2016 Porsche 718 Cayman review

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.

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.

| | | | | | | |
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 know 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.
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Fuel Economy

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

| | | | | | | |
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.

| | | | | | | |
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, 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. There’s no need to upgrade to the Sport Plus seats. Road noise a bit intrusive at times, but this is still an easy car to do big mileage in.
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.

| | | | | | | |
Technology & Connectivity
The Boxster gets a slick 7.0in colour touchscreen, which includes sat-nav, digital radio, USB input, Bluetooth, voice control and Apple CarPlay as standard. It’s one of the best systems out there, since it looks great and responds quickly to a prod, or you can control it via the rotary dial on the dash, although sometimes it can be hard to find a specific setting in the various sub-menus. It’s a shame it doesn’t have Android Auto, mind, although given that the nav and direct MP3/Smartphone connectivity is so good, it’s unlikely to bother you. You can upgrade the standard 8-speaker sound system to a 10-speaker Bose system, or for true audiophiles there’s a Burmester 12-speaker option, but it’ll cost you more than lb2700.

| | | | | | | |
Performance & Handling
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 295bhp, 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 50bhp for a 345bhp 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

| | | | | | | |
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, and a traffic sign recognition system. Isofix fittings in the passenger seat are also optional. Most of what you’ll need is standard, then, but it’s a shame that parking sensors are pricey options.

| | | | | | | |
Spec & Trim Levels
Black, white, yellow or 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 lb3000 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
Max towing weight without brake

| | | | | | | |
Fuel Economy
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

| | | | | | | |
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.

| | | | | | | |
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.
The TT RS outguns the 718 Cayman S significantly on pace, but trails it massively on poise.
A hilarious car, which underlines BMW M still has some mojo. More practical too, if not quite as sharp as the Porsche.
Alpine A110
The only thing that is as wonderful – and as easy – to drive as the Cayman. Not as practical or well-finished, though.
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.


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment