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First drive: Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.

First drive: Porsche 718 Cayman T
Following on from the 991 Carrera T, now the Porsche 718 Cayman gets the same, brilliant treatment.

 



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Porsche 718 Cayman T

5 5 5 5 5

Porsche continues its recent revival of the 'T for Touring' badge on the 718 Cayman, following on from its resurrection (after a 45-year hiatus, given it was last seen in 1973) on the 2018 911 Carrera T. Brilliantly, as with that 911 T, the 718 Cayman T might well be all the road-going sports car you'd need. It's quite, quite magnificent.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche 718 Cayman T
Pricing: 718 Cayman T from 51,145
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontally opposed four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive with PTV and limited-slip diff, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 187g/km (VED Band 111-130: 165 first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34.4mpg
Top speed: 171mph
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Power: 300hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 2,150-4,500rpm
Boot space: 425 litres total (150 front boot, 275 rear boot)

What's this?

We've had hot Porsche models wearing the letter R before. We've certainly had ones that sport the honorific S, one of the most common derivatives of any Porsche model's line-up, while there are of course the hallowed vehicles which combine the two together. But T... T is a lesser-spotted piece of Stuttgart nomenclature. However, with this new 718 Cayman T, the signs are there that we'll be seeing a lot more of this alphabetic hero in the years to come.

What the modern-day T means in Porsche-speak is a slightly more driver-focused development of a model line's base car. That's a sentence that needs to be interpreted carefully, because the 911 Carrera T was hardly a cut-price 991 GT3, but what it aimed to achieve was honourable, in that it tried to bring a little more love to the standard 911 Carrera. The Cayman T seeks to do much the same for the 300hp/380Nm entry-level 718, and the T is available not just to the coupe but also the roadster version, which we all known and love as the Boxster.

To whit, the 718 Cayman T is as a 718 GTS is to a Cayman S or Boxster S. It packages a number of the most desirable 718 options together, fits them to the base car, chucks in some visual amendments and decals, and then offers one feature that you cannot specify on a standard 718, no matter how much money you've got nor how much you beg Porsche to let you have it on the configurator.

So the 718 Cayman T (as we're focusing on the coupe here) gains no extra power over a 718 Cayman, nor does it particularly lose any weight - there's the same opportunity as seen in the 911 Carrera T, of junking the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment and the stereo, and having the whole lot replaced by a couple of rubberised shelves in the centre console (you can spec PCM back in at no extra cost, though), but - naturally - unlike the Carrera T, you can't remove the 718's rear seats to save more kilos because the 718 doesn't have any rear seats in the first place. Nevertheless, the 718 T does come with the following as standard: 20-inch Carrera S alloys, finished in high-gloss Titanium Grey; the Sport Chrono package; a shorter-levered, tighter-shift six-speed manual gearbox with red numerals on the 'knob (with a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch 'box a 2,303 option); Porsche Torque Vectoring with a mechanical limited-slip differential; Agate Grey door mirror shells; black chrome-plated exit tips for the Sports exhaust system; '718 Boxster/Cayman T' decals down the doors and different badging on the car's rump; Porsche Active Drivetrain Mounts (PADM); a 360mm GT Sports steering wheel coated in Alcantara; fabric loop door pulls inside; Sport-Tex and leather sports seats with two-way electrical adjustment and '718' logos embroidered onto the headrests; contrast stitching all over the place; and discreet 'Boxster T' or 'Cayman T' logos dotted about the cabin.

Oh, and in finest Columbo style, there's just one more thing, ma'am - the 718 T gains the Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM) sports chassis with 20mm lowering. It's this detail that most marks the car out among its brethren, because it cannot be specified on the 718 Cayman or Boxster cars which sit below it in the range. All told, prices for the 718 Cayman T start at 51,145 while the Boxster T kicks off at 53,006; this compares to the regular 718s' pricing of 44,074 and 45,935 (respectively), while the Cayman S is 53,030 and the Boxster S is 54,891... and, remember, those come with the 2.5-litre, 350hp boxer-four engine for that money. So you're paying 7,071 to upgrade to a T, which apparently has about 8,500 worth of extra kit on it and that PASM chassis, which is not available at all on a 718. Nevertheless, we have to accept that it's a small niche that Porsche is trying to force the 718 T into, betwixt and between the 718 and the 718 S. So, is the T worth consideration?

How does it drive?

Before we get onto the dynamics, a word on the pre-match expectation. This 718 Cayman T just feels so special to sit in, before you've so much as turned a wheel. They're only tiny details when you think about it, aren't they? Some fabric door pulls, that can be finished in nice, bright colours. A bit of stitching. An Alcantara wheel, that's perfectly round, just the right size and fitted with that rotary Mode switch on the spokes. Little 718 T legends here and there. But spec the T in a strong paint finish, like Miami Blue, Racing Yellow, Guards Red or Lava Orange (in essence, don't go black or silver, please), and it already conveys the subliminal message that it's something a bit tasty, a bit more satisfying for those with a discerning driving palate, before you've so much as fired up the flat-four and set off down the road.

This all might sound daft and not worth seven grand of your hard-earned, but then you do drive the 718 Cayman T and all hope of resisting its particular set of charms is lost. As road cars go, this is about as bang on the money as bang on the money has ever been. Sure, if you're expected the laser-like focus and intensity of something like the Cayman GT4, only reduced over a gentle simmer to a turbocharged, four-cylinder reduction, then the T might disappoint. But if you focus on its clarity of feedback, its genuine brilliance of body control, its simply colossal breadth of performance and its remarkable ease of use, you'll wonder why you'd even consider any other 718 rather than the Cayman T.

Its forte is faster sweeping roads, rather than intricate, gnarly mountain climbs, but even then we reckon the 718 Cayman T would excel at the latter. Nevertheless, Porsche laid on an absolute abundance of wonderfully sighted, rolling and sweeping and ducking and diving roads for the 718 Cayman T to eat up, and to tackle them in the coupe was nothing short of divine. It's the steering which hits first, the set-up so rich and communicative that you know precisely where you can place the 718 T to within the millimetre. It's fast, it's accurate, it's just heavenly. Full marks for that, Zuffenhausen.

Then there's that PASM chassis that sits 20mm lower to the ground. With a 300hp 718 Cayman, you're starting with pretty terrific base material in the first place, certainly when it comes to fabulous road cars, but the T's harder, lower stance does its handling wonders. So does the diff-equipped PTV, which you can feel working in quicker corners to tighten the 718's line, just when you thought all grip was exhausted in the Cayman. Or the PADM, which ensures all of the 2.0-litre's thump is transferred to the rear wheels in the most expeditious fashion possible.

Seriously, we know of no other mid-engined coupe that could enact such high-speed, flick-flack direction changes with as much aplomb and as little drama as the 718 Cayman T; not even the majestic Alpine A110 would match the Porsche here. Not only that, but the traction and mechanical grip levels are off-the-charts good, so while it's not as fluid and supple across the ground as the dream-like Alpine, the 718 Cayman T can - regardless - stoke up incredible cross-country pace that somewhat counteracts its firmer damping.

Not that it's uncomfortable, mind. Two-stage shocks switch between Normal and Sport, and the Cayman becomes neither bouncy and wayward in the former, nor unbearably stiff in the latter, so it'd be fine as a daily driver. Indeed, such is the noise suppression and general air of quality onboard that the 718 Cayman T feels suitably grand and relaxing, when you're just pottering about in it.

But to amble in this car is tantamount to a crime - you want to exploit that chassis, test out its skills. And, by gum, has Porsche provided you with the engine to do it. The reach the 718 T's mid-mounted 2.0-litre turbo has is quite extraordinary; give it everything in the first four gears and you'll be absolutely flying down the road at supercar-esque speeds, while third is a proper do-it-all cog that can lug you out of tighter hairpins and send you spearing into three figures on the speedo before you know what the heck's going on. Say what you like about the drop from six cylinders to four, but it's very hard to argue with Porsche's controversial decision when you can tangibly experience the benefits that the 718's massive torque upswing brings to the party. If you want, fit the PDK to the T models and four-tenths of a second comes off the 0-62mph time for a searing 4.7-second sprint, but we'd say stick with the manual - it has a beautiful throw action, it has all the classic driver interaction you could desire in a sports car like this and there is no way on Earth any rational-minded person would think the clutch-equipped 718 Cayman T was remotely slow.

Any drawbacks, then, in this eulogy to a four-pot Porsche? Well, there's one, and it's a common 718 lament. It relates to the soundtrack. If you've never sampled the hard-edged howl of a 981 Cayman S as it homes in on its redline, then the 718 Cayman T will sound pretty damned fine. It has a decent enough voice as the needle sweeps past 5,000rpm and, even at lower engine speeds, you can occasionally pick up on the oft-noted 'boxer burble' that makes a flat-four such an appealing proposition. But if you have driven a six-pot Cayman, then the 718 Cayman T is never going to satisfy you. Indeed, some observers on the event reckoned the 718 Boxster S was the preferable car, because its open-roof configuration got rid of the echo chamber that you'd find in the rear of the Cayman's cabin, while the additional wind noise removed some of the higher notes of the powertrain and exhaust for the preferable bass-y levels. However, it has to be said that the four-cylinder 718s will never, ever shake off the accusations of playing the all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order, so whether it would be a deal breaker for you buying a 718 T or not would be entirely down to personal preference. Us? We could most definitely live with it, for a chassis and performance as mesmerising as this.

Verdict

'Regular' is such an inadequate word to describe any of Porsche's products, but if we're accepting that the 'regular' line-up of any given Porsche goes base model, S and then Turbo, then the T falls into a lineage that ascends through GTS, GT3 (and RS), R (where and when applicable) and then GT2 RS. Astonishing company, when you think about it, and it's perhaps such a gathering of legendary automotive nameplates that in turn places too much of a burden on the T's young shoulders, ramping up the hype and expectation to unattainable levels. We're sure there will be people who try the 718 T and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Not us, though. This is road-going Porsche perfection, right here. You don't need anything more, really - perhaps a slightly nicer soundtrack, maybe, but you'll never crave steering that's better than this, never want for a car which can corner as flat and stable as the 718 Cayman T, never think that the 300hp motor somehow lacks for the punch and power and panache that a proper Porsche deserves. The 718 Cayman T, in our eyes, actually makes some of those aforementioned badges - like GTS and R - look a bit needless and overpriced. And what more glittering compliment could you pay the stellar 718 Cayman T than that?

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 25 Feb 2019









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2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.

2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.2019 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Image by Porsche.








 

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