The Porsche Cayman - oh sorry, we meant to say 718 Cayman - could be rather simple car to explain: it’s a hard top version of the already excellent 718 Boxster, just as the older versions were. Right?
Short answer: yes with a but. Long answer: no with an if. Let’s unwrap this.
First appearing alongside the second generation Boxster in 2005, the Cayman introduced an alternative to the legendary Porsche 911, but many were quick to notice that its mid-engine layout and lighter weight actually made it better to drive in some respects.
Rather than shying away from this, Porsche continued to develop the Cayman until we find ourselves at this juncture, where the 718 Boxster of today on which it’s based, sports a smaller turbocharged engine with two fewer cylinders than before.
Where there was less competition for the open-top Boxster, the Cayman knocks on the door of contenders such as the tauter (than the convertible) Jaguar F-Type Coupe, BMW M4, Audi RS5, Nissan 370Z, among others.
The narrative of the automotive landscape was once quite unanimous in recommending the Cayman over every other two-door sports car simply because its breath of abilities, like the Boxster, has been so strong that it was a clear cut win for the Zuffenhausen camp. Now, though, things as straightforward.
Porsche also chose to revise the hierarchy between the Boxster and Cayman for this third generation facelift and name change to include the 718 prefix. In the past, it was the Boxster that was peddled the entry model while any equivalent Cayman would be sold a premium.
Now, more logically, it’s the open top variant that demands the higher price tag, just as other convertibles are more expensive than their hard top siblings for the privilege of having the stratosphere as a roofline.
In addition to de rigueur fascia, headlight, and taillight revisions, each got new sheetmetal stampings for all fenders and both door skins. - Car and Driver
Looking back at Porsche’s history with the exterior design of their cars, expecting a large design departure to be waiting a very long time. After all, in automotive speak, the name ‘911’ can be substituted for the word ‘evolution’.
The 718 Cayman is still a very handsome car, to be sure, carrying over the sharper look of the third-generation 981. That said, spotting the changes over the (non-718 Cayman) that came before, especially at a glance, can be challenging. Obviously, reading the ‘718’ lettering on the car’s rear is a sure giveaway, but squint a little and you’d be hard pressed to pick the two apart.
The new rear light arrangement now includes a black strip that runs the car’s width, splitting a pair of tail lamps that bear the company’s new four-point LED lighting elements which are also matched for the front illumination.
Porsche says that, despite the visual similarities, extensive work has gone into the 718 Cayman/Boxster’s body, with the new car keeping only the bonnet, windscreen, and bootlid - every other panel being new.
Engines and Drivetrain
“With the rationale behind the contentious new engines based on improved efficiency, you would hope the new Cayman would improve its figures. And it does, but only on paper.” - EVO
The 718 Cayman shares an identical engine and transmission spread with the 718 Boxster, that being a somewhat controversial shift from a naturally aspirated flat-six motors to a pair of smaller turbocharged flat-fours.
Due to the nature of forced induction, power does rise along with the gains in fuel economy and reduced carbon emissions, but some purists are besides themselves over the missing flat-six yowl that used to reward drivers when they explored the full potential of those older engines.
While the new exhaust note is louder to compensate, it falls short of reproducing the same satisfying aural intensity. The upshot, though, is that torque is much improved along with the power delivery in the lower to mid-range of the RPM band, endowing the 718 Cayman with in-gear acceleration the older car just couldn’t muster.
The base Cayman’s 2.0-litre flat-four produces 220kW and 380Nm of twist which can accelerate it to 100km/h from rest as quickly as 4.7 seconds with the PDK transmission and Sport Chrono package equipped. The more powerful 718 Cayman S’ 2.5-litre motor generates 257kW and 420Nm, and thusly standing acceleration improves to 4.2 seconds.
Another benefit to the new engines are its lowered fuel consumption figures. The more frugal 2.0-litre is claimed to sip just 7.4-litres/100km while the 2.5-litre isn’t far behind at 8.1-litres/100km. For a high-performance sports car, this is stellar, though it’s arguable just how important such numbers for this kind of car.
Both motors behave quite similarly on the road and are generally very refined motors that play well no matter which transmission choice is chosen - the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch is an extremely quick shifter, but the 6-speed manual is also quite a delight.
The 718 continues Porsche's trend of constructing logical, feature-laden and well-built cabins that feel luxurious without being ostentatious.” - Drive.com.au
While Porsche may harp on about the exterior being an extensive rework behind the scenes, the 981 generation Cayman’s interior makes a largely unaltered return here in the 718.
Make no mistake, the car’s cabin is plush and very well put together. Porsche has clearly put thought into balancing sporty elements with making the interior as straightforward and ergonomic as possible. While some may yearn for a more dramatic in-car experience, these are traits that have defined for Porsche since its inception.
The driving position is excellent and somehow, even with a passenger, the proceedings rarely feel cramped in such a compact two-seater. Naturally, storage space does take a hit, but given this car’s intended use, it makes a surprisingly good practicality case for itself with a usable boot in the front and back.
Behind The Wheel
“You realise the brakes are astonishing, that the chassis is fully loaded with talent and ability. It’s a delight around corners, really adjustable and composed.” - Top Gear
Setting the engine debate aside, every Cayman is expected to be a brilliant handler regardless. Thankfully, the 718 doesn’t disappoint one bit as the deftness to how to tackles corners remains very much alive.
This is to be expected, after all, given its strong relation to the 981 platform that preceded it, and no loss cylinders or forced induction can really dilute that. If anything, the stronger mid-range of the turbocharged motor makes it more playful in the lateral stuff, even at lower speed, as the more aggressive torque delivery more easily breaks rear wheel traction enough to make things interesting, without feeling hyperactive.
That attribute, incidental though it might be, can be useful to offset the tremendous amount of mechanical grip the car has. The steering, though, has been a point of contention since Porsche introduced an electric rack starting with the pre-facelift version.
While the jittery patter that reviewers term as driving feel is something missed, getting used to the more efficient system doesn’t take long, and Porsche has since calibrated it to be quite natural in feel for directness and communicativeness.
It’s also quite a plaint rider when set in the correct setting via the standard PASM adaptive suspension, able to deliver a comfortable and refined ride while still being agile with body roll linear and minimal as more compression is applied.
Safety and Technology
“Living with the 718 Cayman S is also easy thanks to its cavernous storage cavities, front and rear parking sensors, along with its rear-view camera.” - CarAdvice
The Cayman includes dual front airbags in addition to Porsche’s Side Impact Protection System (POSIP) that comprises of dual side airbags, integral thorax airbag in the seat side bolster, and an upward-inflating head airbag in the door panel. Other features include park assist, automatic headlamps, cruise control, automatic start stop, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
One of the most noticeable in-cabin features is the revised touch-operated Porsche Communication Management infotainment system that sits more flush with the centre stack, eschewing the multi-button setup that flanked the previous car’s centre screen. It now supports Apple CarPlay connectivity as standard and transmits audio via an eight-speaker array.
More discerning listeners can opt for either a 505 watt 10-speaker BOSE system or a high-end Burmester option with 821 watts and 12-speakers.
When dissecting the 718 Cayman to find flaws over its predecessor, it’s easy to get caught up in the details its more powerful but less characterful engine. It’s a fair criticism, but only up to a point.
The fact that the in the new 718 name, both the Cayman and Boxster have evolved to be more complete versions of themselves, excelling in new areas while trying to maintain a mastery over its current strengths.
It’s easily as talented as the car it replaces, and considerably quicker point-to-point, and it’s now a better proposition as a long term daily drive and highway cruiser than before, rivalling the 911 even more now for being an all-conquering sports car.
Autocar - 4.5/5 - The 718 Cayman S is by some distance the most complete sports coupé on sale and easily talented enough in the handling department to overcome slight misgivings about the way the crank is now turned.”
EVO - 4/5 - “Its new turbocharged engine is far from inspiring, but it doesn't ruin the Cayman's fine handling.”
Top Gear - 8/10 - “As with the Boxster, the Cayman has lost its glorious six-pot. Sniff.”
Drive.com.au - 7/10 - “This new model offers an excellent compromise. Better in day-to-day traffic jams and ultimately faster than the old model, it has more bandwidth than before. Porsche has done an excellent job of helping its entry-level sports car find its place for the next few years.”
Motor Trend - 4.5/5 - “now, with the high-torque turbo engines, even a base Porsche 718 Cayman is seriously quick. And that nearly flawless chassis, with its telepathic ride, steering and brakes, is as good as ever. Plus, you get a Porsche with two trunks and a sub-911 price.”
Car and Driver - “Drive a 718 Cayman S for three minutes and there’s no question it’s a Porsche. So that noise you hear? That’s what this Porsche sounds like. It’s not as if some treasured heritage rests solely in the sound of six cylinders deployed pancake-fashion.”
CarAdvice - 9/10 - “While the exhaust note is a subjective thing, the rest of the package makes up for it with extremely sharp handling, responsive chassis feel and the type of driving excitement you’re unlikely to find from anything else in this price bracket.”