2017 Porsche 718 Cayman S Review

Cayman is utterly brilliant. Apologies for killing the suspense, but I suspect that’s not going to be a particularly surprising verdict for anyone familiar with Porsche’s engineering expertise.

No, the truly vexing question is, is this new Cayman a more desirable car than its predecessor? A highly subjective criterion, but an important one, as desirability is a key attribute when deciding on a sports car – no one buys one because they need one.

Let’s start with the case for the defence. The 718 Cayman may have lost two cylinders, but it’s gained a turbocharger and in ‘S’ guise that means 257kW/420Nm from the 2.5-litre flat-four. This is 18kW/50Nm more than previous Cayman S’s 3.4-litre flat-six, but were you to overlay the dyno graphs of the two engines you’d see the force-fed four-pot has masses more urge everywhere bar at the very top of the rev range.

As a result, acceleration claims have been slashed to just 4.2sec from 0-100km/h and 9.2sec from 0-160km/h, at least when fitted with the optional seven-speed PDK ’box and Sport Chrono package. Even so, a standard manual is no slouch at 4.6sec and 9.7sec respectively. The Cayman is now very nearly supercar fast, with enough punch to pin you back in the seat without having to rev it to the heavens.

The very long gearing of the previous car remains, but is much less of an issue as there is now neither the need nor the inclination to chase a 7500rpm redline. The huge increase in mid-range torque means you’re changing gears more frequently, which is no chore thanks to the lightning-quick responses of the PDK ’box or the slick action of the six-speed manual, which also features rev-matching if you’re feeling lazy.

This extra urge also allows the engine to influence the chassis to a greater extent than in previous naturally aspirated Caymans. When optioned with the torque-vectoring limited-slip differential, in tight corners a healthy dose of throttle is all that’s needed to help rotate the car, while in slippery conditions care is now needed to avoid wheelspin in the lower gears. Thankfully, the new Sports ESP setting is beautifully calibrated, letting the car move around while subtly intervening when it deems necessary.

In terms of chassis dynamics, the Cayman is one of the finest cars around. The steering is pin-sharp accurate and beautifully weighted, there’s masses of grip yet the chassis can still be subtly manipulated and despite rubber-band tyres, 20-inch rims and next to no travel, the ride is firm, yet rarely troubling. The 718 is a car you could cover long distances in very easily, especially as the smaller engine has improved cruising economy to a claimed 6.3L/100km for PDK-equipped cars.

So far, so good, but now the case for the prosecution. The new turbo flat-four may be frugal on the highway, but use the performance and it loves a drink. This is slightly troubling given economy and emissions are the reasons the old atmo flat-six was phased out. There’s also noticeable turbo lag at low-rpm, but by far the most contentious issue is the noise. Despite the flat-four configuration, it doesn’t sound like a WRX; a deeper, thicker version of a Subaru BRZ most easily comes to mind, though VW tragics like Morley seem to like the noise as it reminds them of a tuned air-cooled Beetle.

Of course, noise is a subjective issue, but Porsche has replaced an engine that was almost universally loved with one that’s going to be a lot more of an acquired taste. Price is also now a potential issue; at a tested $173,340, our car wore $33,040 worth of options and, worryingly, few were what you’d call indulgent.

Make no mistake, the 718 Cayman is an amazing car, bordering on driving nirvana, but more desirable than its brilliant predecessor? We’d be driving a 981 Cayman GTS back-to-back prior to purchase just to make sure.

Engine: 2497cc flat-4cyl, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 257kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 1900rpm
Weight: 1355kg
0-100km/h: 4.2sec (PDK)
Price: $173,340 (as-tested)
LIKE: Dazzling chassis; extra speed; steering
DISLIKE: Divisive noise; pricey options

Get your free weekly report from the world of fast cars - subscribe to the MOTOR newsletter!