sounded great. The flat-4 era engine will sound somewhat duller by comparison. With the optional sports exhaust it sounds characterful… for a turbocharged engine.
As I pull out of the driveway the 718 Cayman instantly feels like a pedigree sports car, and this is at crawl speed. In my mind, I was expecting the Cayman to be similar to an Audi TT. How very wrong I was. Thankfully it’s pure Porsche.
Driving at low speed, the Porsche Cayman feels stiff, stiff suspension, anti-roll bars. Yet it is well damped over slow to medium bumpy surfaces and as a result, rides relativity comfortably. As an unrelated example, the Cayman is much more comfortable than our long term VW Tiguan.
How did Porsche manage to do the Holy Grail? stiff sports suspension, comfortable ride?
As I pile on the speed an inviting twisty B-road is alerted to my presence. It soon becomes apparent that the 718 Cayman is not merely a sports car, it feels closer to a track car. That’s how the chassis feels, yet it’s an excellent everyday car, how did they do that?
Low-speed handling is engaging, the chassis/suspension setup is so well calibrated and balanced that you have total confidence in placing the Cayman exactly where you want it. Body roll is non-existent and the high levels of grip allow you to precisely locate and pinpoint an apex. In turn, this allows you to carry a lot of speed during the mid-cornering phase.
Take a bit too much speed and too much steering angle and the Cayman will begin to drift. But it’s so predictable you catch the drift early. And it’s all communicated to you via that superbly engineered chassis, it’s better than superfast fiber-optic broadband. Unlike broadband, it works flawlessly.
As with all modern day sports cars the Porsche 718 Cayman has a sports button, it adds extra revs and makes the steering happier. You also have an option to switch on/off the active suspension. I found the active suspension offers better stability at high speed.
Indeed a public road is actually demonstrating a fraction of Caymans resolutely formidable talents. A twisty meandering B-road is a walk in the park.
The only issue I have is the electronic steering, it doesn’t quite match the feel of the old hydraulic system. But that lack of feel is significantly compensated for by the chassis/suspension/grip.
The 2.0-litre, 300bhp 4-cylinder engine is not much power these days. Of course, the Cayman is offered with more powerful derivatives. However for this kind of sports car 300bhp and 380Nm of torque feels just right, more than enough. The 0-62mph time takes 5.1 seconds and if you want to take the Cayman to 170mh then be my guest.
The engine has excellent driveability in all gears, it’s got that lazy accessibility similar to that of a larger 6-cylinder normally aspirated engine. The engine may have lost its distinct normally aspirated soundtrack but with the optional sports exhaust, it actually purrs away during a motorway cruise.
The manual gearbox is as precise to use as the Cayman is precise to drive. The clutch has a little weight to it but not overly so to be bothersome.
Practically… if you want practicality buy an SUV. However the rear boot space can fit up to three large bags of shopping and being mid-engine means the Cayman has extra boot space at the front, I would say two more bags of shopping. In total its around 405-litres of combined luggage space.
Running any sports car is going to be expensive, but 35mpg on a combined run that consisted of bursts of exploration is rather a decent return on investment. The Cayman is good for 500 miles on a single tank of fuel.
What surprised me about the Porsche 718 Cayman was how raw it felt. Like a proper sports car should be.
Make no mistake this entry-level Porsche 718 Cayman feels more like a track car. But as I said I would have no problems driving it every day because it’s relatively comfortable. Yet underneath that body-work is sophisticated engineering honed and tuned to be sensational.