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Driven: Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.

Driven: Porsche 718 Cayman
A week behind the wheel of the modern-day 924: Porsche's 2.0-litre 718 Cayman.

 



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Porsche 718 Cayman

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: doesn't lose any of the chassis magic or beguiling driving manners by having a smaller engine.

Not so good: like any Porsche, the list price means absolutely nothing once you start adding options.

Key Facts

Model tested: Porsche 718 Cayman
Price: from 39,878; car as tested 53,605
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 'boxer' four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door, two-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 162g/km (Band G, 185 VED annually, if registered before April 1, 2017; 500 first 12 months, 450 per annum next five years, then 140 per annum after that, if registered after April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Top speed: 170mph
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Power: 300hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,950- to 4,500rpm

Our view:

What an intriguing car this is. When Porsche launched the hard-topped Cayman in 2005, fully nine years after the Boxster roadster appeared, it stuck to its over-arching principle of being a company that rewards the keenest types of driver. So it made the Cayman more expensive than the Boxster upon which it was based, even though - everywhere else in the automotive industry - convention dictates that a convertible always commands a premium over the equivalent fixed-roof variant of the same motor. Porsche's rationale was that a coupe is always better to drive than a comparatively flexible soft-top, so the Cayman had to be more expensive than a Boxster.

And so it remained, right up until the point Porsche made its most controversial move with the Boxster in its 11 years on sale. When the old flat-six, normally aspirated engines for the Boxster-Cayman twins were sent packing, to be replaced by (horror!) turbocharged four-cylinder horizontally opposed powerplants - creating the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman in the first half of 2016 - Porsche flipped the prices and finally did the sensible thing of making the coupe less money to buy than the roadster.

So, given the non-S model of the 718 Cayman actually has a 1,988cc engine, rather than the 2.5 of the S, that makes this an entry-level 2.0-litre four-pot Porsche sports car. Or, in other words, it is the modern-day equivalent of the much-maligned 924 launched in the 1970s. Therefore, is the Cayman still any good, or has Porsche gone and ruined it in the name of emissions legislation?

No problems with the look of the 718 Cayman, inside or out, even if it is a familiar shape that doesn't seem to be a whole lot different to the old six-cylinder cars, despite Porsche insisting otherwise. Finished in Graphite Blue metallic (558) with 20-inch Carrera S alloys (1,700) finished in high-gloss black paint (801) and with Sport-Tex upholstery that's rather more like cloth than the standard leather trim - and yet, bizarrely and astonishingly, it's an additional 2,174 - it looks marvellous, all purposeful and quick. Most casual observers from the kerb would have a hard time being convinced this was the most affordable of Porsche's products, while back in the cabin we have to say we're big fans of the new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment that is a big improvement on what went before.

But to have navigation fitted, it's another 1,052, while Connect Plus adds a further 801. And other luxuries soon start totting up, as well. There's a Sport Chrono Package with mode switch, for 1,125. The GT sport steering wheel is 186 and to have it heated with multifunction buttons is another 315, while the sports seats plus with two-way electric adjustment are 312. Got a child and you want ISOFIX on the passenger seat? That'll be 122, please. On and on it goes: bi-Xenon lights with Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), 591; Park Assist front and rear, 599; Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), 971; Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with a mechanically locking rear differential, 890; a sports exhaust system with black tailpipes, 1,530...

If you've got a calculator handy, or you've just carefully read our tech spec box at the top of the page, by now you'll have worked out that this little lot amounts to 13,727 of extra kit; about the price of a decent Ford Fiesta. OK, Porsche isn't alone in having lengthy and fearsomely costly options lists, certainly not when it comes to the German manufacturers at any rate, but for such a premium brand - it is its country's most desirable marque, after all - shouldn't you be getting satnav as standard on the 718 Cayman? Or a sport steering wheel? Why would you pay more than two grand for a seat option that makes it look like the car doesn't come with leather upholstery, for instance?

Thus, this 718 Cayman, instead of being a sub-40,000 car, is in actual fact the wrong side of 53,000. That would be enough for us to mark the Porsche down by a half a star, or even an entire star overall, if it weren't for one glaringly obvious fact: this might just be the best everyday sports car on the market if you value driving enjoyment above all else. Do not, for a minute, think the move to four-cylinder power has ruined the Cayman - if anything, it has made it even better than ever.

This is a remarkable statement to have to write, because the 981 Cayman S seemed to be motoring perfection as it was. Then Porsche turned it into the GTS, which did the impossible and improved the package. And of course, the zenith of the six-pot era was the god-like Cayman GT4. The 718 is in some truly exalted company here, we're sure you'll agree.

Naturally, we're not saying it's better to drive than a GT4, or even the GTS, but it is seriously, alarmingly good in all departments. The steering remains the paragon of its type in the modern day - nothing, at any cost, has a set-up that's any more informative nor pleasurable to use than the 718 Cayman's arrangement. The body control on the adjustable PASM is of the highest possible calibre, yet the Porsche can ride wonderfully well along any UK road surface; OK, it feels firm and connected to the road at all times, but it's never uncomfortable and it smothers bumps far better than a sports car has any right to. The six-speed manual is beyond reproach, the pedals in the footwell are ideally placed for heel-and-toe downshifts (aided and abetted by razor-sharp throttle response) and while the brakes aren't carbon ceramics - no yellow callipers, y'see - with four-pot front callipers and 330mm front/299mm rear discs, the 718 has no shortage of meaty stopping power, mainly due to the fact the car weighs just 1,335kg.

Dynamically, the 718 Cayman is magnificently resolved. So it all comes down to the engine. Now, for this correspondent, going from a big six with normal aspiration to a turbocharged four is normally tantamount to a crime. But the boxer in the 718 is a beauty of a mill. There's something vaguely reminiscent of the air-cooled grumble of Porsches of yore to it, only amplified by that splendid sports exhaust - it's one of the finest sounding blown-fours we can think of, with an identity all of its own. It doesn't quite have the zinging, rev-happy and mesmeric top end of the old 3.4-litre unit, but with its wealth of low-down torque it gives the Cayman an enormous level of responsiveness at pretty much any revs.

And just look at its stats - 300hp and 380Nm. The original 2005 Cayman S (the S, mark you) had 295hp and 340Nm. Even that 981 S we drove two years ago was only marginally up on the base 718's power, with 325hp, but it was down on torque to the tune of 10Nm. That means the 5.1-second 0-62mph time of the 718 Cayman and its 170mph top speed compare very favourably with its supposedly more focused ancestors. Where it absolutely crushes any of its predecessors is on fuel economy, which is the whole reason it has moved to four cylinders anyway.

Porsche says it can do 38.2mpg. We had it for one week and covered 433 miles in that time, with ten-and-a-half hours at the wheel. Even at a decently rapid 43mph - which tells you we had plenty of, er, fun - it gave us 31mpg. You would not get that out of an old six-pot Cayman S in your wildest dreams. Even better, the 718 whisked us back home late at night in an epic display of performance mixed with hugely acceptable economy; on the deserted A47 and A17 out of Norfolk, between the hours of 11pm and 1am, it did 117 miles at an average speed of 59mph - at every roundabout and junction, it was all about maintaining as much pace as was safely possible, a task that was both incredibly easy and hugely enjoyable to do, given the Porsche's wondrous chassis set-up. And it consumed super unleaded at a rate of just 33.4mpg in the process.

So no, having a boxer four does not ruin the Porsche 718 Cayman; if anything, it only heightens the fantastic sensory experience that you get from this sensational sports coupe. There's no single area of the 718 whatsoever where you could even hope to accurately allude back to the 924 and make some sort of tenuous comparison - entry-level this car might be, but it's anything but basic or underwhelming. The 718 Cayman remains one of the very greatest driver's cars of all time, a true icon of our era. What a marvellous, marvellous machine.

Alternatives:

Ford Mustang 5.0 Coupe: nothing like as precise a driving tool as the 718, but the Ford has a stonking great V8, costs peanuts and brings its own particular brand of driving enjoyment.

Jaguar F-Type V6 S manual: we'd love to say the manual gearbox makes the V6 S a genuine 718 rival, but the Jag's a better car with the auto transmission. It's heavy too, compared to the Porsche.

Nissan 370Z Nismo: provides plenty of entertainment for its driver for not a lot of cash in an... oh no; must... not... say... the... words... 'old-school fashion'. Oh. Damn.


Matt Robinson - 20 Dec 2016









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2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.

2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.2016 Porsche 718 Cayman. Image by Porsche.








 

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