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Test Drives

Porsche 718 Cayman Review: Spectacle Cayman




Porsche’s new Cayman re-establishes its role as apex predator of small, mid-engined sports cars

UPDATE! The new Cayman is in Singapore. Check out who they got to drive it into the launch venue!

SINGAPORE — While the new 718 Boxster and Boxster S have just rolled into town, their coupe sister has just had its global media launch. CarBuyer has had a go. Here’s our verdict 

What’s a 718 Cayman?
It’s the 981 Cayman, now facelifted with a new look, new engine and new name. It follows the 718 Boxster model, which we tested earlier this year and has just been launched in Singapore.

Looks similar…
To before and to the 718 Boxster of course. says it approached the design with a simple, clean set of lines and it’s a rare instance where a new machine looks recognisable, but more distilled into a visual essence.

They’re not exactly the same of course, there’s the addition of a fixed roof for the Cayman. Surprisingly, it now will cost less than the Boxster – for some reason Porsche always had its coupe vs convertible prices bass-ackwards.

One’s a coupe, the other a drop-top…
Other than that, Cayman has the same dampers as the Boxster, but with stiffer springs to cope with a stiffer bodyshell, and a slightly wider rear track, plus the lack of a folding top means it has marginally more boot space — 184-litres versus 125-litres, but the front stowage space of 150-litres remains the same.

What else is new inside?
There’s a three-binnacle dial with one dial an active computer display (a 911 has five dials, so that’s model hierarchy clearly in play) and a three-spoke steering wheel with the 918 Spyder’s vent cutouts, as well as a whole new ‘power switch’.

It’s what’s connected to that switch which is the most controversial thing about the new Cayman: The flat-four turbo engine has 2.0-litres, 300bhp and 380Nm of torque. 


352bhp in this photo…and three horses.

That sounds awfully familiar…
Like a certain Japanese brand with stars on its logo? A little. The most contentious thing about the new Cayman is definitely the sound. All the units we tested came with the Sports Exhaust system that goes from bumbling basso growl to louder bumbling basso growl in Sport+ mode. Unlike the more musical tones of a 911, it could get grating over long distances.

Your own aural mileage may vary, naturally, but it does get better with revs and with some crackle and pop when run hard. The PDK and the meaty band of torque means the car gains speed easily and without a thought and almost no lag, no matter what the drive mode.

Feature: What it’s like sampling the entire Porsche line-up in one day

Oh. Does that mean purists will be peeved?
Purists are always peeved, just like our discerning colleague Big Dave. Yet the coupe’s handling prowess is not just undiminished but perceptibly better. After just minutes with the car on tight Swedish back roads, it’s obvious the Cayman probably has the best steering setup for any car costing less than a million bucks. It seemingly has no drawbacks: Neither too light nor heavy, rich in feedback but cancels out bumps from shocking your hands, quick but not darty and accurate at all speeds.

The connection between the helm and chassis is also startlingly direct: Flick a wrist and it’s done, with no slack but also no over-eager quickness. It lends the car an air of precise, enjoyable control. It’s not refinement, as it’s definitely not quiet since there’s lots of road noise and (with the Sport Exhaust) a near-constant exhaust roar, but the air of a high-level of ability that is surprisingly welcoming and usable.   


Cayman and Cayman S led by 911 Carrera 4S on Sturup Raceway

What’s it like on the racetrack?
Like a fish, I mean uh, caiman, in water. We tested both the Cayman and Cayman S on Sturup Raceway, a very tight, technical circuit with lots of dips and bumps. In other words, it’s perfect for a Cayman. The non-S model actually proved just as quick as the S, despite a 50bhp deficit, and even chasing the lead 911 C4S wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be.

Its power delivery is smoother and less explosive than the S, so on larger circuits a lack of power might be more apparent in the base model. The S is altogether much rowdier on the track, more apt to make the electronics kick in (in the same hands of an equally (un)skilled driver) — our only moment in the whole day was with an S and an unplanned mini-drift caught thanks to ESP Sport.

Are there drawbacks?
It’s a two-seater, and while it does have usable luggage space, there’s very little room on the inside to stow anything larger than a backpack (under the passenger’s legs, or perhaps behind the seat if you’re short). But a Cayman hasn’t been designed to carry people around, it’s been designed to put a smile on the big nut behind the wheel.

It’s still expensive, yes…
Relatively speaking, no. Porsche has re-positioned the base Cayman as the least expensive 718 model, at just over $300k with a COE, it’s actually a performance bargain, given the level of driving enjoyment and fun it delivers.

It’s safe to say that the Cayman has kept its essential nature, as one of the most – if not the most – non-exotic, driver-centric cars around. At the same time, it still hasn’t got any direct rivals with an engine in the same spot.

BMW’s Z4 went mainstream, while the Mercedes-Benz SLK was always more populist than pilot-pleasing, and Lotus is not seriously a contender anymore. The closest competitor for the Cayman is now the less expensive Audi TT, which has improved vastly from before, but is still more practical, a tad less focused and less desirable.

 

*Cars tested with PASM, Sport+, Sport Chrono Pack, Sport Exhaust system. For cost see Porsche’s online configurator for the Cayman.


718 Cayman S (left) and Cayman (right)

718 Cayman
Engine                                                               1,998cc, 16V, flat 4, turbocharged
Power                                                                300bhp at 6500rpm
Torque                                                              380Nm at 1900-4500rpm
Gearbox                                                            7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed                                                         275km/h
0-100kmh                                                         4.7 seconds (as tested)                              
Fuel efficiency                                                    6.9L/100km
CO2                                                                   158g/km
Price                                                                  $253,988 without COE
Availability                                                          Q4

718 Cayman S
Engine                                                                  2497cc, 16V, flat 4, turbocharged
Power                                                                   350bhp at 6500rpm
Torque                                                                 420Nm at 1900-4500rpm
Gearbox                                                              7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed                                                           285km/h
0-100kmh                                                           4.2 seconds (as tested)                                       
Fuel efficiency                                                      7.3L/100km
CO2                                                                    167g/km
Price                                                                   $311,788 without COE
Availability                                                          Q4

Also Consider: Audi TT S, BMW M2

about the author

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Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.