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First drive: Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.

First drive: Porsche 718 Cayman S
Porsche's new 718 Cayman S is quantifiably better, in all but one area.

 



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Porsche 718 Cayman S

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The most significant revision to the Porsche Cayman yet comes with the introduction of the 718. The turbocharged, four-cylinder engine is a seismic shift for the Cayman and it's still brilliant, with a but...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche 718 Cayman S
Price: 48,834 (62,068 with options as tested)
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, two-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 184g/km (Band I, 225 per year)
Combined economy: 34.9mpg
Top speed: 177mph
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 350hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 1,900- to 4,500rpm

What's this?

The biggest shift in the Cayman paradigm since Porsche introduced its mid-engined 911 understudy and blew away all comers in the sports car marketplace. It might live in the shadow of its rear-engined relation, but the Cayman's arguably the more complete sports car. Porsche has been busy changing it though, the march of legislation seeing the Cayman, now under the '718' moniker in a bid to link to a past that only the most ardent Porsche fans will understand, have two of its six cylinders lopped off and a turbocharger added in compensation. That's as seismic a shift as when the 911 went from air to water cooling. Arguably greater, even.

We'll get to the engine in a moment, as the updates don't only centre on the powerplant. There's revised styling too; the Cayman was always a good looker and the 718 changes do little to alter that: it's a head turner. There are revisions to the chassis too, the 718 adopting some bits from the Cayman GT4, and the quicker steering rack of the 911 Turbo, so the already accomplished handling of the old car should be improved on further. The interior gets all the new touch-screen interactivity that the newest Carreras get, though, as ever, there's a fair bit of options box ticking to build your perfect Cayman S. Our test car had around 14,000 of options, revealing that the Cayman S does not get essentials like climate control or even a digital radio as standard.

How does it drive?

The essentials remain the same. The Cayman S remains a beautifully balanced sports car. The chassis is sublime, the steering quick and accurate, its weighting near perfect, the ride quality remarkable given here it's riding on 20-inch alloy wheels (19-inch wheels are standard). Optioned with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management, at 971) there's the choice of standard or sports settings for the damping, though the latter only adds unwanted frequency and intrusion on the road. It, like a sharper throttle map and louder exhaust in Sports and Sports+ modes, is accessed either via the normal button between the seats, or the configurable 'mode switch' that arrives on the steering wheel with the addition of the Sport Chrono Package.

There was never anything wrong with the Cayman's dynamics, and Porsche's revisions with the change to 718 Cayman only enhance them further. There's no finer balanced sports car out there, certainly not at the price point the Cayman is at. There's a but, though, and it concerns the new engine. Porsche's hand was forced by legislation, as sports cars aren't immune to the creep of environmental regulations, which means downsizing. So the naturally-aspirated, high-revving flat-six of the pre-718 Cayman (and Boxster) have been replaced by a turbocharged four-cylinder. In the Cayman S it's 2.5 litres in capacity (2.0-litre in the Cayman), and in the S at least, like the 911 Turbo, it's a variable vane turbo, helping reduce lag.

No amount of turbine trickery can conceal the fundamental change the moment you turn the ignition key. Where the old car's six-cylinder unit sounded exotic, the four-cylinder's off-beat, Subaru-like rumble doesn't. There's an optional sports exhaust fitted here, which does little to add anything rousing to the mix: the previous Cayman created sound you wanted to hear; in contrast, the 718 just outputs noise.

The compensation for the lack of aural appeal is an engine that's appreciably quicker, at any point in its rev range. The four-cylinder's low-rev urgency is transformational, meaning you don't need to be wringing it out nor changing down the beautiful shifting six-speed manual gearbox for pace, thanks to its peak torque arriving at just 1,900rpm. Maximum horsepower arrives at a respectably high 6,500rpm, but there's little incentive to really have the Cayman S's rev counter needle up there, as its delivery is strongest in the mid-range rather than the upper portion that previously defined it.

Naturally, this makes for a car that's faster more of the time, the added low-rev urgency arguably allowing you to enjoy its chassis more readily, and the Cayman S is indecently rapid and hugely responsive. It's particularly so in Sport and Sport+ modes - though why Porsche insists on forcing rev-matching blips for downshifts (that require PSM stability management completely off to disengage) in these modes remains a mystery. An easy life isn't necessarily something you want when you're in an engaging sports car. The pace might be greater in the 718, but the rewards simply aren't as hedonistic, as now the tuneless engine's strength is its performance, as opposed to its character.

In isolation, and if you had never experienced the naturally aspirated six-cylinder engines in the pre-718 Cayman S, you might be wondering what we're complaining about. The Cayman S is all the sports car you could want, and it is brilliant. It's hugely capable, enjoyable, and still in a different league to its rivals on a purely objective and rational sense. What it has lost are those incalculable intangibles that made the previous six-cylinder Cayman S a car that you'd look for any reason to drive, and that made time you sat in it an occasion. You'll enjoy and even admire the 718 Cayman S, but it's simply not as captivating, largely because its earworm's all wrong and it's that little bit less engaging and demanding thanks to its greater torque and lesser appetite for revs.

Verdict

Still a brilliant, segment defining (and busting) sports car, Porsche's changes to create the 718 Cayman S are understandably transformational. It's a different car as a result of its new powerplant, and it's not all good news. It's a more complete, rounded proposition as a result, but the engine's lack of charisma denies the 718 Cayman S an element of its make up that was arguably its signature, that being the flat-six, naturally aspirated engine. Blame economy requirements and emissions, though driven as it should be the new engine returned just 22.7mpg over a 300-mile seven-hour return journey we did in it. Coincidentally, we completed the same round trip last year in a Cayman GTS. The memory of the GTS remains tattooed on our memory; in the 718 it's already fading.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 23 Sep 2016









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2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.

2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S. Image by Richard Pardon.








 

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