Top of the small sports car class

Introduction

The Cayman arrived in 2005, Porsche’s mid-engined coupe, which, whisper it, was arguably the measure of its 911 contemporary. Some might write off the sharply styled two-seat entry-level Porsche as a ‘poor man’s 911’, but that does the Cayman a serious disservice. It has been the class leader for dynamics and sheer driver appeal since its introduction, though 2016 saw some significant and not entirely welcome changes to its technical specification. Gone is the glorious, high-revving flat-six engine, Porsche instead replacing it with a turbocharged flat-four unit. It’s still a boxer in its configuration and it’s still mounted in the middle - meaning the dynamics remain sensational - but the core character of the car has changed with its transplanted heart. Signalling that revolution came a different name, adding '718' to the start. It's an historical, if tenuous, nod to a racer from the late 1950s that had the same engine configuration.  

 

Body Style: Sports car       Seats: 2                   MRP from £39,878-£48,834 

        

Did you know? The Cayman used to cost more than the Boxster, but with the change to the 718 models Porsche swapped them around on the price lists.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★☆☆ (6.9/10)

The 718 Cayman remains at the absolute top of the small sports car class. There is a 'but' though, as we’ve experienced what came before and it was epic, and the 718’s engine just is not a match for that. However incredible the 718 Cayman is, there’s a sizeable slice of regret that, in the pursuit of on-paper economy figures, the Cayman we knew and love has been robbed of some of its soul. Regrettable, but that’s ‘progress’. Featuring a chassis that’s the measure of any sports car, with fine steering, impeccable control weights, and even a cabin that you don’t need to apologise for, the 718 Cayman is undisputedly the best of its type. It looks sensational too, pretty yet assertive, and practical as well with its large hatchback area and additional front luggage compartment. There’s no disputing the performance, either, in both the standard 718 Cayman and the faster 718 Cayman S, but the loss of those two cylinders has fundamentally changed how it performs, and for real enthusiasts it’s simply not as appealing as it could, and should, be.     

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

 

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

We Like

Incredible chassis

Beautiful looks, neat interior

Quick and practical too - for its type

We Don't Like

Please, please bring back the flat-six

Standard specification level is basic

Promise of greater economy not apparent in reality

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

If the Porsche 911 cuts an iconic shape because of its rear-mounted flat-six, then so too are the 718 Cayman’s lines dictated by its engine position. That controversial blown flat-four engine sits slap bang in the middle, which pushes the wheels out to the extremities, necessitates the cooling ducts in front of the rear wheels and the slightly scalloped doors that help direct air into them. Always a pretty car, when the third generation was introduced the Cayman gained some real attitude, with more chiselled rather than rounded lines, and it was all the better for it. With the evolution into the 718 Cayman Porsche changed the design some more, so much so that only a couple of body panels were actually carried over. The more technical looking rear lights are joined by a dark strip, within which is a bold Porsche badge, leaving those behind in no doubt as to what’s in front of them. Above that strip there’s a spoiler that pops up at speed, too. Up front, a new bumper, revised wings and lights give the 718 Cayman an even sharper look.

As with the previous car, and its Boxster relation, the 718 Cayman comes in two different forms, the standard 718 Cayman and more powerful 718 Cayman S. Visual differences between them, badging aside, are few, the S having a pair of round tailpipes and larger alloy wheels within which are red brake callipers, though only the informed will recognise the significance of the differences. All 718 Caymans look sensational, whether they're powered by the 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre version of that flat-four turbo engine.  

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

Porsche’s interiors were once very much the poor relations to the rest of the car. That’s simply not the case with its modern machines, and the 718 Cayman demonstrates that nicely. Key to that is undoubtedly the centre touch-screen, Porsche finally realising that entertainment in a sports car these days also includes connection and fine control of it inside. The rest is all familiar Porsche, including neat air vents, fine materials, and an instrument cluster where the rev-counter takes the centre stage.

The steering wheel is borrowed from the Porsche 918 hypercar, while the tunnel between the driver and passenger houses either the superb six-speed manual shifter or Porsche’s quick-changing PDK seven-speed automatic. If there’s a stopwatch on the top of the dashboard it means you’ve gone for Sport Chrono, which not only adds that timepiece, but some additional driver settings to make the 718 Cayman a bit quicker. Comfort is fine, road noise a bit intrusive at times, but the ride is acceptably composed given its taut control, and the seats don’t just hold you in tightly for the high cornering forces it can generate, but also give excellent support and comfort, too.  

Practicality

For a sports car the 718 Cayman is particularly practical, as there’s a decent sized boot in the back (holding 275 litres), while the front stowage area is deep and box-shaped (150 litres). Useful for soft luggage or small carry-on type bags, rather than golf ones, but who plays golf these days? Everyone seems to have sacked off their carbon shafts and spiked shoes and balls for carbon frames, cleated shoes and wheels and go cycling instead. If that’s your thing, Porsche can sell you a roof-rack.  And, a bike.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

The 718 Cayman can be rich in tech, but you’ll need to get ticking the expensive options boxes to experience it. The standard sound system is fine, while there’s mobile phone ‘preparation’ within the Porsche Communication Management system, but you’ll need to pay extra for that preparation to change to operation… You’ll pay extra for DAB radio too, which is out of order in a car costing as much as the Cayman. Likewise you’ll need to get busy with those extras if you want the most up-to-date connectivity, the optional Connect and Connect Plus packages bringing Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto - Porsche customers are Apple people it seems) in-car WIFI and all sorts of app connectivity, all of which is operated by a neat seven-inch touchscreen.  

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

The 718 Cayman builds on the foundations of the old Cayman’s outstanding ride and handling, with sharper steering, finer control, even more transparent limits, and greater feel from all the controls. The brakes are unending in their force, the feedback exceptional, but it’s the chassis’ poise that remains so utterly bewitching, as the 718 Cayman’s balance is among the best of any sports car - at any price point.

Traction is huge, grip levels high, too, yet the way the 718 Cayman moves around underneath you is rare, the joy of setting it up for a corner and feeling your way through it is a huge part of the Cayman’s enduring appeal. It’s an easier car to drive than its 911 relation and, arguably better, as it’s without some of its vices. Thing is, where the old car felt like a junior exotic, the 718 Cayman’s powerplant feels like a poor relation. Not in terms of performance, admittedly; indeed, in every quantifiable measure it’s better. It is faster, more powerful, considerably more flexible (thanks to the turbocharging), but hell, there’s been a price to pay, and it’s the intangibles such as the hedonistic joy of searching the old flat-six for its power at the top end. The quick, always ready response of the turbocharged four-cylinder engines is less rewarding in comparison. Then there’s the sound, which is raspy Beetle at worst, and WRX Subaru at best, neither of which are a match for the howl of the old flat-six when you wrung it out. That Audi’s TT RS sounds better is disappointing indeed.

A 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit powers the base 718 Cayman, developing a healthy 300hp, which is enough to get it to 62mph in 5.1 seconds with the manual gearbox, or 4.7 seconds if you opt for PDK with the launch control-enabling Sport Chrono package. Fast, by any measure. The 718 Cayman S has another 50hp for a 350hp maximum, allowing a manual car to reach 62mph in 4.6 seconds, the ultimate PDK/Sport Chrono combo shaving 0.4 seconds off that for a 4.2-second time. A decade back you’d be more than happy if your V8 Ferrari was managing those numbers. Quicker as that PDK is, to specify it is to deny yourself one of the finest six-speed manual transmissions money can buy; it's so accurate, its weighting delightful and its movement crisp, but Porsche’s insistence on forcing rev-matched electronic down-shifts in the Sport and Sport Plus modes is annoying if you like to do it yourself by heel and toe shifting. It works fine in the PDK, which we’d concede city-bound buyers will want the convenience of, even if, ultimately, it robs the 718 Cayman of some of its joy.

Like the performance the handling can be further enhanced by some box-ticking on the order form. There’s PASM, Porsche Active Suspension Management, which adds variable damping, while the S also offers the opportunity to add the Sports Chassis, which drops the ride height by 20mm and sharpens things up even more. Option Torque Vectoring and you also add a mechanical locking differential on the manual cars, while PDK models gain an electronically controlled differential, which increases the 718’s agility even further.

The chassis is a delight, even in standard guise, but those new engines do little to incentivise really enjoying it, their flexible nature making the 718 a bit too easy, a bit unexciting to drive, even if the numbers associated with it are very impressive. Sports cars should be about more than mere numbers though and in adding 718 in front of Cayman and subtracting two from the cylinder count the Cayman doesn’t quite add up, at least not quite as brilliantly as before.

Recommended engine: 718 Cayman S manual

0-62 MPH

4.6 seconds

Fuel economy

34.9 mpg

Emissions

184g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

Side impact protection, full-sized driver and passenger front airbags, thorax, and head airbags are all standard equipment across the 718 Cayman range. There are ABS brakes with brake force distribution, traction and stability control systems, tyre pressure monitoring, and the option of Adaptive Cruise Control with a forward collision prevention system - available on PDK-equipped cars. To that you can add a lane-change assist system that highlights any cars in your blind spot. A comprehensive offering, most of what you’ll need as standard, with the occasional option that increases safety as well as convenience.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

Colours

Black, white, yellow, and red won’t cost you a penny more, and given you’ll be ticking lots of options boxes elsewhere that’s no bad thing. The metallic colours (there are eight) are nice if a touch muted, the Cayman really needing what Porsche describes as a ‘special colour’ on its configurator. We’d be tempted by Carmine red or Miami Blue. For about £3000 you can have it painted any metallic colour you like, which seems pretty reasonable.  

Trim Levels

The differences between the 718 Cayman and 718 Cayman S are pretty limited regarding trim, as it is all about the performance differential here. Think of them as an opportunity for personalisation then, instead of feeling slightly miffed that you’ve got to pay for some kit that would come as standard on something like a family hatchback at half the price.

Size and Dimensions

Length

4,379mm

Width

1,801mm

Height

1,295mm

Max towing weight without brake

n/a

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

You’re buying a Porsche, and even at the entry-point of the line-up it’s not going to be inexpensive to run. Those four-cylinder engines we've been banging on about do mean better emissions figures. The official numbers say the 718 Cayman emits 168g/km and returns 38.2mpg on the combined cycle, the S 184g/km and 34.9mpg, but in either you’ll be doing well to see late 20s in economy terms. PDK cars do help, dropping the CO2

by around 10g/km and adding a couple of mpg to those official figures. Useful as that might be, we’d take any tax or fuel pump hit for the manual, as it’s kind of the point of cars like these…

Reliability and servicing

Looks like you’re going to get friendly with your Porsche service department.

Petrol models

9,000 miles or every year

Diesel models

n/a

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

You could buy one and not tick a single option box. Just try doing so. No 718 Cayman leaves the factory without a lot of options, and if you go daft you’ll quickly (and easily) spend thousands. Not cheap then, but worth it.    

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Car Enthusiast

Walk past the new stuff and buy a nearly new 981-series manual Cayman GTS.

Company Car Buyer

If you can get a Porsche past your fleet manager, then a 718 Cayman S manual, with a Sports Chassis and PDK for the emissions.

Luxury Seeker

A 718 S with every Exclusive add-on will suit the luxury-minded; you can even have the air vents covered in leather. Really.  

Rivals

Audi TT/TTRS

The TT RS outguns the 718 Cayman S significantly, but trails it massively on poise.

BMW M2

A hilarious car, which underlines BMW M still has some mojo. More practical too, if not quite as sharp as the Porsche.   

Nissan 370Z

Yup, you can still buy it. Brawny and unsophisticated in this company, but we rather like it for all of that.

Lotus Exige  

Pure, unadulterated fun, the Exige is a tough act to beat, but the Porsche feels like the more complete car.

Alfa Romeo 4C

Alfa should be onto a winner here, it so isn’t, as it’s a terrible car.

What others say

Autocar

The 718 Cayman S is by some distance the most complete sports coupe on sale and easily talented enough in the handling department to overcome slight misgivings about the way the crank is now turned.”

Evo

Its new turbocharged engine is far from inspiring, but it doesn’t ruin the Cayman’s fine handling.”

 

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