Review: 2017 Porsche Cayman drops cylinders, but the purists should rest easy
Proof that there is a payoff for those willing to give up something dear to get something better in return is cloaked in glossy Lava Orange sheet metal and purring as it eats blacktop.
As Porsche’s new 718 Cayman pours itself through the first of a dozen corners that carve out the tight, two-kilometre track here, its sound widens to a satisfied growl that fills the cabin and urges the driver to push more at the next turn – more gas, more brake, more speed on the stretches. The result is a thrilling spiral of a ride you never want to wind down.
Redesigned for the 2017 model year, Porsche’s mid-engine, entry-level two-seater sports coupe is under extra scrutiny from brand purists who are skeptical of the company’s decision – five years in the making – to eliminate the former six-cylinder engine and replace it with a smaller, more efficient four-cylinder model. After spending two days with the newly turbocharged coupe on roads that ran the gamut from trackside to city streets and rural stretches, it is clear that the new Cayman is the manifestation of that elusive sweet spot between price and performance. And it easily outdrives the worries that have dogged it in the months leading up to its release.
Gains in the new model stack up in spades. Despite dropping a pair of cylinders, the base Cayman adds 25 horsepower, bringing it up to a total of 300 with 280 lb-ft of torque. The Cayman S, powered by a bigger 2.5-litre engine boasts 350 horsepower and 309-lb-ft of torque. While both manage 0-100 km/h in less than five seconds, the Cayman S clocks in at just two milliseconds behind the much pricier 911 Carrera. In other words, the Cayman is a five-figure sports car that delivers a six-figure experience.
Cashing in on that doesn’t necessarily require upgrading to the S, though. Our test fleet included a six-speed, manual Cayman that easily rivalled the upper-class S in the pleasure department by delivering a physical connection to the car that doesn’t exactly translate with the automatic, although its double-clutch system gears up faster than a human could manage. The manual transmission, with a well-balanced clutch and smooth, intuitive gear box, will appeal to enthusiasts looking to drive rather than just ride.
Both the Cayman and the S have been given more powerful brakes – the Cayman inherits the previous “S" equipment while the new 718 Cayman S will dip into the Carrera’s toolbox for a set of four-piston calipers. While fuel efficiency is unlikely to be top of mind for most drivers, it is worth mentioning that the new engine does get better mileage.
In the looks department, the front end has been resculpted for a more muscular appearance; the Cayman’s trademark rear haunches are now topped by a black accent strip that runs between the tail lights.
Though it’s nearly identical to the new 718 Boxster cabrio, the Cayman’s advantage is its hard top, which means no wind noise and your hair won’t get messy on the drive to the office. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for an excuse to lengthen your commute.
You’ll like this car if... You’re an enthusiast who appreciates a vehicle that is foremost designed to drive.
Base price: $61,900
Engines: Turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder; turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder
Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic/Rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.9 city, 6.0 highway, 7.4 combined (Cayman); 10.7 city, 6.5 highway, 8.1 combined (Cayman S)
Alternatives: Porsche Boxster/Boxster S, Audi TTS, Mercedes-AMG SLC, Jaguar F-Type, BMW M2
Looks: The redesign delivers a more richly sculpted, muscular front end that tips its hat to the 911 model line and is nearly identical in body to the Boxster. Cooling outlets have been enlarged and the rear has a new high-gloss black accent strip running between the clear glass taillights.
Interior: The instrument panel has been redesigned and the view from the cockpit is refined but utilitarian. Seats are low-slung but comfortable on a hard-driving track route or a cruise through the countryside.
Performance: Despite the smaller four-cylinder engine, the added turbocharger delivers a sportier and more powerful performance, with more horsepower and better brakes than the previous generation.
Technology: The standard PCM (Porsche Communication Management) system allows for seamless Bluetooth integration and the optional connect package includes Apple CarPlay and voice control.
Cargo: There’s space in the front boot for a small carry-on and a briefcase or purse and a bit of room in the rear hatch. But you’re not porting golf clubs or oversized bags unless your passenger drops out to make space.
This exciting sports coupe sets a pace rivals will find hard to match.